Electronic Weapons: July 15, 2005


Individual radios for combat troops, while a swell idea, has run into some practical problems. Commandoes have been using individual radios for years. Then the British marines (or, officially, the Royal Marine Commandoes) got them as well. American marines and soldiers noted this, and began to clamor for them as well. Some of the American troops didnt wait, but went out and bought the popular Motorola walkie-talkie radios. Problem was, the Motorola radios were popular with the bad guys as well, as well as Iraqi civilians and foreign workers. This made it possible for the enemy to listen in to what the troops were saying. Not a good thing in combat. The brass have been energetically discouraging the troops from using the Motorolas, but often those individual walkie-talkies are life-savers on the battlefield, and have proven difficult to eliminate. Meanwhile, the army has been testing approved personal radios (with encryption, to prevent the enemy from listening in) and found that there were other problems with these little gadgets. Some infantry units have been equipped with the personal radios, and have discovered some problems. The commandoes have had a lot of success with the personal radios because the commandoes are highly disciplined and train with the radios a lot. Many of the marines and soldiers getting the personal radios have not trained with them and, well, they talk too much. In some units, this has meant that, in some cases, only the squad and team leaders get the radios. That often works, since the squad leaders and team leaders are more experienced junior NCOs. Moreover a squad leader usually only has two or three teams to deal with, and each team leader only has three or four troops (including himself) to look after. Until the personal radios get used for regular training back in the states, and the troops get used to it, there will be problems with them in combat. Some units have set up their own training programs inside Iraq, but this doesnt work with everyone. The future is individual radios, and experience in Iraq is making this future more realistic and useful.


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