Politics & Government

Wichita State hosts general in charge of planning for future high-tech warfare

NIAR Executive Director John Tomblin, right, discusses military applications of digital twin technology with General John M. “Mike” Murray, left, and Sen. Jerry Moran.
NIAR Executive Director John Tomblin, right, discusses military applications of digital twin technology with General John M. “Mike” Murray, left, and Sen. Jerry Moran. The Wichita Eagle

A U.S. senator and a four-star general in charge of planning wars of the future took a spin through Wichita State University on Monday to talk about military applications of technology under development there.

Gen. John M. “Mike” Murray heads the Army Futures Command, which seeks to develop or adapt technology to fight wars more effectively and improve survival rates for U.S. troops.

Murray toured the university’s National Institute for Aviation Research for a briefing from Executive Director John Tomblin on aviation technologies that could be adapted to ground warfare.

The camouflage-clad general didn’t take questions from reporters, but he did express a particular interest in the university’s “digital twin” technology.

That process involves creating exact digital duplicates of machines — or even people — for use in training, control systems or product testing.

Examples that Tomblin discussed with the general included the potential for testing anti-tank weapons without having to destroy multiple test vehicles, or predicting whether a new body armor would keep a soldier alive after hits from different weapon systems.

Murray and about a half-dozen men from his command were invited to the WSU campus by Sen. Jerry Moran. It’s part of Moran’s strategy to shop Kansas technology to the military to boost the state’s economy.

“But I also care a lot about those men and women who serve who are in an aircraft or in an Army tank,” Moran said. “Decisions and applications that are developed here at NIAR can make their lives safer and can reduce the cost and expenditure of protecting our country.”

He said a working relationship between the Army and NIAR would be good for both.

“Having the head of the Futures Command at NIAR today is a great opportunity,” Moran said. “We hope we’re able to develop a solid, strong working relationship with NIAR. The students and the staff here can help us get a bigger bang for our buck, prolong the life of military equipment and protect and defend our country.”

Moran serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense budget subcommittee. In addition to Murray, Moran has brought Navy, Marine, Air Force and NASA brass to NIAR.

“I’m a defense appropriator,” Moran said. “We’re trying to get more by spending not a lot more. And that means we have to be much more efficient.”

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.


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