LONG BEACH Calif. " A U.S. Army general is calling on electronics engineers to provide lower power, lighter weight communications devices and vision systems for next-generation soldiers.
Speaking at Bus & Board/2004 conference here, Gen. Paul J. Kern, commanding general for the U.S. Army Material Command, said advancements in electronics have placed physical burdens on soldiers, causing them to be loaded down with electronics-laden packs that often weigh in excess of 100 pounds.
"The soldier out there today is like an electronics warehouse," Kern said. "More and more of the things they carry are going to electronics, whether it's for thermal sites, or night vision equipment or communication devices."
Kern said the batteries that power devices are the greatest culprit in terms of adding weight to the soldier's pack.
"The question is: How do we design most of our equipment to minimize the logistics support environment and maximize the capabilities?" he asked. Even M-16 rifles, originally deployed 42 years ago, now use laser designators and electronic pointing devices.
Kern added that soldiers' communications needs have changed in the last few decades. "During firefights, people shout at each other because it's so noisy and hard to hear," he said. Future soldiers, he said, could benefit by being able to communicate with others through next-generation radios.
Kern also said the Army will need more electronics support for vehicles such as M1 tanks, HMMVWs, or Hum-vees, and UH-60 helicopters, many of which will be upgraded in coming years.
Kern told an audience of approximately 400 engineers and executives that the Army needs to beef up its roster of electronics engineers. Early generations of military engineers tended to be educated in mechanical disciplines, and the Materiel Command has an ongoing need for electronics expertise, he said.
"Your job is to make the electronic systems more rugged and figure out how to make them use less power," he said.
Kern's keynote speech at the conference reflected a growing emphasis on military applications within the board market. During the past two years, the military's need for commercial off-the-shelf boards has kept segments of the board market afloat, while component manufacturers who targeted telecommunications have struggled.