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Edited by Noah Shachtman | Contact | RSS

MEDICAL MISSILE PREPPED FOR LAUNCH

AW_07_26_2004_414.jpgA soldier gets seriously hurt in some lonely corner of Afghanistan or Iraq. There's no medic around for miles and miles. And the area is so hot that any medical helicopter flying over it has a good chance of getting shot.

What to do? Army researchers have an idea: fire off a missile, loaded with medical supplies, at the wounded G.I.

Built by the Aviation and Missile Command in Huntsville, Alabama, the 20 lb., 8-inch-wide, 32-inch-long Quick-MEDS projectile would be packed on an unmanned plane. The drone would linger over the battlefield. And if a soldier got seriously hurt, the flying robot would shoot the medical missile in his direction. It'd be packed with blood, bandages, an oxygen generator, burn packs, critical-care supplies, vaccines and bio-chem antitodes.

"The idea is to avoid losing rescue teams flying into heavily defended areas," Aviation Week notes. An Army researcher began working on Quick-MEDS after he "read an account of an Air Force medic, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, who bled to death after tending others for 7 hours. He was a member of a relief force that was shot down searching for a missing Navy SEAL and was isolated until the fighting subsided."

There are expected to be two versions of the medical missile, according to the magazine. "The first and cheapest version (an $800,000 program) would have no precision guidance during its flight and would use its waffle-iron-like fins for stabilization. However, there also are plans for a GPS-guided version (a $3.5-million project) with fin actuators allowing the missile to make a precision landing within the perimeter (about 35 X 75 ft.) of a special forces team in contact with the enemy. [The Army] hopes to conduct flight testing in Fiscal 2005 with delivery to begin before year's end."