July 9, 2002
The Army is completing deployment of its LandWarrior series of equipment, but these still have soldiers carrying a hundred pounds or more of equipment on missions. The next thing, to reach some units by 2010, is the Objective Force Warrior. The load will be reduced to 50 pounds or less by using lightweight materials and by transferring half of the load to a robot six-wheeled "Mule" which follows each fire team around. The Objective Force system will not all come into use at once, but when it does, it will be something to behold. Each soldier will have his own radio, computer, and GPS system. His uniform will be able to change color and pattern with the terrain, weather, and light conditions. His helmet will include a head-up-display visor that can show him maps, technical manuals, and thermal image scenes. The uniform will function as both a normal duty uniform (treated to repel water, by the way) while providing the same chemical-biological-nuclear protection as the heavy and hot overgarments now used. Sensors in the uniform will alert leaders when a soldier is wounded, dead, dehydrated, asleep, or exhausted. The suit may even contain tubes that circulate air or water to heat the soldier in winter and cool him off in summer.
The robotic mule will carry each man's rucksack, leaving them with only smaller combat packs. The mule will have systems to purify water, recharge batteries, and provide data links to headquarters and to unmanned aerial vehicles. The soldiers will not have to control the mule; it will simply follow them as some robots now move around offices to deliver the
mail.--Stephen V Cole