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United States Technology

U.S. Soldiers Hate New High-Tech Gear 619

mattnyc99 writes "Land Warrior, the Army's wireless equipment package featuring helmet cams, GPS, laser range-finders and a host of other state-of-the-art electronics, is finally ready for deployment on a global battlefield network in Iraq after 15 years of R&D at the Pentagon. But in a report for Popular Mechanics, Noah Shachtman not only tries on the new digital armor—he talks to troops who don't like it at all. As if that wasn't disheartening enough for the future of tech at war, the real Land Warrior system doesn't even match up to its copycat gear in Ghost Recon 2."
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U.S. Soldiers Hate New High-Tech Gear

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  • Just Like The M16 (Score:5, Informative)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @04:58PM (#18788019) Homepage
    This sounds just like the story of the M16 vs. the AK47. The M16 is a much better gun, designed to be much more sophisitcated. But in the end, it ends up being worse because tight tolerances cause it to jam up, and require cleaning all the time, where-as the AK47 will fire under just about any conditions. The AK47 is also heavier which is really nice when you get into hand-to-hand combat and you can just whack the other guy with it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:04PM (#18788113)
      Doesn't it kind of scare you how much people on Slashdot know about assault weapons?
      • by Oktober Sunset ( 838224 ) <sdpage103@yahoo[ ].uk ['.co' in gap]> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:20PM (#18788355)
        Yea, but it's all thru counter strike, if they actually saw a real one, they would cry.
    • Re:Just Like The M16 (Score:5, Informative)

      by arachnoprobe ( 945081 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:09PM (#18788195)

      The AK47 is also heavier...
      I suppose you never carried a weapon around for more than 200feet, right? Nobody would choose the AK over the M16 for any foot-based combat.

      And lets not forget that you can't fire the AK47 from prone position cause the mag is too long (Soviet doctrine didn't include that, only storming against your enemy...). Also the AK47 is not the same caliber (7.62 short instead of 5.56), therefore the better comparison would have been to the Heckler & Koch G36 - which is, in fact, superior to the M16.

      • by phasm42 ( 588479 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:34PM (#18788535)

        And lets not forget that you can't fire the AK47 from prone position cause the mag is too long
        You could try firing it gangsta style.
      • Re:Just Like The M16 (Score:5, Informative)

        by Frymaster ( 171343 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:38PM (#18788609) Homepage Journal
        I suppose you never carried a weapon around for more than 200feet, right? Nobody would choose the AK over the M16 for any foot-based combat.

        to be fair, the ak is 9.5lb to the m16's 7.8lb. not a massive difference, and the ak's shorter length compensates for its weight in fast-aim situations.

        now, having said that, the m16 has gotten an unfair reputation as a reliability disaster. much of this rep comes from vietnam-era experiences that are 40 years old. the problems with the m16 during vietnam were basically caused by manufacturer's lies and the army's inability to actually read the manual. notably:
        • the m-16 was billed as being 'self-cleaning'. sounds patently ridiculous today, but that was the advertising buzz at the time.
        • as a result, the army did not issue cleaning kits to ground troops and provided little or no cleaning instruction. this, of course, resulted in total disaster.
        • the m16 was tested and spec'd for ammunition made with a particular clean-burning powder (manufactured by dupont i think). production ammunition for vietnam did not meet this spec and was, in fact, significantly more dirty.
        • the original m16 spec called for chrome lining of the barrel. production m16's in vietnam didn't have this resulting in some pretty spectacular corrosion
        add to this the fact that the finniky m16 was being used in an environment that was humid, hot and dirty and... well, failure was inevitable.
        • Re:Just Like The M16 (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Hijacked Public ( 999535 ) * on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:50PM (#18788763)
          More recently a lot of troops are being issued M4s. Its shorter gas system appears to be less reliable, in large part because combustion gases have to much less distance to travel before being dumped into the receiver.

          Much of the work to replace the weapon revolves around a minor change to the receiver. Making the combustion gases drive a piston that unlocks the bolt. Sealing the gases out of the relatively delicate internal goings on helps a lot, especially on full auto and burst fire weapons.

          The other end of why people think the platform is unreliable is because the M4's rail foreend allows a person to defile an otherwise light and quick handling rifle by clamping lasers and lights and night vision and cameras and scopes and pinball machines to it. Now, instead of a properly balanced 8 lb rifle you have an 8 lb rifle with 30 lbs of gear hanging off the end of it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The better comparison would have been the AK74. Almost identical mechanically to the AK47 but in a closer caliber.

