Feeds

Senate Frankensteins bid to revive dead wearable-tech gear

Land Warrior axed by Pentagon but may live again

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The US Army's controversial wearable-tech programme for foot soldiers, known as "Land Warrior," may not be dead after all.

Land Warrior was removed from the Army budget in February, which would normally means its imminent demise. However, the decision to cut off funds came just as the first American combat unit received the equipment - and just as President Bush ordered his "surge" in US troop numbers for Iraq.

As a result, the 4th battalion of the US 9th Infantry reportedly had no time to revert to standard equipment and deployed to Iraq with Land Warrior. There were suggestions at the time, however, that only unit leaders would use the full package.

Land Warrior is essentially a set of personal gadgetry, ruggedised for military use. It includes a 400MHz ARM processor, GPS sat-nav, voice and data radio, a camera - much the same sort of package you might expect in a modern high-end converged smartphone. Differences from a smartphone include the helmet-mounted monocle heads-up display, which can be seen in field use during this recent vid from the 4/9th in Iraq. (You'll need Flash and a YouTube-friendly firewall.)

Other differences between Land Warrior and civilian gear include the camera, which has 12x zoom and is mounted on the soldier's gunsight rather than the back of a phone. It can work with a laser designator, too.

These features allow Land Warrior-toting troops to mark targets for attention by higher-ups, perhaps sending an image or video clip to accompany the position info. The flip-down monocle screen can display maps with the locations of friendly troops, even down to the level of individual soldiers.

Perhaps the most significant difference between Land Warrior and a smartphone, however, is its weight. The military version adds a full 15lb to a soldier's load, as if he were carrying an additional pair of loaded M4 rifles. As the weary modern grunt is already heavily burdened with armour, water, ammo etc this is a serious issue. It may have contributed to Army chiefs' decision to axe the programme, along with grumbles that the situation maps updated too slowly and the gun-cam's performance was sluggish.

Now, however, GovExec.com reports that the Senate Armed Services Committee has signalled its intention to restore $80m of funding to Land Warrior next year, which would equip two more battalions alongside the 4/9th. This would allow it to be used at brigade level.

The Senators also want to spend $30m on further development and improvement. The idea here is that while Land Warrior may not be ideal, it would be quicker and cheaper to upgrade it than starting from scratch with a new system the way the Army brass would like to.

The Senators reportedly felt that Land Warrior was one of the relatively few military tech efforts directly targeted at helping ordinary foot-soldiers, who are tending to bear the brunt of the fighting in the current Iraqi and Afghan wars.

Some kind of Land Warrior type kit is probably inevitable during the next couple of decades. Other nations are pursuing it avidly, and there's no doubt that present or near-future tech could deliver a lighter, faster solution soon.

Even so, the future for Land Warrior itself is far from certain. There has been no Congressional support to match that from the Senate, and none from the Pentagon either. A decisive judgement from the soldiers of the 4/9th is probably a while away yet, they being only a few months into a long tour.

GovExec's report can be read here

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.