Noah 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.