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US No Longer Tech Leader in Military War Gear

Image: US No Longer Tech Leader in Military War Gear Littoral Combat Ship USS Independence

Monday, 14 Jul 2014 10:27 AM

By Andrea Billups

The world's fighting forces are not turning to the United States first anymore when it comes to war gear.

Instead, companies in Europe and beyond are equipping armies with high-tech gear, embracing technology that has outpaced American efforts, which used to be first-rate, The Daily Beast reported, noting a trend that does not "reflect well on U.S. government or industry."

"Most defense contractors prefer to pay their shareholders dividends rather than investing in research and development," The Daily Beast's Bill Sweetman wrote. "Non-U.S. companies, much more reliant on exports, cannot afford to do that. But U.S. R&D is directed towards what Washington says it wants, and those requirements may not meet international needs."

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At a Boeing briefing on its Joint Multi Role rotocraft project, the company touted its high-tech replacement for Army helicopters in the U.S. Defense fleet. Hopes were high for the new product, but lessons learned in the past where the Airbus commercial jet was once dismissed as a flash in the pan but went on to become a Boeing peer came to mind. U.S. military aircraft exports continue, but no longer lead the marketplace, the website said. Other countries have now stepped up to claim military market share.

"Although U.S. military exports remain high, propelled by a few big-ticket sales, the trends across defense, except (so far) in fighter aircraft, are similar. Israel leads the unmanned air vehicle business, despite billions in Pentagon funding for U.S. industry," the Beast reported.

"Not only does the U.S. not export warships, but designs for the centerpiece of the future American Navy — the Littoral Combat Ship — rely on European engines and waterjets (aside from General Electric gas turbines on Independence), radars and guns. The biggest naval export program is the Aegis fire control system. The same goes for military vehicles: The Marines' next amphibious vehicle may be Italian-designed."

Still, the U.S. military itself relies on a new array of technologically inspired gear in everything from grenade launchers to Google glass, The Telegraph reported.

It recent years, the U.S. military has turned to Hollywood in an effort to design things that have been seen in special-effects films but can also be utilized in combat. Those include a futuristic suit of body armor generated by 3-D printers that create a protective exoskeleton like the ones used in such films as "Iron Man," The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Hollywood has definitely made the Iron Man suit impossibly thin, impossibly light, impossibly agile and impossibly energy efficient," Ekso Bionics co-founder Russ Angold told the Journal. "So we're really trying to solve the problem and ask the question: What would Iron Man look like if it was real?"

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