No more “prairie-dogging it” for Stryker commanders

The eye of Nomad

nomads.jpgAnother of the gadgets available in the Stryker Brigade is the Nomad Augmented Vision System. This is a helmet-mounted device that allows the vehicle commander to stand in his hatch and see things for himself without unplugging from the high-tech Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below battle management system within inside the vehicle.

The Nomad units solve a simple, but critical, problem.

While the Stryker’s high-tech tracking and battle systems seem to work well, the information from those systems is displayed on an inconveniently located screen. Because it’s inside the vehicle, the commander can’t see it and watch the battlefield from the vehicle’s top hatch at the same time.

Instead, [Microvision Market Segment Manager for Aerospace Bruce] Westcoat said, most commanders end up ducking inside the vehicle to glance at the screen, popping their heads out the top hatch and then repeating the process – frequently.

“They were doing this 60 to 70 times an hour. It was a huge fiasco for them,” he said. “It’s actually a distraction for them to duck down into the vehicle to study the display.”

Additionally, continually bending between the vehicle’s interior and the hatch can take a physical toll.

nomad2.jpgThe first Stryker Brigade received 100 of the units after deploying to Kuwait but before entering Iraq near the end of 2003. The second Stryker Brigade took a few more along with them. That means that only about a third of the vehicles in the brigade have the units yet.

And, like much of the new gear and tactics used by the Stryker Brigade, there has been some tweaking:

Soldiers in that team, however, requested another improvement. Microvision added a toggle switch that allows the commander to switch the display between three digital maps displaying different navigational, weapons and tactical information.

A Government Computer News article summarizes the three display modes:

The first screen, FBCB2, gives commanders and soldiers a common operational picture of enemy and friendly forces on the battlefield. The Gunners Display screen lets commanders confirm targets or direct gunners. The last screen, the Drivers Vision Enhancer, lets users see in a dark and dusty environment without relying on night vision goggles, [assistant operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Capt. Brian] Vile said.

Another article includes this tidbit on the switch:

“If the commander has FBCB2 up in front of him, and the gunner says he has a target in his sights, the commander can click over and look at what the gunner sees,” Westcoat said.

The Microvision military page has a lengthy but interesting video about the Nomad, including some remarks by Col. Robert Brown, the commander of the first Stryker Brigade while it was in the combat zone.

In addition to this battlefield use, the commercial Nomad system has been purchased by the Army Reserve for use in maintenance departments, something that the civilian world has been doing for a little while already.