Land Warrior report from Iraq

land warrior in iraqNoah Shachtman has a great article up about his encounter with Land Warrior-equipped troops in Iraq: Soldier of the Future Goes to War. It’s definitely worth a read.

They were supposed to be wearing the high-tech soldier suits of the future. But when the grunts of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment first started running around with a pile of gadgets on their backs and their helmets, they absolutely hated the gear…

I’ve just spent a week with Prior and the 4/9 (known as the “Manchus” since their assaults on China in 1901). And much to my surprise, a bunch of the soldiers in the unit are warming up to Land Warrior, especially now that the gizmo ensemble has been pared down and made more tactically relevant.

This is great news, and I’m reminded of what I wrote last spring about LW:

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…I expect that the useful stuff will be retained and the dead weight left behind in short order.

It’s when the boots hit the ground that the real testing and innovation takes place. One thing about electronics-based tech like most of the Land Warrior suite is that the gear will keep getting smaller and lighter and cheaper and better. What’s too bulky to carry today might be added to a wristwatch tomorrow, and feedback from the field in a combat zone should make all the difference.

Go read the whole thing, which includes digital chem lights, small kill teams, video feeds from small robots, and digital gun scopes left behind.

Comments

  1. An interesting quote from the story, ‘And all this stuff (Land Warrior does), my cell phone basically does the same at home.’ Sounds like they really need is a tough version of the Iphone. Seriously. Offer Apple to buy several thousand specialty Iphone at a good premium, say 5000$ each. Steve Jobs would jump for the chance.

  2. That caught my eye too! It seems that sometimes the military likes to really complicate things so those things can look more ‘special’

  3. Shipmates, So, I can infer that the Army is going to start shifting it’s recruitment efforts towards HALO players? Heh…

  4. Don’t buy into the procurement bashing approach of ‘commecial off the shelf (COTS) can do everything.’ While it is true that many things can be bought COTS, the military DOES after all have some unique requirements. For instance, I recall that the ruggedized, high resolution, secure fax machines the pentagon developed were roundly criticized for being over-specified and outrageously expensive at thousands of dollars each when fax machines could be bought at the local Staples for hundreds. Then came a little thing called Desert Storm. These secure, high resolution fax machines allowed strike packages to get imagery of their targets faxed to them instantly streamlining the planning process in a way which was unthinkable previously. The standard (COTS) fax machines in the more administrative roles mainly died in the heat and sand environment. One anecdote I heard regarding the secure fax machines involved a forward based Marine unit which was visited by a group of techs sent to help them get their fax set up. It couldn’t be found. They had received one, but it wasn’t where it should be. They scoured the camp and found it…holding up a tent pole. The techs proceeded to shake the sand out of the case and set it up. Lo and behold, it still worked! Think about that whenever you hear the ‘COTS is the way to go’ argument. BTW, I used to plan and execute flight testing of commercial aircraft for military roles, so I know of what I speak. COTS is great IF and ONLY IF the military use is very similar to the use for which the product was designed. Bizjets to ferry VIPs (C-20)? Great, that’s what they were made for. Bizjets to train bomber pilots to fly low level penetration missions (T-1A)? Requires a bit more thought, time, effort, and cost. In some cases a clean sheet design is much more effective.