The U.S. Department of Defense has teamed up with Apple, Boeing and 160 other organizations to develop high-tech sensory gear for the U.S. military. The Pentagon wants the new electronic gear to be “stretchable” enough to be worn by soldiers or wrapped around warplanes or ships. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement that it was time for the Pentagon to “think outside our five-sided box.”

Apple, Boeing To Make High-Tech Gear For The U.S. Military

Apple has a lot to contribute to the alliance

The rapid development of novel technologies compelled the DoD to forge alliances with the private sector in Silicon Valley instead of developing the technology in-house, reports Reuters. The Pentagon has formed a $171 million manufacturing innovation hub called FlexTech Alliance, comprising of 162 organizations including Apple, Boeing, and Harvard.

The FlexTech Alliance aims to use high-end 3D printing technologies to develop “stretchable electronics” that could be embedded with sensors. When worn by soldiers or used on warplanes and ships, it would help monitor their “structural integrity” in real time. The Department of Defense said the technologies promise dual applications in both military and consumer solutions.

Apple has a lot to bring to the consortium in terms of advanced sensors and patented technologies. Participating in the alliance will also place Apple at the cutting edge of the rapidly evolving artificial intelligence and 3D printing technology. Apple has been investing heavily in sensor technologies, especially in the health niche.

Pentagon inching closer to the Silicon Valley

Four months ago, Ashton Carter visited the Silicon Valley to establish an outreach office that was tasked with roping in technology companies for defense projects. The Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Hub is located in San Jose, and aims to revive manufacturing, especially defense-related, in the United States.

3D printing technology has helped the U.S. military develop components for aircraft and ships. But until now the technology has been used to produce only small spare parts. The challenge is to 3D print complex microelectronics. The Pentagon’s initial focus will be on health and structural integrity sensors.