Computer soldiers byte in.

Author:Kemp, Ian
Position:Future Systems
 
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It was not uncommon at defence exhibitions in the 1980s to see futuristic mockups of what the infantry soldier would look like in 1995, 2000 and 2005. None of these 'starship trooper' concepts have appeared and the programme dates have slipped to 2010, 2015 and 2020, and no doubt these dates will continue to slip. Nevertheless, an evolutionary improvement in the capability of the individual soldier is gaining momentum in many armies.

The need to get mature technology into the hands of troops as rapidly as possible has led the directors of the numerous soldier modernisation projects underway in Nato and for other armies.

The need to lighten the soldier's load while improving lethality, survivability, C4I, mobility and sustainability--the five key areas of soldier modernization programmes--is a truly demanding challenge. Historically, soldier equipment has been bought as separate items--boots, body armour, radios, weapons or helmets. Moreover, integration was a term rarely used to describe this equipment. Most of these items were considered relatively 'low tech'. Yet as soldiers faced an increasingly challenging range of peace support operations and warfighting missions throughout the 1990s the view was accepted that combat effectiveness could be much improved if individual soldiers were treated as systems. Improving situational awareness is now as relevant to the individual infantry soldier as it has always been to the fighter pilot. Indeed, the infantry soldier will soon view the battlefield through head-up display. The war on terrorism has seen armoured and artillery units deployed in the infantry role and logistics units have become prime targets for attack. Hence there is need to equip these troops with at least the basic elements of the infantry soldier modernisation package.

The principle forum for the exchange of ideas about soldier modernisation projects is Nato's Topical Group 1 (TG/1) on Soldier System Interoperability, which has its roots in a feasibility study on soldier modernisation launched by the Alliance's Army Armaments Group in 1993. Twenty Nato nations and nine nations from outside the alliance are participating. At the initiative of industry the Soldier System Standardisation Industrial Working Group was formed in 2003 to work with the TG/1 to address interoperability issues and seek the harmonisation of interface standards. The group's members are the prime contractors in national soldier modernisation projects: Eads-Dornier, General Dynamics, Selenia, Sagem, Thales Defence, Thales Communications and TNO. There is agreement that C4I, power, combat identification and interfaces are the critical areas for standardisation.

Future Warrior

The soldier is > according to the US Army's Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO Soldier) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Army is directing large amounts of money and effort to improve the effectiveness of the soldier across the full spectrum of operations encountered today and that are likely in the future.

The Army's 21st Century Land Warrior, launched in 1993, has undergone considerable reorganisation in recent years. This was in part influenced by trials conducted from November 2002 to February 2003 that convinced the service that many technologies were not mature enough to field the Land Warrior--Initial Capability in October 2004 as planned. Power was identified as a critical weakness. In June 2004 the Senate Appropriations Committee noted >.

General Dynamics C4 Systems was awarded a $ 60 million contract by the Army in February 2003 to lead the system development and integration of a revised programme. The first element to be fielded from fiscal years 2006 to 2008 would be dubbed Land Warrior--Stryker Interoperable (LW-SI) to equip six brigades that operate the General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker 8 x 8 light armoured vehicle. This would be followed by the Land Warrior--Advanced Capability in FY10. Beyond this GDLS was conducting the Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) for the army's Future Force Warrior (FFW) project looking at the period 2020 and beyond.

In March 2005 the Army consolidated the Land Warrior and Future Force Warrior ATD programmes into a single contract, now funded to the tune of more than $170 million, under General Dynamics C4 Systems to enable new technology to be 'spiralled' into service sooner and also create cost efficiencies.

The initial Land Warrior increment will equip soldiers with a dismounted battle command system known as the Commander's Digital Assistant (CDA). This was initially developed in two configurations: a CDA-Handheld based on the commercial iPAQ 3975 personal digital assistant and a CDA-Tablet based on the Panasonic CF-34 notebook computer. Since December 2002 limited numbers of digital assistants have been deployed in Iraq for operational evaluation. Feedback indicated the screen on the CDA-H was too small to allow effect viewing of maps so the decision was made to field a single system with a screen size mid-way between the two initial versions.

In the next increment the army intends to allocate $ 59 million in the...

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