Land Warrior

Check out ‘The Army’s New Land Warrior Gear: Why Soldiers Don’t Like It‘ by Danger Room’s Noah Shachtman in Popular Mechanics.

Instead of relying on the hand signals and shouted orders that most infantrymen use, Alpha company communicates via advanced, encrypted radio transmissions with a range of up to a kilometer. It’s more information than any soldiers have ever had about their comrades and their surroundings.

But as Alpha kicks in doors, rounds up terror suspects and peals off automatic fire in deafening six-shot bursts, not one of the soldiers bothers to check his radio or look into the eyepiece to find his buddies on the electronic maps. “It’s just a bunch of stuff we don’t use, taking the place of useful stuff like guns,” says Sgt. James Young, who leads a team of four M-240 machine-gunners perched on a balcony during this training exercise at Fort Lewis, Wash. “It makes you a slower, heavier target.”

Part of the issue, of course, is getting troops used to using the gear, and another (big) part is working out the bugs and tweaking things as real-world experience teaches lessons. The troops on the ground will eventually think of ways to use some of this gear in ways never dreamed of by the designers.

Still, there comes a point when information overload is just too much, and as Sgt. Young says, nothing will make the gun useless to an infantryman. I’ve been skeptical of loading the guys down with too much whiz-bang gear, and Land Warrior seems like it’s too much.

I expect that the useful stuff will be retained and the dead weight left behind in short order. It’s not that these things are bad. It’s just that it’s going to take use in the field and under fire to really determine what should go and what should stay.

It’s one thing when this gear is in a Stryker or command post. It’s another when an infantryman is lugging it around and expected to keep an eye on it while the bullets are whizzing past.

Go read.

Comments

  1. This stuff will be critical to effective battlefield operations in the future. Criticisms like this are what will get it to a point where it’s usefulness outweighs (no pun intended) the overhead. Maybe we’re 2 years off, maybe we’re 15 years off, but we’ll get there.

  2. This is bs. It’s like when they started putting HUDs on cars. HUDs in airplanes are great because you have an austere environment. You’re in a little airplane surrounded by a big bunch of air. You put a similar display into a target rich environment like your typical city commute and all that cool stuff going up and down, back and forth is nothing but crap that gets in the way. Hell, anyone with an ounce of sense would have predicted this gee wiz stuff wasn’t worth anything to an infantry soldier. Just because it looks cool on Star Trek doesn’t make it useful in real life. It’s just another excuse to waste money. But what the hell, you taxpayers are made of money, and we in the contracting world are here to fleece you. As long as you pay us more screw up than you do to build something worth a damn, we will continue to suck your money away like there’s no tomorrow and give you useless junk in return. Is this a great country or what?

  3. This kinda reminds me of the Maneuver Control System from my era. The MCS was 3 giant cubes that, with the giant cubes in the other command vehicles, amounted to a networked computer with a little printer and some other gewgaws. I took like, I dunno, a week of training on the system, and we went on several exercises in order to use them as a network. We were even supposed to communicate exclusively with the primitive email setup, but I thought it was asinine- why type out spot reports or other traffic, on a qwerty keyboard in the heat of the moment, when I could spool up any of the 3 trusty Vietnam-era FM transceivers in the track and say what I had to say in a fraction of the time? Not to mention that the cubes took up one whole side of the ‘577, and so displaced alot of other important equipment (a box of unwanted MRE sides with the hated Charms candy; shit tickets; fuck books), and added that much more sensitive shit we had to secure and otherwise care about. But I also remember marveling at the clarity of the maps that were loaded in them- standard today, but in 1991 it was effing amazing to see a UTM map on a computer screen, zoom into 10m clarity, and be able to add maneuver graphics and whatnot.

  4. Oh sorry- my point was that much of that capability which was being experimented with in the early 90s and which, as it then existed, was less a capability than a huge stupid pain in the ass, is now refined, commonplace and, I understand, mostly useful.

  5. Tword the end of the article they note that the guys going to Iraq are going to ditch most of the gear for the enlisted guys and let the NCOs and officers have the bits they need. Excellent. My platoon leader needs to know where everyone is. My squad leader less so. As Randy Rifleman all I really want is the radio (hand signals are great but suck for conveying nuance), the camera on the gun so I can look around corners and the beacon to tell the LT where I am. Of course the LT has to cooperate and resist the urge to play squad leader …

  6. Just thinking about it…the whole thing is almost like the bag of kit the Mobile Infantry had in their powered-armor suits in Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie). Of course, having a powered-armor suit to help you carry it all helps a lot.

  7. Its a neat idea – but they need to make it an open system. Toss the monocle and go for a half face projected image system. Then you can incorporate some good optics and custom display that the troops can use to display the information they need when they need it. In Iraq what they really need is way to access the databases on the fly so they can know if the guy they are talking to is a good guy or bad guy. So a facial recognition camera would be helpful. That said, landwarrior or whatever they use will only be really useful if they toss the concept of milspec and team up with commercial vendors.

  8. James, On tossing the milspec aspect… while it is certainly quicker, easier and cheaper to deploy commercial gear there are trade-offs. For packbots and the like, you can get away with COTS stuff for a while because if it breaks it isn’t that big of a deal, it was being used as an expendable scout or IED bait anyway. You can get some really good COTS gear but the majority of it just can’t cope with the temperature extremes, vibration, dust etc that milspec gear can. Not saying that milspec gear is perfect but it should be able to take a lot more of a beating than most COTS stuff. Having said that, nothing is stopping commercial vendors from developing milspec versions of their gear.

  9. On Milspec- Let me clarify. What the pentagon should do is set up a qualifications sheet on what the equipment must do, what would be nice if it could do, and in what environments it has to operate. Then they should announce a 25 million dollar prize to the firm that comes up with system that performs as requested and is has the highest scores as judged by randomly selected infantry platoon (in actual use). The best two systems would go into limited production to outfit a battalion each. After a year of operation, the winner would enter full rate production. Beyond the performance judging – the Pentagon would have NO say in hows, whens, whys, and the like. I remember in the original land warrior debacle – Raytheon would spent years (& millions) just writing and rewriting process specs on how the damn forearm computer would interface with the user, because every time a Pentagon manager got reassigned or a critical news report came out, or if the wind direction changed, a new list of critical feature requests were assigned. (note the forearm computer got tossed in the end, as too vulnerable to damage. )

  10. Oh no, we’ve got another capitalist posting here! Come on, James, think of all the bureaurocrats you’d put out of work that way. They’d be on every street corner of the city with signs like: Will F’-up a wet dream for money. Oh the humanity…

  11. Nah its not the bureaucrats, its the system – Congress really. There are a thousand and one penalties for failure, and virtually no rewards for success. Rewards go to the size of your budget, not to how cost effective or even if your department is doing anything of value. So you have a system built to spend and CYA and the best way to CYA is to NEVER EVER MAKE A DECISION. And so we have 20+ years to make a rifle, 20+ years to make a fighter, and some dumb ass move to make a Chinook into a search and rescue bird.

  12. The system… the bureaucrats… They’re all one and the same now. It’s not a ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ any more. It is a government ‘of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats’, just like our courts are ‘of the lawyers, by the lawyers, for the lawyers.’ They have ceased to serve the interests of the people and it is well past time we took them back.