Information Warfare: November 25, 2003

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For the last decade the U.S. Army has been working on an ambitious program to create new equipment for the "soldier of the future." The plan, dubbed "Land Warrior" called for better armor, a built in computer, a video camera built into the helmet, along with a two way radio and Internet connection. There were even plans for medical monitoring sensors, built in first aid devices and even air conditioning. It eventually became obvious that a lot of these technologies were over a decade away, and then there was the battery problem. So "Land Warrior" has been scaled back to what is possible, and could be implemented in the next few years. Troops already have "armor of the future," with a very successful bullet proof jacket. But in the last few years, the "Land Warrior" developers noted that a lot of infantry, and other, officers who spent time in the field, were taking their laptops and PDA (Personal Digital Assistants, like the Palm Pilot) with them. These officers, and some NCOs, were putting many of the records they needed in the field (rosters, schedules, maps, Etc.) on these devices. In effect, they were going paperless, if only because it meant less paper to carry and keep track of. Iraq was the first war where many of the combat officers were using digital (read off a laptop screen) maps instead of paper maps. The new Land Warrior Lite will get officers and NCOs more of the maps and other administrative tools officially, rather than forcing the troops to improvise, as they have in the past. Also, the new, scaled back, "Land Warrior" will concentrate on giving all the infantry lightweight two way radios. British marines had these in Iraq, and commandos of all nations have used them for years. Some American troops even bought small walkie-talkie radios in electronics stores, with their own money, and used them in combat. The new "Land Warrior" would provide more rugged, and encrypted, radios for the troops, as well as GPS for everyone and PDA and laptop based mapping for officers and senior NCOs. New army radio systems allow for networking, and Internet like capabilities for the battlefield PDAs and laptops. Portable videocams are also catching on, allowing vehicles, or scouts on foot, to automatically send video back of what has been discovered. The new Land Warrior won't look very different from current troops, but that's because the electronic gadgets are small by design and user desire. But more importantly, the troops have already proved, on their own, that the stuff works.

 

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