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Land Warrior Coming to a Grunt Near You

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2001 – The Land Warrior system may not be fashionable, but it's what the well-dressed infantryman will fight in.

Members of Congress and their staffs got a chance to see what well-dressed grunts will wear during a May 3 demonstration of the Land Warrior technology at the Rayburn House Office Building here. The system designed by Army researchers based in Natick, Mass., is aimed at making service members more lethal on future battlefields.

The system integrates existing computer and communication technologies with weaponry. The Army program -- being watched closely by the other services -- looks at the personal gear of infantrymen and works to integrate the system.

Sgt. Joshua Katz, a Ranger from Fort Benning, Ga., demonstrated Land Warrior Version 6 on the Hill. He detailed what the "battle rattle" means to service members. The heart of the system is a wireless local area network.

"In this (an infantryman) has a computer in the back with a separate communications/navigation system," he said. "What he sees is transmitted to all." It's a true network, not point-to-point communications.

"He sees a map through the heads-up display," Katz said. "This shows his icon on the map with a 10-digit display and it will show the other land warriors and their positions." It also shows actual or suspected enemy positions.

The system operates off a rechargeable lithium battery good for six to eight hours if everything's turned on. Katz said there's also a nonrechargeable battery for combat that lasts up to 12 hours.

The warrior wears a vest that can be configured in many ways depending on the mission and the infantryman's comfort, he said. It's married up with body armor that will protect the soldier from 9mm bullets and shrapnel. "Put in two plates, front and back, and they will stop multiple hits from 7.62mm rounds," Katz said.

The future warrior's Kevlar helmet is cut shorter and is more comfortable than the present day helmet, he said. The soldier will also have protective knee and elbow pads for when they're "running and gunning."

"The weapon is an M-4 carbine with a Picatinny rail system mounted on the front," Katz said. "That allows him to interchange optics on the weapon." The M-4 is a variant of the standard-issue M-16A2 rifle, modified for U.S. special forces.

The optic systems include a daylight video sight that feeds through a wire to the head-mounted video display. It will take still pictures and send them over the local area wireless network. A lightweight thermal sight provides night and low-light vision and can see through fog and smoke.

"The M-68 close-combat optic is for ranges of 300 meters and below. The back of the weapon has a flip-up iron sight in case the optics fail," Katz said. "That means a soldier can still do everything a soldier needs to do: shoot, move and communicate."

All the weapon information goes into the heads-up display. Soldiers look at the heads-up display through ballistic laser protection glasses.

The personal load is the same as today, 79 pounds, he said, while the combat load is 92 pounds and includes the weight of water and ammunition. "The Army chief of staff, Gen. (Eric) Shinseki, said we can't go forward (with the project) if there's an increase weight at all," Katz said.

The first Land Warrior version will be fielded in fiscal 2004. The Army expects to procure 34,000 sets of the system. That system will be more streamlined and will contain a multifunction laser. Soldiers will be able to point the laser at a target and the information will go directly to the network. This will allow the soldier to call for artillery fire, for example, without having to voice transmit coordinates.

Future versions of Land Warrior will seek to reduce the weight of the system.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe Future Warrior Vision outfit includes an integrated communications antenna like this. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Christopher Bashaw demonstrates Land Warrior's eye-level thermal sites, with his view displayed on a video monitor at right. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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