Another interesting story from Wired’s “Danger Room” blog:
Special Forces Getting High-Tech Soldier Suits for Iraq Mission
By Shelley DuboisJust a few years ago, the Army was so down on the Land Warrior high-tech soldier get-up that it officially canceled the project. Now, Land Warrior is back from the dead — and considered so valuable that even the Army’s commando elite want the wearable electronics suites.According to InsideDefense.com, an Army Special Forces battalion will start training with an upgraded version of Land Warrior in 2010, before it deploys to Iraq later in the year.It’s a big change for the Land Warrior program, more than 15 years and a half a billion dollars in the making. The electronics packages were supposed to be the military technology of the future. But at a bulky sixteen pounds, many soldiers were reluctant to wear them — and the Army axed the program. The remnants of the Land Warrior project were offloaded on the “Manchu” soldiers of the 4/9 infantry battalion in Iraq, who stripped down the package and sharpened its features. It worked so well, an entire Army brigade was equipped with the ensembles, and just shipped off to Afghanistan. Then the Pentagon approved a request by a special forces commander at Ft. Bragg, N.C. to get the improved Land Warrior, called the Ground Soldier Ensemble, tested and ready to outfit a brigade in Iraq by 2010.Like the Land Warrior, the GSE is a camo suit equipped with a digital radio, a GPS beacon, a wearable computer, and a screen which soldiers can see through an eyepiece attached to their helmets. The eyepiece shows digital maps of the terrain with the location of other soldiers on a video game-like interface. But the new GSE should be slim, thanks to battery and microprocessor technology. They’ll also have “digital chem lights,” arguably the suits’ most useful feature, which soldiers in the 4/9 division added when they re-jiggered the old test suits.Chem lights come up on the digital screen as green lights. They let buildings, escape routes, and potential enemy locations be marked in green on every soldier’s monocle. In an urban environment like Iraq, the lights also mark houses that have been checked and cleared, to prevent soldiers from kicking down the same civilian doors twice.The new ensembles are designed to give more information to what will be a smaller force in 2012 as the U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq. Soon, the Army is going to have to condense tons of tactical information among only a few special forces officers, according to Col. Wil Riggins, the Soldier Warrior program manager. Hopefully, the Land Warrior will have reincarnated effectively enough to help.