Electronics that are small in size, weight, and power consumption (SWAP) is generally a focus for most consumers. So, it is no surprise that SWAP has become a hot topic in today’s era of leaner defense budgets. The growth of SWAP capability is pretty logical, and critical in the context of delivery platforms (UAVs) and personnel (lighter loads). Since unmanned vehicles and drones are necessary technologies, the ability to control them and gain effective feedback from them in a way that keeps the vehicles as lightweight as possible is a requirement. The critical drive behind SWAP is that it allows more capability on the same platform. SWAP is essentially what allows warfighters to carry an M4A1 Carbine with M203 Grenade Launcher, IR Pointer/Illuminator, and tactical light attachments instead of carrying different systems for each capability desired.
Infantrymen are often in hot conditions and are already carrying a lot of equipment. The last thing needed is heavier equipment. Technology that can improve the safety, success, and effectiveness of the infantryman’s mission is definitely worth the investment. It is a different battle zone now. A change in battle zone demands a change in equipment. The beauty of SWAP is that it means that soldiers should not have to decide between survival, capability, and firepower. From a safety perspective, the potential ability to correctly respond to an explosion is a worthy investment. Providing the soldier with a motion sensor in the helmet could automatically identify whether an explosion force was too high for humans and if immediate medical attention is necessary.
A key element to SWAP is power consumption. Soldiers would rather carry extra ammunition instead of an extra battery pack, so not only do these devices need to be small and lightweight, the power consumption needs to be low, lightweight and long-lasting, as well. A small and lightweight GPS is great, as long as it does not require constant charging or power replacement, as that defeats the effectiveness of the smaller technology.
In the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, markets and business opportunities exist for those who can make things smaller, lighter, and last longer. The key is maintaining capability. For example, making a scope smaller with a decreased zoom capability does not really meet the intent of SWAP because this changes the performance parameters.
SWAP even transcends the electronics community. The military is looking for ammunition that fires cleaner and is lighter and stronger. Contractors with this skill set can sift through the R&D programs that are targeting this capability. The automotive and aircraft industries could be useful in finding the right materials to meet this growing requirement.
Increased capabilities are no longer enough. Nor is the military content with a reduction in size and weight that comes with a loss of capability. Clearly this market is not on a decline, and contractors or individuals looking to grow in the defense industry should be focusing on this niche with meaningful partnerships and increased knowledge and awareness.