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What's to become of the Army's high-tech soldier gear?


From "Aliens," to video games, to TV shows, the future of infantry warfare has always been clear: Tomorrow's soldiers will have some kind of cool eyepiece that tells them their locations and those of their compatriots; includes some kind of overall tactical picture; maps; the latest orders or messages; and enhanced vision or a FLIR-type picture. They'll have some kind of awesome gun that shoots around corners, or fires laser beams -- or both. They'll have incredible, lightweight armor and, depending on their units, jet packs.

The actual U.S. Army has tried to get some of these capabilities for its actual soldiers, but the results have been decidedly mixed. As our colleague Christian Lowe found when he tagged along with an Army unit equipped with some "Land Warrior" gadgets, they didn't make the guys feel like Imperial Stormtroopers. Instead, soldiers told Lowe they found their gear bulky, cumbersome, and in some cases, useless. In a few instances, troops liked their better situational awareness and improved abilities to communicate, but mostly, the impression came through that even after years of work, much of the high-tech kit was only half baked.

Fast forward to now: Lowe reports over at Kit Up! on rumblings that the Army's current equivalent of its soldier-gizmo program, Nett Warrior, has been cancelled. But that isn't so, an Army spokeswoman insists -- here's how that went down:

She went on to say that the Army had set up a so-called “configuration steering board” which is “looking for opportunities to infuse commercial devices and existing government devices into the program.” According to the PEO shop, the Defense Acquisition Board decision on the program is pending the CSB’s findings.

Which we all know what it will be: Android phones.

That's the way it looks -- as Buzz readers have seen, the Army is really interested in using commercial, off the shelf smartphones to tie soldiers together on tomorrow's battlefields. All the money and time it has spent on propriety, mil-type navigation and comms equipment is gone, but if the Army can piggy-back on what the telecom industry is building on its own, commanders hope they can field their high-tech super-soldiers after all.

Still no jet packs, though -- unless there's an urgent needs request from CentCom very soon.

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