Photo courtesy The History Channel
When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that the military is such a prolific inventor. The stakes are so high, it pretty much has to be. Corporations may stay in the product development race to make a buck, but the military stays in it to save lives. On the battlefield, you must have better technology than the other guy, or you'll probably lose.
Major world powers can't let that happen, so they spare no expense pushing the tech envelope. The result is a lot of amazing weapons -- stealth bombers, bunker busters, M1 tanks -- but also a lot of stuff with more universal appeal.
For example, in the premiere episode, "Tactical to Practical" looks at:
- The Global Positioning System (GPS): Years before you could use a GPS receiver to find the nearest pizza place, the U.S. military was using them to redefine modern warfare. GPS made it much easier for the U.S. military to exactly pinpoint nearly everything happening on the battlefield, giving U.S. forces a giant advantage over any opposition. "Tactical to Practical" tracks the history of the system, from its developmental stages in the 1970s, examines some creative modern applications (including the adventure sport "geo-dashing"), and takes a look at the future of the technology.
- The Humvee: Since the 1970s, the tough and versatile Humvee has been a key military vehicle -- a powerful but agile workhorse. Then in the '90s, it broke through as the high-status SUV. "Tactical and Practical" takes the Humvee out for a hard-core test drive, and looks at one possible Humvee offshoot, the high-tech "SmarTruck" urban combat SUV.
- Night Vision: You can get it in a $600 camcorder today, but not too long ago, night vision was one of the fanciest tricks up the U.S. military's sleeve. "Tactical to Practical" explains how the technology took its first wobbly steps in World War II, made its frontline debut in Vietnam, and played a pivotal role in both Iraqi wars. The show considers night vision's considerable contribution to law enforcement, border patrol and wildlife research.
In each hour-long episode, host Hunter Ellis will explain three different pieces of technology, using interviews, animation, historical footage and on-location demonstrations. Viewers can expect a good bit of action on the show too. As a former Navy fighter pilot and "Survivor" contestant, Ellis will try just about anything once.