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US Army ‘going to Linux’ after OS switch for GI PDA

It's more stable, says officer about to hear from Microsoft

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The US Army has abandoned Windows and chosen Linux for a key component of its "Land Warrior" programme, according to a report in National Defense Magazine. The move, initially covering a personal computing and communications device termed the Commander's Digital Assistant (CDA), follows the failure of the previous attempt at such a device in trials in February of this year, and is part of a move to make the device simpler and less breakable.

According to program manager Lt Col Dave Gallop this is part of a broader move towards Linux by the US Army: "Evidence shows that Linux is more stable. We are moving in general to where the Army is going, to Linux-based OS." The trials of the earlier version, at Hunter Airfield in Georgia, showed it exceeding the permitted one mission failure per 158 hours, not having sufficient battery life and having its communications obstructed by trees. The latter objection seems a little harsh to us, given that trees are pretty hardware- and OS-agnostic, but what do we know?

The new devices are to be compatible with the new Stryker infantry vehicle, and hence come under the title Land Warrior Stryker Interoperable (SI). The previous was the LW-IC (Initial Capability). The LW-SI is intended to use the Stryker as a base station for recharging and downloading battlefield information, which would appear to provide a workaround for the limitations of the currently available communications systems.

General Dynamics Decision Systems was awarded a development contract in February, and the computer (or maybe computerish) part of the system will come in a number of shapes and sizes, depending on role. Standard infantry versions will be pretty light and rugged, but the "leader version" could have longer range radio, keyboard and handheld display. GDDS says it's also developing variants for medics, combat engineers and forward observers.

Even if Lt Col Gallop is slightly premature in predicting the military's imminent switch to Linux, it's adoption for Land Warrior is a pretty big deal, given that this could conceivably turn it into the base OS for the devices carried by every US soldier. According to to GDDS (FAQ here, project overview here) it's a first step on the path to the "Future Soldier", beginning to realise the US military's visions of the digitised battlefield, the tactical Internet and (new one on us) the Soldier as a System. There's an impressive big graphic of the roadmap here, which gives an idea of the CDA (currently 12 pounds), how it fits in, and the evolutionary/revolutionary approach being taken.

The Stryker, incidentally, is designated a "light armored vehicle", or LAV. We fear this may severely impact its marketability vis a vis the British Army, and caution the developers never, ever to designate one a LAV-E. ®

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