Suit of armor fits 21st century
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Mar 09, 1998
ORLANDO, Fla.--The Army is developing a weapons and body armor system that will give
foot soldiers a digital battlefield map on a helmet video display.
The system, known as Land Warrior, is a combination of body armor, weapons system and
command and control system. The soldier wears a helmet assembly subsystem with software
and radio communications.
Land Warrior uses integrated computer and helmet-mounted video display equipment to
digitally transmit maps and orders around the battlefield.
Soldiers can see maps of the battlefield and read orders of commanding officers.
Soldiers not only hear commands but see the words on monitors. A hand unit controls the
helmet-mounted display and computer.
The monocular video display gives the soldier navigation data, command and control
instructions and target coordinates. The information can also be viewed through a night
vision, flip-down eyepiece mounted on the helmet visor.
A video camera on the weapons subsystem is connected to the eyepiece, so soldiers can
fire a weapon overhead, around corners or behind them while reducing their exposure to
The computer and radio system, carried in the soldier's backpack, sends the soldier's
coordinates to a Global Positioning System satellite. The signal is returned to a receiver
in the backpack so soldiers know where fellow squad members are.
Earlier prototypes of the Land Warrior systems called for a 486 computer. The system
now includes a Pentium multichip processor running the Posix-compliant Lynx operating
system from Lynx Real-Time Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif. The chip runs at speeds of 66
MHz and 166 MHz. A modular architecture makes it easy to upgrade, Army officials said.
Power constraints force the computer to run at lower speeds than most notebook
computers. The processor draws about 3.6 watts of power as compared with 10 watts for the
"Our focus, in terms of all the technologies, has been looking at lower power,
which is a critical factor," said Julius Bogdanowicz, battlefield systems manager for
Raytheon Systems Co.
As prime contractor, Raytheon Co. is responsible for Land Warrior's overall system
engineering and integration, as well as the software and weapons subsystems. Bull HN
Information Systems Inc. of Billerica, Mass., provides the integrated helmet assembly
subsystem. Motorola Inc. provides the computer and radio subsystem, and Gentex Corp. of
Carbondale, Ill., supplies the protective clothing and equipment subsystem.
The Land Warrior system is heavier than equipment now carried by foot soldiers and uses
too much power, Army officials said. The service wants to lighten the load and make better
use of the system's batteries.
Top Army brass inspected the Land Warrior system at last month's Association of the
United States Army winter symposium. Gen. William Hartzog, commander of the Army's
Training and Doctrine Command, said the system has a few kinks.
"The batteries are still larger than I'd like them to be," Hartzog said.
"They're down to about the size of a flashlight battery, but ... if a soldier is out
on patrol for three days, he's got to carry 12 pounds worth of batteries. I want them to
carry a pocketful of watch batteries."
The Land Warrior weighs about 80 pounds, including the body armor and backpack. To
reduce weight and consumption, Raytheon technicians designed a Laser Rangefinder--10 times
more efficient and 40 percent lighter--for the weapon system.
The Army will spend $51.4 million, or $200,000 apiece, on 255 Land Warrior systems next
year. But once in production, the price should drop to $42,000 for each squad leader
package and $35,000 for each foot soldier setup, officials said.
The Army plans to outfit 5,000 soldiers with the system by late 2000 and more than
34,000 soldiers by 2010. Soldiers in the light, mechanized, air assault, rangers and
airborne forces will wear the suits.
The system passed two design reviews and an early operational experiment last year. But
Hartzog wants the battle system to communicate effortlessly.
"Our biggest challenge right now is getting Land Warrior to talk to the Force XXI
Battle Command Brigade-and-Below system. Land Warrior talks to FBCB2, but it doesn't talk
as simply and easily as I want it to talk," Hartzog said. Land Warrior will take part
in the FBCB2 user tests in August and an FBCB2 initial operational test and evaluation
next year to work out the bugs.