Army Magazine

1956: Magazine Predictions for Future Soldier

An Army Magazine article from 1956 was circulating on Twitter recently, and it predicted what the soldier of the future would look like. In many ways, it was surprisingly accurate.

By Daniel Brown, Business Insider

An Army Magazine article from 1956 was circulating on Twitter recently, and it predicted what the soldier of the future would look like.

In many ways, it was surprisingly accurate.

The author, Lt. Col. Robert R. Rigg, prophesized that these advancements — from night vision goggles, to helicopter warfare, to drone strikes — would come after 1974. While he was technically correct, many came later than he foresaw.

Here are 10 pieces of gear the "soldier of the future" has — right now.

Radios that offer constant communication with fellow soldiers.

Radios that offer constant communication with fellow soldiers.
The futuristic helmet equipped with visor, night vision and throat microphone.Army Magazine

"The FutureArmy soldier ... will gain independence and action from an ultra-small radio transmitter and receiver," Rigg wrote. "This transceiver will ... place the individual soldier in communication with all other members of his fighting team."

Most radios aren't built into helmets, but many soldiers are in constant communication with their squad mates through the use of intra-squad radios. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, are typically carrying around small, lightweight radios that offer secure communications.

Some, like special operations forces, use throat microphones (as the magazine also predicted) that transmit when the operator speaks. 

Night vision goggles that help troops own the night.

"The soldier will be able to ... change darkness into day with one flick of a wrist on the infrared dial and switch."

Night vision was developed in the 1940s, but was not fielded in goggle form until 1977

Night optical/observation devices, or NODs as soldiers call them, are standard issue for most troops in the field these days. However, even Rigg couldn't predict the rise of even better gear, such as thermal devices that can pick up on the human body's heat signature.

Automatic carbine rifles to give troops more firepower against the AK-47.

Automatic carbine rifles to give troops more firepower against the AK-47.
M-16 carbine.Wikimedia Commons

"The individual weapon of the Futurarmy soldier will be an automatic carbine which will replace at least four of today's weapons: the M1 rifle, the carbine, the AR, and the submachine gun."

The automatic carbine, known as the M16, was first put into service in 1964, and was standard issue by 1969 — five years before Rigg predicted. Though the M16A1 gave soldiers in Vietnam plenty of problems, it's been continuously updated and improved.

Many soldiers and Marines carry the M4 carbine — a shorter and lighter version of the M-16 — though most are no longer fully-automatic.

Telescopic sights that help troops hit targets further out.

Telescopic sights that help troops hit targets further out.
M-91 sniper rifle scope.Wikimedia Commons

Rigg also predicted that the future soldier would be outfitted with special sights. Now, nearly every soldier carries some kind of scope.

The Army is even designing computerized sights — the Ballistically Optimized Sniper Scope (BOSS) —  for snipers. The computer built-in to the scope speeds up the sighting-in process. 

BOSS' sensors will even have built-in lasers to help scouts determine the distance to enemy forces by calculating their exact position.

Helicopters to bring troops to and from the fight.

Helicopters to bring troops to and from the fight.
A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment shields himself from the rotor wash of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter after being dropped off for a mission with the Afghan police near JalalabadThomson Reuters

"Projected into battle-zone by three dimensional transport devices, this futuristic soldier will be able to arrive and surprise his enemy with a force and suddenness never before known."

During the Korean and Vietnam wars, helicopter warfare became common.

The doctrine of "air assault" with helicopters continues to this day, and soldiers are often transferred to and from the battlefield in a variety of different helicopter types. The use of helicopters has also greatly reduced the number of combat deaths since wounded soldiers are able to get medical attention much quicker.

Helmet visors that offer a soldier more data about what's on the battlefield.

"The future soldier's helmet will be visored ... and will have unique functions in addition to its face protection." 

Although not in service yet, the new "Iron Man" suit being developed by SOCOM, which are to be tested in 2018, are slated to have visors. Called the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, it is supposed to monitor an operator's vital signs, give them increased perception of the surroundings, and offer other high-tech functions.

Compact first-aid kits that help every soldier become their own personal medic.

Compact first-aid kits that help every soldier become their own personal medic.
First-aid kit issued by the Army in 2013.U.S. Army

"Pockets on the outside of each boot will carry a compact self-medical-aid kit for emergency use."

Although they aren't pocketed in boots, it became standard in 1998 for soldiers to carry their own first-aid kits.

In 2013, the Army began issuing the "Individual First Aid Kit II," containing  two tourniquets, a tactical combat casualty card to annotate what kind of first aid was applied to a wounded Soldier, a marker, an eye shield, a rubber seal with a valve for sucking chest wounds, and a strap cutter.

The kit goes inside a custom pouch that can be mounted on the back of a Soldier's Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

Towel and toilet articles so that troops could take care of their personal business in the field.

Towel and toilet articles so that troops could take care of their personal business in the field.
A Meal Ready-to-Eat, which now contains a towel and toilet articles.Photographer: Fabrizia Parisi, Curated By: Giulio Iacchetti

Rigg's vision was of a soldier that was self-sufficient, even having a special pouch on his or her uniform for toiletries. Though most soldiers don't carry around toilet paper in their pocket, it does come standard in the meals, ready to eat that troops have with them in the field.

Developed in 1980, the MRE continues to be a soldier's primary ration when not in garrison.

The MRE generally contains:

  • an entree
  • side dish
  • crackers or bread
  • spread, like peanut butter or jelly
  • dessert
  • candy
  • beverages
  • hot sauce or seasoning
  • flameless ration heater to warm-up the entree
  • accessories, like a spoon, matches, and a towel and toilet articles.

Guided missiles to take out enemy forces.

Guided missiles to take out enemy forces.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean SeaThomson Reuters

"To help you [destroy all military forces within a given area] ... flying artillery and guided missiles will bracket the region and seal it off by striking any aggressor reinforcements moving to the scene."

Guided-missiles, or cruise missiles, generally use four different guidance systems: an Inertial Guidance System, a Terrain Contour Matching, GPS, or Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation. 

In 1960, the U.S. Navy commissioned its first guided-missile destroyer, the Charles F. Adams

President Donald Trump recently launched a salvo of 59 Tomahawk guided-missiles from two Navy destroyers at a Syrian air base in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons on his own people. 

Drone surveillance that keep a close eye on what's happening on the battlefield.

Drone surveillance that keep a close eye on what's happening on the battlefield.
Rigg's idea of what drone surveillance would look like.REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Effrain Lopez

"Futurarmy soldiers will wait by their machines of war as these fantastic robot spies, called Owls, report on the location of enemy concentrations and installations."

While slightly different, this concept is very similar to drone surveillance widely used by the military today. 

Aerial surveillance has been used since the Civil War when Thaddeus Lowe persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to use hot air balloons for reconnaissance.

Nowadays, unmanned aerial systems are often controlled by a remote operator that can see what's going on below, while also neutralizing threats with onboard missiles.

Rigg, however, did not seem to predict that a surveillance drone would also be armed. 

This article originally appeared at Business Insider. Copyright 2015.

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