It was a good year for imaginative military innovations. From “Star Wars”-style speeders to an inescapable surveillance drone, many of the futuristic advances seem straight out of science fiction or Hollywood blockbusters.
Here are some favorites from 2016.
'Star Wars'- style speeders
Remember those speeder bikes in “Return of the Jedi” that raced through the air? The US military may get to zoom around the battlespace on a type of real-life version in the not-so-distant future.
Malloy Aeronautics and SURVICE Engineering Company teamed up to further develop Malloy’s Hoverbike for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. The craft is called the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV.
Capable of potentially reaching speeds of 110 mph, JTARV could carry teams rapidly and nimbly– it could even fly around a war zone delivering about 300 pounds of supplies by itself.
JTARV also provides stealth advantages, including a small physical footprint since it flies through the air, rather than drives on the ground. It also has a reduced acoustic signature.
These real life speeders wouldn’t require runways or traditional landing zones, giving teams lots of flexibility.
Discover more here.
This huge combat tractor is a Swiss Army Knife
Meet the 32-ton armored combat vehicle that’s the ultimate tractor— albeit one that can punch holes through concrete, fire rockets, and carve safe passage through minefields for soldiers.
BAE Systems’ Terrier is affectionately known as the Swiss Army Knife of combat vehicles because there isn't anything it can't tackle. A multi-tool on a giant scale, the Terrier is a number of critical vehicles all in one. It can quickly adapt to tackle a range of important tasks. It even has a 26-foot arm.
Terrier can destroy enemy runways, rip holes in concrete compounds where terrorists hide, and dismantle bridges.
This mammoth machine beast can even unleash PYTHON rocket-propelled explosives to destroy concealed IEDS, protecting dismounted troops.
Like tractors found all throughout the United States, Terrier can lift, grab and move things. But the Terrier is next-level: its front loader system can lift five tons.
It can move a staggering 300 tons of earth per hour – that’s about the weight of 120 5,000-pound SUVs.
What else can it do? Find out more here.
Surveillance drone terrorists can’t escape
It looks like a “Star Trek” Bird of Prey, and acts like a drone that terrorists cannot escape: A new military aircraft that’s powered by the sun and can conduct missions without landing for 45 days.
Airbus Defence and Space calls the new drone the High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS), but it’s been dubbed the Zephyr. What’s a “pseudo satellite”? It has satellite-type capabilities like extreme surveillance— but is on demand with the flexibility and versatility of an unmanned aircraft. This sort of capability could prove particularly handy for special operations teams.
Unlike a satellite, the Zephyr can be landed, modified with alternative tech, and quickly re-launched to provide different capabilities as required.
The Zephyr could fly without landing to provide the military with non-stop high- resolution imagery for a remarkable month and a half, and it could give teams accuracy down to 6-inch resolution.
Flying at about 12.5 miles high at a fixed location, Zephyr can see over 250 miles to the horizon and provide imagery in excess of 386 square miles.
While the Zephyr won’t be flying in space, it can get awfully close. The drone can reach heights higher than 70,000 feet. At those heights you can see the curvature of the earth.
Learn more here.
'Superman-style' vision for helicopter pilots
New technology means U.S. military helicopter pilots will be getting amped-up ‘Superman-style’ vision to help them tackle dangerous environments.
Degraded Visual Environment, or DVE, is a frequent threat to military aircraft masking hazards and making it tough to land and fly. Visibility can be degraded by bad weather like rain, snow, dust and fog – but also by things like brown out.
In a brown-out for example, the pilot loses his or her visual reference with the ground when sand, dirt and dust get kicked up. The airframe can drift and collide with the ground or other structures causing the helicopter to land hard or even roll over.
DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, chose Honeywell to create tech to help pilots defeat extreme DVE and “see” crucial details. The tech is called synthetic vision and provides pilots with a 3-D view of the landing zone on their flight displays. In spite of tough conditions, it builds a picture using a number of state-of-the-art sensors.
Dangers like other aircraft, telephone wires, vehicles and personnel near the landing zone— as well as unexpected terrain— would no longer be hidden by brownouts.
Ultimately, military pilots could have such enhanced vision that even small holes and ditches around the landing zone will be revealed.
DVEs are a big challenge for all militaries, but with this tech US pilots would have the advantage of being able to safely operate where others cannot.
Find out more here.
New Marine Corps combat vehicle that “swims”
A nearly 34-ton armored fighting vehicle-- that swims? Marines will have a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle with even more power to storm the beaches in future battles.
The Amphibious Combat Vehicle prototype, or the ACV 1.1, was created by BAE Systems and IVECO Defence, and unveiled at Modern Day Marine. The vehicle combines a high degree of protection with amphibious and land capabilities.
This new armored assault vehicle can launch from a ship at sea and then travel by water at speeds of six knots, ready to launch attacks on the shore.
Surf? Not a problem for this vehicle. The ACV 1.1 can continue to charge forward in spite of nine-foot plunging surf.
Once it reaches ground, it can attack enemy forces at 70 miles per hour and unleash some serious firepower.
Dig into more capabilities here.
Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book "Future Weapons: Access Granted" covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.