Army hopes to introduce soldier of the future in next 4 years

Land Warrior program expected to meld man, machine into lethal force

September 23, 2001|By R. W. Rogers | R. W. Rogers,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The Army's new motto of "An Army of One" might aptly describe the coming generations of infantrymen, whose futuristic equipment is evolving under the Training and Doctrine Command based at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va.

Part Universal Soldier and part Power Ranger, the soldiers of the future will meld man and machine into a lethal force that the Army hopes will dominate the battlefield.

The Army believes it can field its next generation of soldier, dubbed Land Warrior, within the next four years, and Future Warrior 2025 has gripped so many imaginations that the Army may push for its debut as early as 2012.

Huge strides made

That these systems are being counted on is surprising considering that not long ago it was far from certain that they'd ever work.

As recently as December 1999, the General Accounting Office detailed major problems with the Land Warrior program. But in the last year huge strides were made when the Army decided to modify existing equipment instead of making its own.

The Training and Doctrine Command decides what requirements Land Warrior needs to meet and oversees its development. The result may be the greatest leap forward for the infantryman ever.

Land Warrior equipment would include individual communication systems, an eyepiece display with computer information about the battlefield and a personal global positioning system.

A gun-mounted video camera would enable soldiers to look around corners without exposing themselves to fire and at the same time relay video back to headquarters.

While Land Warrior is intriguing, Future Warrior is almost cartoonish in a superhero kind of way.

Resembling a character from the children's hit TV show Power Rangers, Future Warrior might seem a parody if it weren't designed to be so lethal.

The helmet would provide the soldier a 360-degree view of the battlefield.

The shape of the weapon is still evolving, but it will use dual munitions, firing bullets similar to those used by, say, the general issue M-16, as well as high-explosive rounds or minimissiles.

"In Future Warrior, we are trying to get our arms around a broad array of technology so that we can keep ahead of other countries," said John Munroe, who works at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass. Munroe is the Warrior Systems Integration team leader there.

"We realize that once we get a capability like Land Warrior that other countries, over time, will begin to acquire the same type of capabilities."

`The bottom line'

"The bottom line," Munroe said, "is that we have to continue to maintain an advantage over a potential adversary."

Munroe said that Future Warrior will probably end up being "Land Warrior version 4.0" and possibly come out by 2012 - if enough money is invested into the program.

The 1999 GAO report estimated the cost of the Land Warrior program at $2.1 billion.

"We want," said Munroe, "the capability that will allow us to whump up on someone."

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