        Most of the serious consideration the US armed forces have given to replacing the M16 and its variants have been along the lines of what is essentially the same rifle but with a gas piston driven recoil system (HK 416), instead of dumping combustion gas directly into the receiver. That indicates the general design of the thing can still compete with stuff rolling off of drawing boards today.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by iamwahoo2 ( 594922 )
        I hear that the AK47 is the absolute best for firing bullets straight up in the air during celebrations and protests.
    • Re:Just Like The M16 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JumboMessiah ( 316083 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:16PM (#18788297)
      True the AK47 is more reliable, it's loose tolerances will make it fire after being dipped in mud. Being heavier is irrelevant, overall weight savings means a soldier can carry more ammo. In the art of killing humans, I'd take the accuracy of the M-16 anyday.

      Or, just check this [] out and make your own conclusion...
    • Re:Just Like The M16 (Score:5, Informative)

      by shawn443 ( 882648 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:19PM (#18788335) Homepage
      I have never fired an AK-47 but I have certainly heard of its merits. The M16 however is an awesome weapon. The sighting mechanism allows me to reliably hit a man size target from 500 yards away. As far as jamming, it rarely happens and they are easily cleared. I have had a sand fucked chamber and it still fired true. As long as you have your handy scrub brush and some CLP, there is no excuse for a jam unless your in the middle of the perfect sandstorm. Maybe I am partial, but if the apocalypse comes and I find a stash of AK's and a stash of M16's, I am grabbing all the M16's I can. I want one shot one kill not spray and pray.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The M16 is a much better gun, designed to be much more sophisitcated. But in the end, it ends up being worse because tight tolerances cause it to jam up, and require cleaning all the time, where-as the AK47 will fire under just about any conditions.

      That would depend on how you define "better". The M16 is more accurate than the AK-47 but costs more to make. The AK-47 was designed with wider tolerances because the designer felt that most gun battles were at close ranges and thus more rapid fire and better

    • Heavier? No, thanks. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:33PM (#18788531) Homepage Journal
      The AK47 is also heavier which is really nice when you get into hand-to-hand combat and you can just whack the other guy with it.

      No, no it's not. Heavier = bad. An infantryman can only carry so much shit around, and we've pretty much hit that maximum right now. Any weight you add in a personal weapon is going to have to be cut somewhere else, or else you're going to affect the speed and mobility (not to mention comfort) of the soldier carrying it around.

      You're going to make a trade-off somewhere. If you can make the rifle lighter, speaking as someone who has carried one (along with an additional 75 pounds of crap), make it lighter. If I wanted to beat someone in the head with something, I'd use an entrenching tool, or some other more appropriately club-shaped and -weighted object. They're not exactly in short supply.

      And I don't have any statistics, but I'll bet that the number of times that rifles are used as clubs in modern combat is pretty low. I don't think it's really an important design criterion. I think most soldiers would rather have the additional weight in ammunition, rather than just in simple mass that's only useful if the enemy is a few feet away.
    • Re:Just Like The M16 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:34PM (#18788545)
      "One of the bulldozers uncovered the decomposing body of an enemy soldier, complete with AK47. I happened to be standing right there, looking down into the hole and pulled the AK out of the bog. "Watch this, guys," I said, "and I'll show you how a real infantry weapon works." I pulled the bolt back and fired 30 rounds -- the AK could have been cleaned that day rather than buried in glug for a year or so. That was the kind of weapon our soldiers needed, not the confidence-sapping M16."
                                                                        Col.David hackworth
  • Shock! Horror! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FuckTheModerators ( 883349 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @04:59PM (#18788033) Journal
    the real Land Warrior system doesn't even match up to its copycat gear in Ghost Recon 2

    Well, duh. Otherwise I'd start bitching that my crossbow isn't as accurate at 500 yards as its Half-Life copycat.
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:00PM (#18788043) Journal
    Bitching about newly issued equipment is army tradition.

    And what the hell does Ghost Recon 2 have to do with anything?

    Real life isnt the same as a video game? Then why did I feel so huge after I ate those mushrooms?

  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:01PM (#18788067)
    All this money/effort going into high tech ignores the most basic points: soldiers would rather have a reliable rifle and body armor than all the geek toys in the world. _the_AK-47_and_M16.

    • by lordholm ( 649770 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:55PM (#18788809) Homepage
      I have served in the Swedish army, and what you say is not related to the position that I was in, e.g. a lot of night operations in small teams. While there are a lot of situations where the land warrior is virtually useless, there is a ton of them that are extremely useful.

      I would take the situational awareness factor from the land-warrior system over better body armour and a more reliable rifle. Firstly, our rifles are already reliable, and secondly the plates in the body armour stops armour breaking rounds. The SA bonus from the land warrior system would be an extremely valuable asset.

