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Army Tests Land Warrior for 21st Century Soldiers

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORT BELVOIR, Va., Sept. 11, 1998 – American soldiers and Marines are already among the most deadly in the world, but a system called Land Warrior will soon make them unmatched.

Land Warrior integrates small arms with high-tech equipment enabling ground forces to deploy, fight and win on the battlefields of the 21st century.

"Land Warrior soldiers fight as a system, and the most important part of the system is what's between his ears," said Army Lt. Col. Robert Serino, Land Warrior product manager.

Land Warrior came about in 1991 when an Army study group recommended the service look at the soldier as a complete weapon system. The first priority in Land Warrior is lethality. The second is survivability and the third, command and control. The program will cost $2 billion when 45,000 sets of the equipment are fielded between 2001-2014. The Marine Corps, Air Force and many foreign countries are interested in the system.

"First and foremost, Land Warrior is a fighting system," Serino said. Land Warrior has several subsystems: the weapon, integrated helmet assembly, protective clothing and individual equipment, computer/radio, and software.

The weapon subsystem is built around the M-16/M-4 modular carbine. It has a laser range finder/digital compass, a daylight video camera, a laser aiming light and a thermal sight.

"This system will allow infantrymen to operate in all types of weather and at night," Serino said. In conjunction with other components, a soldier can even shoot around corners without exposing himself to enemy fire.

The integrated helmet assembly is lighter and more comfortable than today's helmet, Serino said. It has a helmet-mounted monocular day display, a night sensor with flat panel display, a laser detection module, ballistic/laser eye protection, a microphone and a headset.

The protective clothing and individual equipment subsystem incorporates modular body armor and upgrade plates that can stop small-arms rounds fired point-blank. It includes an integrated load-bearing frame, chemical/biological protective garments and modular rucksack.

The infantryman will attach the computer/radio subsystem to his load-bearing frame. Over this goes the rucksack for personal gear. The computer processor is fused with radios and a Global Positioning System locator. A hand grip wired to the pack and attached to the soldier's chest acts as a computer mouse and also allows the wearer to change screens, key on the radio, change frequencies and send digital information.

The subsystem comes in two flavors: The leader version has two radios and a flat panel display/keyboard, and soldiers have one radio. With the equipment, leaders and soldiers can exchange information. Soldiers using their weapon-mounted camera, for example, can send videos to their leaders.

Finally, the software subsystem includes tactical and mission support modules, maps and tactical overlays, and the ability to capture and display video images. The system also contains a power management module. Designers set up the system so it can be updated as technology improves.

The soldiers who will actually use Land Warrior have been consulted every step of the way. Prime contractor Raytheon worked with experts at the U.S. Army Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga., in designing the system. They have taken the system to the users to ensure the system is headed in the right direction.

For instance, Serino said, "The rucksack has quick-release straps so an infantryman can just drop it if the need arises. This is what our soldiers asked for -- which is really great."

One problem the Army must overcome before fielding is power. Current batteries last about 150 minutes with all systems running. "Clearly soldiers won't have all systems running all the time, but this is still not acceptable," said Serino. Other batteries under development by the Army's Communications- Electronics Command may push the time up to 30 hours.

The Army plans to test the Land Warrior system with a platoon from the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky. Later, a battalion-sized test is planned, Serino said.

"Ultimately, soldiers will define the end state of Land Warrior -- and we'll know more every time the soldiers employ the system," he said. "We'll get the system up to a certain point, then the soldiers will be the people who say how far it can really go."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA soldier using the Land Warrior system stays under cover and can still see what's outside.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA soldier models the Land Warrior system.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSoldiers test the Land Warrior system during exercises at the U.S. Army Infantry Center, Fort Benning, Ga. The soldier on the right is taking advantage of the system's ability to look around corners.  
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