US ARMY GROUND SOLDIER ENSEMBLE PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS SOLDIER SYSTEM LESSONS
By Scott R. Gourley
09 Dec 08. The unfolding US Army Ground Soldier Ensemble (GSE) program serves to highlight many of the ongoing lessons learned in the “soldier systems” arena. If all goes according to schedule, about the same time that these pages reach readers’ hands, industry teams should be completing the final adjustments to their proposals for the Technology Development (TD) phase of GSE, also known as GSE System, with hopes of securing one of the multiple TD contracts expected to be awarded in the next few months.
As outlined in an early October 2008 pre-solicitation announcement, GSE is “a system-of-systems that provides dismounted soldiers increased situational awareness, decreased reaction times, and reduces the risk of fratricide. GSE focuses on providing mature technologies, that when integrated together on the Soldier, minimize the size, weight and power impacts to the Soldier while providing improved situational awareness and network connectivity capabilities at various echelon levels within a brigade combat team.”
Draft pre-solicitation documents identify an “intent at the end of this contract…to demonstrate through Government developmental testing and user testing that the GSE system has achieved at least Technical Readiness Level (TRL) seven, is operationally suitable and operationally effective when used within a Future Combat System (FCS) equipped Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) and non-FCS equipped IBCT.”
They continue, “Ground Soldier is a system-of-systems that provides dismounted soldiers increased situational awareness, decreased reaction times, and reduced risk of fratricide. GSE capabilities are informed by combat experiences from the Land Warrior system. The GSE acquisition concept is to focus on providing mature technologies, when integrated together on the Soldier minimizes the size, weight and power impacts to the Soldier while providing improved situational awareness and network connectivity combat team.”
Given the early October timing of the GSE program information drafts, it was hardly surprising to find several exhibitors at the October 2008 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., highlighting their experience, capabilities and new technologies in the field of soldier systems.
Obviously, one of the key exhibitors in this category was General Dynamics C4 Systems, prime contractor for the Land Warrior systems noted in the GSE solicitation.
440 of the company’s Land Warrior systems, together with 147 supporting Mounted Warrior systems, had been fielded to the US Army’s 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment (“Manchus”), 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis, Washington, in early 2006. After conducting field assessments and activities stretching into early fall, the battalion was subsequently granted permission to deploy into theater with those systems in early 2007.
Marking the first anniversary of Land Warrior systems in combat in May 2008, representatives from the Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier summarized, “During the past year, Soldiers with 4th Brigade, 9th Infantry Regiment (4-9) have faced the challenges of asymmetric warfare head on with unprecedented situational awareness, thanks to Land Warrior, and the battalion’s success has prompted others to ask for the system.”
Soldiers wearing the Land Warrior system can easily access detailed maps, execution checklists, and other mission-essential information stored by the system. The system can store more than 600 images including photographs of targets, locations, etc. The Soldier views the maps and imagery through the helmet-mounted display, which is pulled down over one eye when needed. Each Soldier wearing the system is represented by an icon on the map. Using drop-down menus, team leaders and commanders can place virtual icons, or virtual “chem lights” ont