By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press ServiceJune 7, 2007
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, June 8, 2007) - America's servicemembers are the best-equipped in the world, and people could see and touch an array of all-new or improved military equipment on exhibit on Capitol Hill here June 6.
Attendees examined a revamped Land Warrior ground-Soldier system, inspected improved body armor, tasted the latest field rations and viewed a new aerial cargo delivery system along with more equipment on display at the one-day exhibit held inside the Rayburn House Office Building. The exhibit is co-sponsored by the U.S. Army's Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Natick, Mass., and Program Executive Office Soldier based at Fort Belvoir, Va.
The Army's Land Warrior individual combat system was a popular exhibit. Land Warrior is a prototype system that harnesses computer technology and earth-orbiting satellites to boost an infantryman's survivability on the battlefield, while providing senior leaders with real-time information about the situation on the ground, said Sgt. Philip Morici, an infantryman who demonstrates the Land Warrior system.
In development since the early 1990s, the current version of Land Warrior is "a great system, but it's obviously not the end-result of what we want," Sgt. Morici said as he hefted a specially-equipped M-4 carbine that is integrated with the Land Warrior system.
Land Warrior is now being tested by an Army unit in Iraq, the sergeant noted.
"We're slowly getting the info back and we're making the changes we need to," Sgt. Morici said.
Recent improvements to Land Warrior resulted in an 8-pound weight loss compared to the previous edition, Sgt. Morici said. Future versions of Land Warrior will likely be smaller, lighter, and be wireless and voice-activated, he predicted.
The improved armored tactical vest now being fielded provides servicemembers with the best protection available, said Francis Hayden, a Soldier survivability expert with Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir.
The improved vest now weighs 29 pounds for a size medium, a 4-pound weight reduction, Mr. Hayden said. It features a new, tailored fit, he noted, that in tandem with expanded sizes for longer torsos, provides increased area of protection coverage.
The vest also has a weight re-distributing internal waistband that makes it more comfortable to wear. The vest still incorporates ceramic-plate inserts that will stop a variety of small-arms projectiles, Mr. Hayden noted.
"It provides full, 360-degrees protection on the torso," Mr. Hayden said of the new vest, noting it includes detachable protection for the upper arms and groin. The new vest also features a pull-release device for quick removal in case of emergencies, he noted.
"The Interceptor body armor is the best body armor, right now, that we have out on the street for our Soldiers," Mr. Hayden emphasized.
And, thanks to the new Unitized Group Ration Express, also called "Kitchen in a Carton," U.S. servicemembers deployed to austere locales will soon be able to enjoy hot meals even though there's no dining facility in sight, said Gerald Darsch, director for DoD Combat Feeding at the Natick facility.
The Kitchen in a Carton system is self-heating and features menu items such as turkey dinner with gravy, Mr. Darsch said.
"It requires no cook, no fuel, no equipment and no power," he explained, noting each self-contained system is designed to be air-dropped, weighs 40 pounds and feeds 18 servicemembers.
Kitchen in a Carton, Mr. Darsch said, is one of two newly developed military field rations. The other new field food is called the "First-Strike Ration," he said, and it's designed for troops on the move.
The all-in-one ration is designed to replace multi-component meals-ready-to-eat, Mr. Darsch said, noting they contain about 3,000 calories, enough to feed a warfighter for one day.
"Everything contained in that First-Strike Ration is designed to be consumed on the move," Mr. Darsch explained. "Even the beverages come in an ergonomically designed pouch, where you don't have to fumble with the canteen or the canteen cup." Officials hope to field this new ration soon, he said.
And, through the new Joint Precision Airdrop System, the U.S. military has developed a novel method to aerially deliver rations, fuel, ammunition and other vital supplies to troops in the field.
After exiting a cargo plane flying as high as 25,000 feet above the ground, the computer-controlled JPADS parachute system "self-maneuvers using Global Positioning System coordinates to a drop zone as small as 100 meters," Ed Doucette, Natick's director of air delivery and warfighter protection, explained. Computer-controlled twisting or warping of the system's wing-shaped parachute causes the airborne payload to turn left or right, he noted.
A 2,000-pound payload version of the JPADS system has been used in Afghanistan, Mr. Doucette said, noting another system with a 10,000-pound capacity also has been developed.
"There are further plans to deploy more of those (2,000-pound systems) over the next six months, and then rapidly field the 10,000-pound systems, as well," Mr. Doucette noted.