      From your comment I doubt that you have ever served in any armed force unit.
      • by Gregoyle ( 122532 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @08:54PM (#18791095)
        I'm in the US Army, and I agree. I'd like to have *lighter* body armor with flexible plates that cover more of my body, a more reliable rifle, and better issued boots.

        As far as night operations go, the only thing I wish we could get is a set of nods that aren't as long as a toilet paper tube and don't look like you're looking through one. If we could have nods that covered both eyes like a pair of PVS-15's and were only 0.5-1 inch long I would be ecstatic.

        Soldiers don't like the Land Warrior setup because it sucks. It's big, heavy, unreliable, battery powered (which means you need to carry spares) and distracts from the real threats to our soldiers, i.e. suicide bombers, snipers, and IED's. You need all your senses to find these before they find you, and having a display in your eye telling you where your buddies are and what the ambient temperature is just distracts you from the things that are actually important.

        Situational awareness is exactly what suffers here. You may know where people are and what their heart rate is, but you don't realize that the guy over there isn't holding a video camera, he's holding an rpg.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by c6gunner ( 950153 )
      Nonsense. We DO have a reliable rifle and body armour - better than any army in history. Do you have ANY idea how much more effective a basic rifleman is when you give him a bore-aiming ability? Ask anyone pinned down in a firefight, and they'll gladly give you their right nut for the ability to aim around corners. And don't even get me started on the advantages of accurate IFF devices, encrypted communications, and easy navigation. We've been looking forward to this technology for a LONG time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )

      soldiers would rather have a reliable rifle and body armor than all the geek toys in the world.
      Better go back and take away all their radios, GPS, and night vision goggles then.
  • by Haiku 4 U ( 580059 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:03PM (#18788089)
    So, what happens when
    the smart other side captures
    one of our soldiers?
    • by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:31PM (#18788497)

      You raise a good point. The enemy could then don the helmet and immediately find out troop positions and other intel. So what are the possible countermeasures to prevent this from happening?

      1. Integrated biometrics so the system only works with the soldier to which the system was issued? Sounds good, but probably buggy and adds weight/expense. What would prevent the captor from detaining a soldier and coercing them to tell them information? I suppose they could be trained to give spurious responses.
      2. Soldier login and quick disable feature? Might work if the soldier is able to deactivate the system (i.e. still alive, ambulatory). Requires the soldier to remember to deactivate in the heat of the moment.
      3. Remote disable? This would rely upon an effective means of determining that an authorized user is in possession of the equipment.

      Warface intel is great, but the more widely you make it available, the harder it becomes to contain, pretty much like any other piece of information in society.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by darkwhite ( 139802 )
        How about: the system turns off if any component is disconnected or removed from the body, and requires a code to log in when turned on? Sounds easy enough to me...
      • Possible solution? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Darthmalt ( 775250 )
        Sensor that triggers if helmet is removed that performs a quick lock. Entering the correct password returns to normal function. Entering anything else sends out a notification to command that the equipment has been captured. Command can then send false information to it.
    • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @06:11PM (#18789019)
      So, what happens when the smart other side captures one of our soldiers?

      1. Someone in a bunker monitoring the soldiers head cam pushes a button.
      2. Solider explodes.
      3. Word 2007 automatically prints a mail merge form to soldier's family expressing condolences.
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @06:28PM (#18789243)

      So, what happens when the smart other side captures one of our soldiers?
      How does that not apply to every other weapon/intel in existence?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:03PM (#18788103)
    And what's worse is the Land Warrior system uses the system BF 2142 added to deliver in-battle ads even during firefights! No wonder the grunts hate it.
  • by Kelbear ( 870538 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:05PM (#18788131)
    I want that eye monitor thingie so I can pretend to be borg. Please?
  • by rsmoody ( 791160 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:05PM (#18788133) Homepage Journal
    20. Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.
    35. The more a weapon costs, the farther you will have to send it away to be repaired.
    37. Interchangeable parts aren't.
    43. The complexity of a weapon is inversely proportional to the IQ of the weapon's operator.

    My own: Any unneeded component of a weapon will be quickly removed and thrown in the nearest ditch.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      20. Never forget that your weapon is made by the lowest bidder.
      Perhaps that was true in a bygone era. Today's version would be:

      20. Never forget that your weapon is made by little kids in China contracted by a subcontractor of the highest campaign contributer.

  • by arcite ( 661011 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:10PM (#18788207)
    Economies of scale? In Iraq the insurgents can use a weapon that cost maybe $100 to destroy equipment worth a few million.

