INTERNATIONAL SOLDIER SYSTEM REVIEW
By Scott R. Gourley
Although recent defense budget submissions call for termination of the US Army’s Land Warrior program, the service is currently supporting concrete manifestations of that system in daily combat operations in Iraq. Moreover, the early success of those operations opens the possibility of expanded Land Warrior fielding while simultaneously providing technologies and lessons that are feeding into Future Combat Systems capabilities.
By way of background, in early 2006 the US Army’s 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (“4-9 Infantry”) has been equipped with both the Land Warrior and Mounted Warrior ensembles, which the unit took with it when deployed for the “surge phase” of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In doing so, 4-9 Infantry became the first unit in the history of warfare to employ a digitally-networked combat soldier in a combat operation. The battalion is equipped with 229 Land Warrior (LW) ensembles, which are worn by the unit’s leadership down to the team leader level, as well as 133 Mounted Warrior (MW) ensembles.
“We spent almost a year with the 4-9 doing a DOTMLPF [Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel and Facilities] assessment at Fort Lewis, Washington,” notes Lieutenant Colonel Brian Cummings, US Army Product Manager for Land Warrior. “And we recently deployed over here to Iraq.”
Using the example of the ‘training’ element of DOTMLPF, Cummings explained that the product management office, together with its complete government / industry team, spent the year prior to unit deployment not only building a battalion’s worth of LW and MW systems but also focusing “down onto their training plan, going through the various individual all the way up to collective level exercises from the individual platoon, company, battalion and brigade.”
“We spent a whole year on their training and then the battalion decided to take our equipment with them and deployed into Iraq,” he added. “We’ve been here in Iraq since the first part of April and we started combat operations soon after that.”
Early Lessons Learned
Battlespace asked Cummings about some of the lessons learned during the first four months of combat operations.
“We’ve had numerous lessons learned while we’ve been here and we actually been doing a lot of technical advances as far as things that we have figured out to put with the system,” he said.
“And we’re doing really well out in the field, from a tactical level, with the unit,” he added.
Not surprisingly, some of the early lessons learned involve weight and heat issues surrounding the LW soldier during dismounted operations.
“Some of the biggest concerns that we’ve had are the stuff that we’ve had all summer long with the soldiers,” he said. “The biggest concerns on all the equipment they carry [involve] a lot of human factors issues.”
In terms of the weight of equipment carried by LW, Cummings said that some of the LW equipment weight was offset by the utilization of the new Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) developed by the Program Executive Office – Soldier. Although more streamlined and lighter-weight than other “body armor” designs, the IOTV protects soldiers against a wide range of ballistic threats.
“We’ve reduced their load by saving weight with [IOTV],” he said. “And we’ve reconfigured a lot of our equipment.”
As one equipment example, he cited the LW headsets.
“It’s so hot over here that they wanted to look at having different types of headsets,” he said. “So we have provided a couple different types of headsets that reduce the heat on top of their heads.”
“They’re looking for different ways to carry their equipment [so] we’ve moved stuff around,” he continued. “They also want repeaters and stuff like that so when they get inside vehicles and buildings, and lose GPS while they’re moving around, they can be able to pick u