Infantry: Land Warrior Makes Itself Useful


October 18, 2007: The U.S. Army appears to have rescued its Land Warrior system from cancellation, by shipping 200 sets of the high tech infantry gear to Iraq, and getting good reviews from the troops who used them in combat. Some of the new technologies developed for its Land Warrior program (an effort to enhance infantry performance with a lot of technology that was never ready for prime time) worked well enough to garner some detailed, and enthusiastic, comments from users. As a result, a new version of the Land Warrior gear, based on the results of the recent combat tests, weighs 30 percent less (seven pounds), and includes features troop feedback indicated they would find useful. This includes instant messaging, and the ability to leave a virtual (electronic) marker for other troops in his unit to see in their eyepiece. This could be the location of ground to avoid (especially when moving around at night in marshland) or a place to go to (a ford or assembly point.)

Although the original Land Warrior program is officially dead, the general concept lives on with many new items the combat troops are actually using. The problem with the original Land Warrior was that is tried to be revolutionary, while the troops really wanted evolutionary items that actually worked in combat. The current Land Warrior gear includes a wearable computer/GPS/radio combination, plus improvements in body armor and uniform design.

Troops who had earlier tested Land Warrior in the U.S., found it too much hassle, and not enough benefit. But the troops in Iraq, who were in combat, found lots of useful aspects to the Land Warrior gear. For one thing, the camera attached to the rifle, that sends live video to the eye piece (that appears like the equivalent of a 17 inch display, when flipped down over the eye), allows troops to just point their rifle around a corner, over a ledge, or into a room, to see what's there without risking a bullet in the head. The personal radio is also a superior item, and the maps that can be put onto the eyepiece are very useful. The army has mapped most of Iraq, in great detail, and digital versions of all those maps are available, and can be moved to the wearable computers of Land Warrior equipped troops. This might have not made a big impression on the troops back in the States, but in the combat zone, you can never have too much help in figuring out where the hell you are.

The Land Warrior GPS is still too slow, but users have found ways to adjust for that. So when troops have settled down for a while, like a lull in the battle, and the GPS has ten minutes or so to nail every ones position, the eyepiece does indeed give a good picture of who is where. NCOs and junior officers find that real useful, and the troops find it reassuring to know who is where. Meanwhile, newer versions of the individual GPS are getting a fix quicker, and that makes the location finding capability much more useful.

Another really popular addition is, like many changes, incorporated via new software. This one hooks troops into the Boomerang anti-sniper system. Thus if a nearby Boomerang system is on, and a sniper fires, Land Warrior equipped troops, in the immediate area, gets the calculated (by Boomerang) location of the shooter on displayed, on their eyepiece, in the form of video of the location. Boomerang is mounted on a small robot, whose camera is pointed at the location sensors indicate the shot came from. This is really bad news for snipers, and the troops love it because now they can run down snipers much more quickly and successfully.




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