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Novel, Breakthrough Warfighting Capabilities Discussed by DOD Officials 

April 7, 2022 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Defense Department officials yesterday described current and future game-changing warfare capabilities that will ensure national security for the U.S., allies and partners.

The venue for the discussion was testimony at a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities hearing.  

A Marine operates communications gear.
Radio Communication
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Alex Oley, a field radio operator with Charlie Company, 8th Communication Battalion, conducts a radio communication check during Exercise Cyber Fury 21 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 26, 2021.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Armando Elizalde
VIRIN: 210726-M-TP104-1007

The Defense Innovation Unit successfully prototyped synthetic aperture radar satellites, which can see through clouds and at night. These satellites provided the world with imagery of Russian forces in and around Ukraine, enabling the department to predict the invasion and prove undeniably what was happening without revealing classified sources, said Michael Brown, DIU director.  

Today, the National Reconnaissance Organization has provided this capability as part of U.S. defense security assistance to Ukraine, he said.  

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been working on some futuristic capabilities that could aid the warfighters in incredible ways.  

Rocket arches through the sky to orbit.
Rocket Launch
A Falcon 9 rocket launches on Jan. 6, 2020, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket, carrying an installment of Starlink satellites, was the first official launch of the United States Space Force.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker
VIRIN: 200106-F-KD758-1001A
A missile launches, leaving a trail of smoke and fire.
Missile Launch
A Sabre short-range, ballistic missile launches at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., for a test of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, an advanced missile defense system, June 7, 2017.
Photo By: Army photo
VIRIN: 180920-A-D0439-003

Stefanie Tompkins, director of DARPA, said her agency is working on a number of projects.  

"Imagine a world where soldiers' basic needs things like food, water, fuel or medicine are made right on the spot from waste material, say from plastic, or even just from the air, completely independent of vulnerable supply chains," she said.  

"Imagine a world where both of our electronics and software are completely secure by design and thus unhackable. Imagine a world in which all of our military systems, which today have a lot of trouble interoperating, can seamlessly communicate and work together … Those are some of the features that DARPA seeks to make real," she said.  

A graphic shows a target superimposed on an eye.
Digital Target
A person looks up while the digital image of a target is superimposed on his eye.
Photo By: Courtesy of the Army
VIRIN: 210608-O-D0439-001

Also, DARPA in partnership with the Air Force, recently completed a second successful flight test of a hypersonic air breathing weapon concept known as HAWC.  

"This test set the U.S. record for scramjet endurance and we believe it's an inflection point on the path to reclaiming U.S. leadership in hypersonic weapons," Tompkins said.  

"I ask you please to remember that some of those will fail. If they don't, it means we're not trying hard enough. And we're not taking enough risk. But some of those will succeed, and in doing so, may fundamentally transform our nation and strengthen our national security," she added.  

Ground vehicle appears to walk.
Ground Vehicle
An unmanned ground vehicle is tested at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 10, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price
VIRIN: 201110-F-DB615-1211C

Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu said: "As we have seen in Ukraine, novel commercial technologies, paired with conventional weapons can change the nature of conflict.  

"The department's processes, ranging from programming to experimentation to collaboration, should be updated to reflect the dynamic landscape today and anticipate the needs of tomorrow. Our nation's private sector is our competitive advantage, and we must focus on improving how the government and private sector work together.  

The forthcoming department's "National Defense Science and Technology Strategy" will provide guidance to DOD regarding near-term challenges and ensure that the United States remains the global leader in technology far into the future, she said.