    Reminds me of Batman Begins quote about the high tech body armor... you know the one.

  • Lag kills. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheLazySci-FiAuthor ( 1089561 ) <> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:11PM (#18788215) Homepage Journal
    I sit here racking my brain for why the soldiers are wrong. I think to myself, "hmm, they just aren't used to it. they need to get us3ed to the new equipment."

    But then I read that the tracking capabilities can lag up to a minute behind: I certainly couldn't play a first person shooter with a 60,000ms ping - how could this be any less of a problem in real life?

    Despite my vehement tecnophillia, I too wonder if this gear is really a benefit.
  • Techno-bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by igotmybfg ( 525391 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:12PM (#18788241) Homepage
    This article reminds me of two things:

    "It is a hard heart that kills!" - Full Metal Jacket

    Hiro turns off all the techno-bullshit. The statistics about his impending death distract him... - Snow Crash

    What happens to this whole thing when the batteries die? Or when they have to jump in the water and it shorts out? Or when it just, you know, breaks? Soldiering is soldiering, no matter what technologies you equip your soldiers with. It's about being adaptable, flexible, and enduring. This techno crap isn't really any of those things.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vertinox ( 846076 )
      What happens to this whole thing when the batteries die? Or when they have to jump in the water and it shorts out? Or when it just, you know, breaks? Soldiering is soldiering, no matter what technologies you equip your soldiers with. It's about being adaptable, flexible, and enduring.

      I think you might miss the point. Technology is made to expand fire power or force extension.

      A soldier who relies on good soldiering by poor technology will still be defeated by a bad soldier with exponentially better technolog
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )

      Soldiering is soldiering, no matter what technologies you equip your soldiers with.

      No. If that were true, there would be no radios or rifles, much less airplanes, tanks, bombs... Either you really think gung-ho soldiers with nothing but pointy sticks can win, or what you really meant was "good tech is good, useless tech is useless," which I certainly agree with. Native Americans (at least some of them) were plenty adaptible, flexible, enduring, hard-hearted, whatever. There's a limit to the odds you

  • William Lind Article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:16PM (#18788293) Journal
    William Lind had an article on this just today:

    On foot, American soldiers are loaded down with everything except the kitchen sink, and they will probably be required to carry that too as soon as it is digitized. To use tactics of encirclement, you need to be at least as mobile as your enemy and preferably more so. The kind of light infantry fighters we find ourselves up against in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are just that, light. They can move much faster on their feet than can our overburdened infantry. The result is that they ambush us, then escape to do it again, over and over. Flip-flops in the alley beat boots on the ground. -- A Tactics Primer, by William S. Lind []
    Basically, the kind of gear a soldier carries affects the kind of small unit tactics that can be used, and in this situation mobility is the most important thing. Unfortunately, the army is currently stuck on Second Generation tactics rather than Third Generation tactics.
  • WiFi! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ShorePiper82 ( 1027534 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:17PM (#18788311)
    So what happens when the insurgents are in a building with a high power antenna and net stumbler and pick up 16 access point SSIDs named "Linksys Soldier"?
  • Not Suprising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ObiWanStevobi ( 1030352 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:22PM (#18788381) Journal

    It's change. No one likes drastic change. When we turn filing cabinets full of paperwork into databases, people complain, even though it is much faster, and should make their job much easier, they don't like it and complain that it makes everything more complicated. To the point where you make a dumbed down interface for it, they will still complain. After several months of being forced to use it, they start to love it. It just takes a while to get over change.

    Although I'm not sure the same will apply with the Land Warrior System. It's more gear to lug around, and it adds more complexity and responsibility to individual soldiers, rather than making things simpler for them. But seeing how it can give them alot more info that will help them survive, I still think it will catch on fairly quickly.

  • Training Gadgets (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Oktober Sunset ( 838224 ) <sdpage103@yahoo[ ].uk ['.co' in gap]> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:27PM (#18788447)
    The US army should spend less money on gadgets and more money on training their troops for longer rather than sending barely trained recruits straight into battle zones.
  • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:28PM (#18788457)
    War, since the first Gulf one, is becoming a big Live Action video game. Us vs. them, real time coverage, lots of gadgets, wireless, unmanned, "intelligent" weapons. That helps a lot to detach people from the reality of the war, canceling the natural effect that would naturally arise, now that it is possible to show the war in all its ugliness, all its gore.

    People, including we tech people, should not fall for the siren song that is military technology. It is all advanced, "cool", state of the art but, no matter what is the justification (or rationalization), killing people is never beautiful, and, as opposed to video games, real people have families, sometimes are innocent and never respawn.

