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Battle Fatigues

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John Munroe spends his days thinking about how to avoid getting killed in the new millennium. He's not paranoid--he's doing his job. As warrior systems integration team leader at the Natick Soldier Center in Massachusetts, Munroe is developing a vision of what American soldiers will be wearing in combat a quarter century hence.

courtesy: U.S. army soldier systems center

The U.S. Army is preparing to roll out uniforms that include video-display goggles and a chest-mounted mouse for weapons and radio controls. Munroe's Future Warrior 2025 concept draws on much more far-out engineering. Night vision glasses correct for the distortion caused by the curvature of the visor. The helmet, called "headgear subsystem--information central," links with the soldier's suit and firearm so that the soldier need only look at a target and the voice-activated gun is locked on and ready to shoot. The suit itself is a bullet-resistant mesh of carbon nanotubes. It circulates hot or cold water to keep the wearer comfortable and contains embedded enzymes to neutralize biological or chemical weapons.

For now, Future Warrior 2025 is just a dream--or a nightmare. The necessary technology is years off, and the mockup at the Natick Soldier Center isn't a working prototype--it's a "conceptual simulation" to stimulate the imagination. So how does one decide what a conceptual simulation of tomorrow's soldier should look like? "The black suit shows you he's of the future," Munroe explains.

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