For those who may not be familiar with the term “woobie,” it’s likely the most widely coveted piece of issued gear in any Soldier or Marine’s arsenal. To the uninitiated, it may look like nothing more than a camouflage poncho liner, but to those of us that have spent long nights cuddled up in one, the woobie represents a versatile bit of comfort in an otherwise miserable evening. As the writer that goes by “Angry Staff Officer” once pointed out, if you don’t believe service members get emotionally attached to their woobies, just read the Amazon reviews and see for yourself.
The woobie may have already earned a place in service member’s hearts, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t get any better. That’s where the U.S. Army Maneuver Battle Lab comes in. In the coming weeks, British soldiers will join U.S. Army troops at Fort Benning to participate in the Battle Lab’s Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments (AEWE) 2020. The British and American troops will then square off in opposing force drills intended to serve as a realistic test bed for a number of new and upcoming military technologies. The tech being tested ranges from unmanned aerial systems to new communications gear, but the one bit of tech that’s garnered the most attention is none other than the new woobie.
“All units, including the OPFOR, will have advanced capabilities, so what we are trying to replicate is not only what an opposing force might have now, but what they might have in the future,” Eddie Davis, director of the Maneuver Battle Lab, told Military.com. “It kind of levels the playing field because other armies are getting advanced to a certain degree, so we want to make sure we are fighting a challenging threat.”
This new and improved woobie may look a lot like the old one, but it comes with one important addition: the ability to mask the wearer’s heat signature. Hiding your thermal signature isn’t only valuable when you’re being hunted by the Predator, it also comes in handy when you’re hoping to avoid detection from near-peer level opponents with thermal scopes, like China or Russia.
“That is kind of what intrigues us because we have looked at thermal-defeating blankets, as a loose term in the past, and they have worked, but they were very rigid, very difficult to carry,” Davis said.
“So this could potentially serve as similar thing you do with a poncho liner and also have thermal-defeating capability. That is interesting to us. It gives us the ability to hide ourselves from the thermal signature, which is pretty deadly,” he added.
There’s no guarantee that this thermal-cloak of a woobie will actually make it out to standard issue, but this testing rotation could play a vital role in the Army considering the expense. These new woobies will be tested alongside a number of other breakthrough technologies, like exo-skeleton devices intended to reduce fatigue and autonomous drones that can carry medical supplies to pinned down troops.
But if you ask me, the woobie is the real star of the show.
Feature image courtesy of Spc. Kristina Truluck, U.S. Army