Thursday, May 19, 2011

Military Plays Key Role in Stimulating Science and Engineering Advancements

In May 1944, a series of U.S. torpedoes struck, crippled and eventually sank two German U-boats in the dark waters of the mid-Atlantic. They were the first successes of the new torpedo, code-named Fido, a top secret, first-ever, air-launched, anti-submarine, acoustic homing torpedo. Fido arrived at a critical time in World War II, helping to turn the tide in the Allies’ favor in the battle for control of the Atlantic sea lanes.

Fido was conceived, developed and manufactured in America. Scientific and technological breakthroughs by scientists occurred in many fields during World War II, involving every branch of service and altering the course of the war. For the first time, success on the field of battle depended on advanced, science-based technologies, making World War II a turning point in the relationship of the military to science.

“The civilian National Defense Research Committee saw to it that by the end of the war, prewar disinterest in science was largely reversed,” Kathleen Broome Williams, Professor of History at Cogswell Polytechnical College, said in a May 2010 essay. “Military stimulation of science and technology became institutionalized, supported by government funding.”

Today, the U.S. Armed Forces rely more than ever on the science and engineering of organizations like ECBC. “Some of the best examples for advancement come from the field. For me, it was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments to find out what the soldier thought of a piece of equipment I’d helped develop,” said Lester Strauch, Advanced Design and Manufacturing Deputy Division Chief.

That kind of developer-user interaction is something that Strauch says is key to the continued success of the Directorate’s engineering and technological advancements, and subsequently, the ensured safety of the Warfighter on the battlefield.

 “I had the opportunity to talk with a soldier who had been using a certain technology Engineering’s Advanced Design and Manufacturing had developed. It was the Joint Biological Point Detection System,” Strauch said. “The soldier was overjoyed and thought it was the greatest thing in the world.”

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