Innovative Equipment Transforms Soldiers Into Land Warriors
By: Guest Authors
By Shad Connelly
Recently, the U.S. military outfitted team leaders in the legendary 4/9 infantry with new Land Warrior gear for use on the battlefield. The gear, 15 years in development, is a system of devices designed to increase a soldier’s awareness, mobility and combat effectiveness. The trial was so successful, that 1,000 additional Land Warrior kits were requested.
Land Warrior is an integrated fighting system for individual infantry soldiers, which gives troops enhanced tactical awareness, lethality and survivability. The entire kit integrates a weapon system, helmet, computer, digital and voice communications, positional and navigation system, protective clothing and individual equipment. Soldiers wear a vest that contains a computer system, battery power for all the components and an incorporated Global Positioning System (GPS). The vest also includes an advanced radio for communication. A 4.5-pound helmet provides protection and is equipped with the active parts of the communication system (for passing and receiving information). The helmet also has a Head Mounted Display (HMD) that goes over the soldier’s dominant eye, which can be used to view video, infrared picture, and satellite or topographical maps. The soldier carries an advanced machine gun with interactive controls that is connected to the computer system.
Despite all its potential benefits, the Land Warrior system has had a tumultuous history. After a half-billion dollars were spent creating and improving the system over the course of a decade, testing revealed that the equipment was just too bulky for practical application in warfare. With a weight of about 16 pounds, most soldiers seemed to believe the gear was more of a strain than a benefit. Funding was cut for the project last year, but somehow the Land Warrior kits ended up in the hands of the 4/9 infantry over in Iraq. After using the gear, the 4/9 made suggestions for changes that dropped the weight of the gear down to 10 pounds. With the upgrades and positive reviews from the soldiers, the Land Warrior project now seems to be back in action with the army requesting additional funding to field test the equipment.
But, with the effectiveness of the Land Warrior system still in question, it remains to be seen what the future holds for this military innovation. While recent tests have breathed new life into Land Warrior, it is still officially a cancelled program in the military’s eyes. As such, it is uncertain where the program will get the additional $102 million necessary to field and test the gear. However, should the gear find a way to continue on in development, it could eventually provide a means of digitizing the battlefield for soldiers – making communication clearer and giving soldiers a better visualization of their environment. If soldiers are in an unfamiliar location, the Land Warrior system could help them to quickly pinpoint the enemy or connect with fellow soldiers. Of course, this is all just stipulation about what the Land Warrior system could do. For now, the system remains one of many interesting ideas sitting in military limbo.
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