Modern soldier: a sitrep: the development of futuristic networked soldier systems continues in parallel with efforts to field practical/mature equipment, and get it into the hands of infantry soldiers fighting the war on terror.

Author:Kemp, Ian
Position:Warfaighter
 
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The US Army cancelled further funding for its Land Warrior programme in February 2007 in favour of expediting the delivery of mature technologies into the hands of troops fighting the war on terror and rolling less mature technologies into the Future Force Warrior programme. In 2005 the Land Warrior project was folded into the Future Force Warrior Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) programme, for which General Dynamics C4 Systems is the prime contractor. The consolidated effort forms the baseline for the Ground Soldier Systems (GSS) project, which is intended to be interoperable with the Future Combat Systems family of vehicles scheduled to enter service from 2014. The army is seeking to deploy a threshold GSS from fiscal year 2010 (FY10) and an objective GSS from FY12.

A battalion of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 2nd Infantry Division conducted an extensive operational assessment of the Land Warrior (440 systems) and the associated Mounted Warrior (147 systems) at Fort Lewis, Washington from May to September 2006. The system was designed to integrate the individual soldier into the networked battle-space by improving individual situational awareness and small unit battle command. A major concern of many soldiers was the addition of another 6.8 kg to the 27.2-kg load they were already carrying. The service decided the battalion would subsequently deploy to Iraq the following April and May equipped with Land Warrior/Mounted Warrior. Land Warrior was proven to close 13 of 19 identified capability gaps during the 2006 user assessment and > than it did in testing, according to Program Executive Office Soldier. > said one company commander in Iraq. One reconnaissance squad leader who said he was sceptical about the additional weight of the system during training said he has, >. Soldiers pared down the original Land Warrior ensemble from 6.8 to 4.5 kg and for some missions only commanders are directed to wear the equipment. The newer Fusion Hub Subsystem combines the functions of four Land Warrior elements: the soldier control unit, the computer/master hub subsystem, navigation and audio/ visual interface system, into one small, lightweight component. Feedback from the Iraq deployment will be invaluable in developing future iterations leading to the GSS.

Recognising that a holistic approach needed to be adopted to equip the soldier as a system, the US Army established Team Soldier under the direction of Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia in 2002. Beneath PEO Soldier are three Project Managers (PM):

* Project Manager Soldier Warrior directs the activities of Product Managers Land Warrior, Air Warrior and Future Warrior

* Project Manager Soldier Equipment directs Product Managers Sensors and Lasers, Clothing and Individual Equipment, and Survivability

* Project Manager Soldier Weapons directs Product Manager Individual Weapons and Product Manager Crew-Served Weapons.

PEO Soldier also supervises the Project Director for the Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI) to expedite equipment into service with warfighters in Afghanistan and Iraq. The roots of the RFI can be traced as far back as 1989 when the Soldier Enhancement Program was established to evaluate, test and type-qualify commercially available, non-developmental items in three years or less. SEP officials collaborate with their opposite numbers in the US Marine Corps who run the Marine Enhancement Program. In January 2004 the Headquarters Department of the Army instructed the Director RFI to equip 840,000 active, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers by the end of FY07 and this was later increased to 984,000.

The 2007 US Army Posture Statement notes, >. The RFI has delivered a long list of items, including the Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) and ACH night-observation device mount, ballistic goggles, knee and elbow pads, improved desert boots and a hydration system. Lethality enhancements include the M68...

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