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General Dynamics Wins Contract To Revive Land Warrior

The Land Warrior program was started back in the late Eighties with a goal of designing a integrated set of technologies that would improve an individual soldiers situational awareness and survivability on the modern battlefield. The idea seemed out of a science fiction novel like "Starship Troopers" although it did not include an armored, powered suit. Land Warrior would have a wearable computer with displays and data links to connect the soldier and allow them to display important information and transmitting it back to other soldiers and levels of command.

The program went through several designs and iterations and maximized the use of commercial, off-the-shelf products to build the necessary hardware. The idea was to integrate the sensors carried on the soldier or weapon, provide some force protection through armor and electronic identification and improve tactical communications. In February, 2007 the program was ended despite several demonstrations of its capabilities that showed promise. A major issue was the amount of electricity that it took to run the systems and the number of batteries a soldier had to have and change out. In recognition of this problem the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored a wearable power competition this year in which different prototypes and proposals were provided by industry and tested.

It was announced this week that General Dynamics has been awarded a fifty million dollar contract to restart the program. This three year contract will provide engineering and logistical support to the system. Despite the program being ended in 2007 some units actually have deployed to Iraq with it. GD will support those troops in the field sending their workers to Iraq.

The new program will work on cutting weight and improving capabilities. Right now it is deployed only on certain officers and NCO's as a way to enhance their situational awareness and leadership roles. Ideally if further development goes well the system will be lightened and power issues resolved so that it may be spread to more soldiers. The contract is primarily to support the systems build under the old project but certainly provides a spring board to a future concept if the Army decides to continue this path.

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