By Alex Dixon and Julia HenningJuly 22, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 22, 2013) -- The Nett Warrior system is fielding now and currently being used by Army Rangers and Soldiers within the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
In line with the Army's focus on the tactical network, PEO Soldier has advanced development on the Nett Warrior system. Most recently, PEO Soldier has included a Samsung Galaxy Note II smart phone as the chest-mounted "end-user device" that serves as the centerpiece of the system. Nett Warrior gives Soldiers from team leader upwards situational awareness on the battlefield.
The current system displays locations of fellow Soldiers, allows placement of locational digital "chem light" markers, and allows passing of text messages and other information to those who use it. That same information, and more, is also relayed to commanders over encrypted tactical radios.
The Nett Warrior deputy project manager at Program Executive Office - Soldier, at Fort Belvoir, Va., said the Army buys end-user devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note II at commercial price, wipes the memory clean, and installs the Nett Warrior software.
"We are beholden to the commercial industry," said Jason Regnier, with project manager, Nett Warrior. "We have to keep up with them. So when the Note IIs are gone, they're gone. So then we'll have to be ready to buy Note IIIs or whatever it's going to be."
Regnier said a smart phone is really just a small computer that can be configured for nearly any purpose. At a street-price of around $700, the cost of buying the devices commercially is substantially lower than what the Army would pay if it had to procure similar devices from contractors who would develop their own original devices.
Additionally, Regnier said the ability to buy new devices means having the latest technology and processors available to power the tools Soldiers use on the battlefield to stay in contact with each other.
The software package at the heart of the Nett Warrior system is developed in-house by the Army. The devices run an NSA-approved version of the Android operating system, and plans to include applications such as machine foreign language translation.
Regnier said that before the phones are integrated into a Net Warrior system, most of the communications capability is first disabled. That includes the cellular antennas, the Wi-Fi capability, and the Bluetooth capability. Instead, the phones, billed as "end-user devices" once they are wiped clean, communicate via the USB connection with a Soldier's hip-mounted Rifleman Radio. The data-capable radio provides the network connectivity to the system.
Production is ongoing for the AN/PAS-13 thermal weapons sights. But PEO Soldier recently included in that production new 17-micron technology that improves the weight, the size and the power usage of the sights.
The Army has three versions of the AN/PAS-13 TWS, one each for weapons ranging in size from the M-4 Carbine, to the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and up to the MK-19 machine gun.
At one point, the smallest of those sights, now called the AN/PAS-13(V)1, weighed in at 5.3 pounds and cost $32,000 to produce. The newest version of the same sight, aimed at the M-16 rifle, M-4 carbine and M-136 Light Anti-Armor Weapon, weighs less than two pounds and costs about $5,500, said Maj. Chester Keller, with project manager, Soldier Maneuver Sensors.
The Army is also developing a new class of thermal weapons sights, a "Family of Weapon Sights" designed specifically for rapid engagement and short distance conflicts. These systems will be fielded to infantrymen and special operations forces.
The newest sight takes the 17 micron thermal technology from the TWS and adds wireless rapid target acquisition software. This allows for Soldiers to engage targets more quickly by transmitting the weapon sight imagery into the Soldier's goggles. The cost for production is about $5,500 per sight.
Fielding for that system has begun and the sight is expected to go out to 36,000 Soldiers within brigade combat teams and Special Operations Forces, said Maj. Toby Birdsell, with project manager, Soldier Maneuver Sensors.
The Lightweight Laser Designated Rangefinder, the AN/PED-1, includes both a target locator module and a laser designator module. It includes a thermal imager, a day camera, laser designator spot imaging, electronic display, and eye-safe laser rangefinder.
The original version of the system, the LLDR 1 weighed in at 35 pounds. But a newer version, the LLDR 2 weighs in at less than 30 pounds. A more refined version, the LLDR 2H weighs less than 32 pounds and incorporates both a magnetic compass and a celestial navigation system that takes into account the position of the moon, sun and stars, within its target locator module.
"With the celestial read, it gives them the exact target location they are looking for when they are doing call to fire," said Maj. Kursteen Nelson, with project manager, Soldier Precision Targeting Devices.
The LLDR 2H is expected to be fielded in fiscal year 2014, she said.