Land Warrior, exercises push Army battlefield digitization

FORT IRWIN, Calif. - U.S. Army officials are accelerating the tempo of their battlefield digitization efforts with recent tests of the Land Warrior integrated fighting system, which seeks to equip the infantry soldier with new battle armor, a computer, digital communications, sensors, and advanced weapon.

Apr 1st, 1997

By John Rhea

FORT IRWIN, Calif. - U.S. Army officials are accelerating the tempo of their battlefield digitization efforts with recent tests of the Land Warrior integrated fighting system, which seeks to equip the infantry soldier with new battle armor, a computer, digital communications, sensors, and advanced weapon.

Army leaders completed early Land Warrior tests last December, and added the first of a new round of experiments last month at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, Calif.

In December, Army officials tested 10 prototype systems using 15 soldiers under operational conditions at Fort Benning, Ga., during field experiments by Land Warrior prime contractor Hughes Aircraft Co. of Fullerton, Calif.

Hughes received a $51 million contract in July 1995, and the program is on schedule for a 1999 production decision and equipping the first unit the following year, says Army Col. Phil Hamilton, Land Warrior program manager.

The system, which is still undergoing refinement, now weighs about 75 pounds, and will weigh 55 to 60 pounds in production versions, Hamilton estimates. The costs initially will be about $41,000 per system plus some government-furnished equipment for the 34,000 systems envisioned. However, Army officials are also looking at add-ons, including a self-contained dead-reckoning navigation system to complement the global positioning system (GPS) and voice- activated features.

Among the goals of Land Warrior are enhanced situational awareness and increased soldier-to-soldier communications to supplement the traditional hierarchical flow of communications. The key to this, and to interfacing the infantry soldier into the overall battlefield plan, is an open-systems architecture.

The next step in this digitization process was to be a brigade-level experiment beginning March 15 at Fort Irwin. This involves the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, known as the experimental force.

Members of this brigade will test 72 new pieces of military gear, including some at the proof-of-principle stage, says Col. Al Turner, director of the Joint Venture Directorate at the Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va.

This exercise is entirely simulated one-on-one combat against Fort Irwin`s resident simulated enemy team with no live fire and no limitations on tactics, Turner explains. "The rule is that there are no rules except you can`t go out of the NTC area," Turner says, adding that the simulated Fort Irwin enemy could not use jamming or other means of electronic warfare.

The underlying quest throughout all these exercises - and Land Warrior, too - is to equip tomorrow`s infantry soldier to be faster, deadlier, and better able to survive than soldiers of today. A division-level experiment is set for November at Fort Irwin.

All combat vehicles in these experiments will have laptop computers, the Enhanced Position Location and Reporting System, upgraded versions of the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, plus battlefield identification system on the tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. Tying the disparate elements together is the TRW-produced Applique software system with its moving map overlay.

Army leaders chiefly want to determine how to mix and match voice and digital data communications. An estimated 55 to 60 percent of all battlefield data in the past has been devoted to determining the locations of enemy and friendly forces. The typical field commander today still equates command and control with voice communications.

Earlier in March, Marine Corps leaders completed a similar exercise, designated Hunter Warrior, to test such advanced technologies as video screens at the command center. The 2-week exercise began Feb. 28 at Camp Pendleton, Calif., employing an infantry battalion and an air unit of troop-carrying helicopters and AV-8B attack jets that were outnumbered 4-1 by an "enemy" represented by the 7th Marines.

Unlike the Army exercises, however, Hunter Warrior was intended to evaluate new tactics rather than new hardware. Marine Col. Anthony Wood, director of the commandant`s Warfighting Laboratory, Quantico, Va., described the test as trying to determine if a modest size, sea-based, air-ground task force can drastically extend the area it can influence. This small force, operating in dispersed smaller units, would precede any major action by a larger joint task force.

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