As a former member of SEAL Teams 1, 2, and 6 and the author of six books, together with Ralph Pezzullo, about Navy SEALs, Don Mann says the one thing that makes Navy SEALs the most elite warriors on the planet is their equipment. "It’s literally the most high-tech, state-of-the art combat gear and equipment available."

Mann_Hunt the JackalSome of the SEAL teams' tech comes directly out of the developmental labs at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency), which is responsible for the development of new technologies to keep the U.S. military technically ahead of our enemies. Examples of high-tech gadgets that real SEALs use are below. (I equipped my fictional SEAL team with this gear in my latest thriller, Hunt the Jackal)

    NSW Invisio M4s. These in-ear conduction headsets are custom-fit, fully submersible, and are configured to work with both digital and analog radios. During the raid on Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound in May 2011, they allowed SEALs from Team 6 to whisper communications to one another as they carried out their mission.

    Phoenix IR strobe beacons. These tiny devices issue an individual Combat Identification marker that's not visible to the naked eye. With a flash rate designed to prevent confusion with small arms fire, they're used to minimize fratricide, and have been carried by SEALs in theatres of operation such as Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Miniature Underwater GPS Receiver. This small 1.2 pound device provides position and navigational information for infil/exfil, fire support, direct action, and target location. Once it acquires a satellite fix, it can be taken to a depth of thirty-three feet.

    Rescue Air Initiated Launch (RAIL). A pneumatically fired metal grappling hook launched from a black cannon about the size of a human arm. Used for getting its hook into a surface 100 feet high and towing a sturdy, nylon-jacketed line or ladder for someone to ascend.

You can bet that some of these items are currently being used by SEALs in hot spots across the globe.

Some other very cool DAPRA projects currently under development include:

    Big Dog Legged Squad Support System (LS3). A mule-sized robot that can run over rough terrain, while carrying 340 pound and responds to voice commands. Currently in the second year of a two-year testing phase.

    Vulture. A high-altitude unmanned vehicle powered by solar panels that can stay in the air for five years

    Proto 2. A thought-controlled prosthetic arm that can perform twenty-five joint functions. User will be able to play piano, pick up a ping pong ball, and sip coffee. Scheduled for use by 2015.

    Transformer (DARPA-TX). A 7,000 pound flying car. It fits four people and can hit a maximum speed of 230mph and a range of 250 miles. First demonstration flight scheduled for 2017.