Soldiers Test 'Land Warrior' Technology

Article excerpt

Small-unit commanders in the Army soon may receive a new computer-radio suite that connects soldiers into a wireless network and tracks their location.

The technology, called the "dismounted battle command system," is a simplified version of the embattled "Land Warrior" infantry ensemble, which the Army has been developing for more than a decade.

"The Army spent a decade digitizing the mounted force. Now we have the technology for the dismounted troops," said Col. Richard D. Hansen Jr., project manager for warrior systems.

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division currently are testing the dismounted battle command system at Fort Drum, N.Y.

"So far the test at Drum is going very well," says Lt. Col. Brian Cummings, product manager for Land Warrior.

Once Army and Pentagon testers give their approval, the battalion likely will put the system to use in combat during its next deployment to Afghanistan.

The dismounted battle command system, or DBCS, is emblematic of the Army's struggle to field technologies to frontline troops sooner than originally planned. Land Warrior, when first conceived in the mid-1990s, was supposed to enter service by 2000, but suffered major technical setbacks and failed key tests before the Army restructured the program into its current form.

Today's Land Warrior is being developed for the Stryker brigades to begin using in 2008. The 1st squadron of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Lewis, Wash., is scheduled to receive 440 Land Warrior systems in 2006. The unit, which is being converted to a Stryker brigade, will test the technology.

While DBCS is limited to communications and situational awareness, Land Warrior also includes an integrated helmet-mounted computer display, an advanced rifle and laser range finder.

A yet more sophisticated version of Land Warrior, called "Future Force Warrior," is scheduled for 2014. The project, however, has been heavily criticized by Congress for being unfocused. As a result, it lost much of its funding. Subsequently, the Army was directed to develop a system that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan could use right away.

Two versions of DBCS will be available, says Cummings. The "P" variant is for company commanders and platoon leaders. The "T" version is for squad and team leaders. …