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Military Industries Everywhere Are Shifting To Medical Equipment

April 5, 2020

Via DRDO/Press Information Bureau.

As COVID-19 continues to paralyze much of the world governments everywhere are now mobilizing so-called “defense companies,” or firms responsible for military-industrial production, to help mitigate the virus’ worst effects. This week saw remarkable efforts from India’s state-owned armaments sector to mass-produce personal protective equipment and other tools for dealing with the pandemic. On April 2 the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) revealed its new “biosuit”–pictured above–tailored for medical professionals and designed with the help of “industry partners.” The DRDO is preparing to make 15,000 of these suits a day.

The different enterprises under the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) have also mobilized and rolled out significant quantities of face masks, hospital beds, and liquid sanitizer. The same trend is apparent in other countries.

With 2.7 billion people between them, China and India turned to their military industries for covering the medical supply shortages they faced. But governments elsewhere have stepped up too. Israel, for example, harnessed its well-known military technology enterprises to bolster its healthcare system. Last month the defense ministry and four different companies began assembling portable ventilators needed to sustain COVID-19 patients in hospitals. As of this writing several dozen have reached medical staff for immediate use. Another joint venture between Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and a medical hardware manufacturer called Invoytec is launching a production line for an “ultra portable turbine ventilator” called the Ventway Sparrow. Israel’s defense ministry launched other programs related to COVID-19 such as humanitarian assistance for elderly citizens; installing detection equipment in hospitals; and organizing mass-production of PPEs. On April 1 the defense ministry claimed it was on track to manufacture 100,000 protective overalls and 35 million surgical masks.

The MEDI-Q fusion scanner. Via General Starlight.

The same shift to medical equipment is happening among the European Union’s military industries. BAE Systems from the UK is supplying parts for the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium. Safran from France is attempting the same by repurposing its aviation products into medical equipment such as disposable masks and respirators. Aerospace heavyweights such as Airbus and Leonardo are using their logistics for delivering COVID-19 aid sent by donors to EU member states. As March drew to a close Rheinmetall Group from Germany ordered a million face masks from its suppliers based in China and delivered these to the Bundeswehr. Rheinmetall announced an additional five million masks are on their way to Germany. Meanwhile, the state-owned Rostec Corporation from Russia revealed its new “antiviral overall” on April 4 but details on its production figures and delivery weren’t shared.

Now that the US is the worst affected country by COVID-19 the Trump administration’s turn toward the Defense Production Act helped galvanize the country’s own defense contractors. An early adopter was United Technologies, which has since merged with Raytheon, whose CEO Greg Hayes announced on March 31 the company will be making as many as 10,000 face shields using additive manufacturing. Aerospace giant Boeing has committed to the same goal and began making face shields at the start of the month. These efforts complement the decision of Honeywell to begin manufacturing N95 masks in its aerospace production sites. As for the world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, its COVID-19 response is to extend financial support for its suppliers as the high end manufacturing supply chain slows down.

Companies have reached out to 21AAR regarding their COVID-19 activities and support for the healthcare sector. Canada’s General Starlight or GSCI, better known for their impeccable catalog of military-grade night vision goggles, rolled out its MEDI-Q scanner in record time. The portable device is mounted on a tripod and controlled via tablet for observing large crowds in real time and “can instantly spot higher than normal body temperatures.” The company welcomes any queries via

The Spanish manufacturer Star Defense Logistics and Engineering (SDLE) sent two inflatable 37 square meter tents to the army’s medical emergency unit for use as a field hospital. In a press release shared with this site SDLE offered to provide further technical and logistical assistance as part of Operation Balmis, which is the Spanish military’s broad response versus COVID-19. SDLE’s expertise spans air, ground, and naval systems along with communication, detection, and jamming equipment. Companies that are contributing to national and regional programs for rolling back COVID-19 should get in touch here.

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