By Army News ServiceJanuary 8, 2007
Program Executive Officer (PEO) Soldier BG Mark Brown believes that "networking the battlefield" by providing Infantry soldiers with high-tech tools to plug into the digital battle command network is a critical step toward increasing soldiers' lethality, while reducing the risk of death or injury, fratricide and surprise enemy attacks.
"If the technology-based systems we've tested over the past few months under combat like-conditions gain Army approval, for the first time in military history, our soldiers will be wearing and carrying tools designed to reduce and/or eliminate the 'fog of war' previously considered inevitable in battle," said BG Brown.
Brown was referring to the comprehensive assessment of the latest Land Warrior and Mounted Warrior systems conducted jointly by PEO Soldier and the U.S. Army Infantry Center from May through August at Fort Lewis, Wash. More than 400 soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participated. The battalion was equipped with 440 Land Warrior Systems and 147 Mounted Warrior Systems. The assessment produced many lessons learned, and feedback from the soldiers has been positive.
Following a limited user test in September, the Army will decide whether to field the systems to troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Land Warrior develops integrated protection and networking fighting systems for ground soldiers. It combines computers, lasers, navigation modules, radios and other technologically-advanced equipment to improve soldiers' ability to communicate on the battlefield. It heightens their situational awareness and integrates it with protective technologies to enhance their ability to fight effectively and survive. Mounted Warrior develops the same type systems for combat vehicle crewmen. It includes communications and displays that will improve situational awareness on or off the vehicle.
COL Richard Hansen, Project Manager Soldier Warrior, explained the reason for the full-scale assessment: "In late 2004, the U.S. Army Infantry Center conducted a side-by-side comparison between Land Warrior-equipped soldiers and Rapid Fielding Initiative-equipped soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga. This squad-level operational assessment demonstrated that Land Warrior capabilities do improve the combat effectiveness of soldiers and small units engaged in dismounted operations." The result was a battalion-level assessment. Although not all of the results are in, Hansen says they look good.
Infantry close combat is the most demanding battlefield environment with the highest potential for casualties. Land Warrior will help Infantry soldiers, who are exposed to the highest risk in close combat, fight effectively and survive by enhancing their ability to communicate on the battlefield and increasing their awareness of the surrounding environment. Land Warrior-equipped soldiers are capable of instant voice and data communications with other soldiers, command posts, and supporting vehicles and aircraft.
"This system is as significant and important as rifled barrels once were over smooth bore barrels. It will change the way we fight," observed COL Ernest Forrest of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command.
Many of the improvements tested in the assessment were suggested and designed by the soldiers themselves, and they continue to provide expert feedback. The confusion that soldiers commonly experience in battle extends to communicating and receiving orders, as well as tracking the location of other soldiers and the enemy. The Army has made great strides equipping vehicles and command posts with state-of-the-art digital battle command networking capabilities that enhance situational awareness and increase survivability and lethality. The Land Warrior system extends these advantages to Infantry soldiers. Precise navigation and real-time, common situational awareness will substantially reduce the risk of fratricide or surprise enemy attacks, according to Land Warrior leadership.
CPT Patrick Roddy, Commander of C Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis explained, "The Land Warrior system provides near real-time knowledge of where I am and where all my units are. That gives me a better ability to command and control the movement of the unit in the field, prevent fratricide, and determine what force I want to bring to bear on known or suspected enemy locations at a given time."
Using the new systems, mounted soldiers will be able to receive voice data and tactical Internet connectivity to communicate effectively with troops on the ground, mounted warriors in other vehicles and unit leaders. For the first time ever, large-scale map displays will show the soldier his location, the location of his fellow soldiers, vehicle locations, known enemy positions, and up-to-the minute mission plans and orders. This will allow soldiers to engage targets with minimal exposure, thanks to improvements such as video and thermal sighting routed to a small helmet-mounted display. Leaders will be able to perform faster, more accurate situational assessments, and then transmit simple orders quickly, queuing off the common map situational awareness display to react to changing situations.
LTC Bill Prior, Commander of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis, said, "The vertical integration between my Stryker platforms and my dismounted guys now is much better. It's not just a radio or being able to see him, the Land Warrior can see the Strykers on the Land Warrior screen, and the Strykers can see all the Land Warriors through computer screens. So the situational awareness, the ability to pass orders, messages and that kind of thing will be a big benefit for us."