    Now, when governments begin to create super-cool gadgets that actively save lives, it is something worth. Better body armor, a force shield, not getting involved with foreign countries for fun and profit, etc. And by "actively", I mean something different than saving lives by getting enemies to be identified and "neutralized" before they can act. Because, as most occupations in the past and present centuries shows, sometimes the simpler and less detectable device (be it a grenade bobby trap in the jungle or a roadside bomb on Iraq) can be the deadliest.
  • by dptalia ( 804960 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:31PM (#18788491) Homepage Journal
    And that thing is heavy! Add to that 70 pounds of body armor and you can barely move. And it's slow and distracting. You can't go into a firefight while wearing one easily, and sending messages - one of its most powerful features - is clunky.
    That being said, it's still pretty darn cool and I've met several soldiers who love it. It's not perfect and I think it still needs a generation of two before it's really combat ready. But the Striker Brigade that took them to Iraq is generally positive.
  • Profit! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mgemmons ( 972332 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:32PM (#18788515) Homepage
    1. Shoot US soldier
    2. Don his high-tech gear
    3. Turn on map locator showing his whole squad
    4. Profit!
  • by Digital Dharma ( 673185 ) < minus painter> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:35PM (#18788559)
    I'm a soldier. 25B, to be exact. Those of you serving will instantly recognize that nomenclature as an MOS designator. In sum: my job. I run networks and computer systems for the Army. Being a soldier means that sometimes I get to maintain networks and networked systems while being shot at or blown up. I use the same equipment you use, I just use it a little harder than you do. Dell, Cisco, Windows XP, Sandisk, etc. Yes, we even use Solaris (and yes, it still sucks. 6 minutes to boot a combat system that soldier's lives' depend on is, how should I put it, a really *BAD* design). No, this isn't an endorsement. My feelings towards the brands are irrelevant. If I get back from a convoy or a patrol alive (and I've done plenty of both in Iraq), then my gear did it's job. If my gear keeps me from maintaining control of a situation, I die. You might get a reprimand at your job for failing, I get shot full of holes in mine. I can tell you that the Army did the same thing with the FCS program as it did with other, equally worthless combat systems: Spent years catering to and blowing defense contractors, who are all too happy to hoover up every dollar they can get their filthy hands on. With projects running 5-10 years, it's not hard to see why the top-of-the-line solution (you reading this, BFT programmer? I will CHOKE YOU OUT you if I ever see you in RL) becomes a flaming sack of crap by the time it gets to the soldiers. Seen it quite a few times, and I'm not looking forward to all the hand-jobs my chain of command will be giving the embedded defense contractors when they finally come to my unit with all that shiny new junk. Just give me my M4 with an M203 (oh, by the way, can I PLEASE get some rounds for that 203? It's eight pounds of deadweight without them) and a PLGR and I am good. I've been in some very, very tight spots on the streets of Baghdad, and I can tell you firsthand that the *LAST* thing you will do when you are getting shot at is looking at a Gameboy-sized screen to see where your buddies are. You'll have eyes on them, believe me. You won't let them out of your sight.

    The Armed Forces don't need all this gadetry. If they really want to attract the Nintendo generation soldiers we have these days (while getting, ahem, the most bang for their buck), they'll build Robotech style Mechs and a bunch of remote controlled dronebots and send them in to the slaughter. The days of the individual soldier are coming to an end. Too bad the "romance" of Point Du Hoc and Hamburger Hill combined with squad-based infantry tactics (everybody loved Saving Private Ryan, right? Right!) keeps the old men who run the whole thing from just accepting reality, getting an AOL account so they can see what the world is really like these days and cutting off the leeching defense contractors who take a million bucks to duct tape a thirty dollar Logitech webcam to the front of an outdated semi-automatic rifle. Iron Thunder.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by c6gunner ( 950153 )
      Hello 25B. 031 here. If you don't want your "gadetry", I'll take it off your hands any day.

      No offence, but if I want an opinion on combat tactics and equipment, I don't go asking network administrators. I'd come to you if my e-mail wasn't working, but otherwise....
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iamwahoo2 ( 594922 )
      The Leaching Defense Contractor?

      I think that you mean "the customer". You see, a lot of defense appropriations is not intended to buy stuff that the warfighter wants. It is to buy stuff that the senator/representative wants, and the reason that he wants it is because the contractor that makes the particular part happens to reside in his voting district.

    • Hear hear! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gregoyle ( 122532 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @09:14PM (#18791339)
      From a grunt-

      I agree wholeheartedly. If we put one quarter as much money towards obtaining better (i.e. lighter, flexible) body armor, boots, and rifles, not to mention nods (the PVS-14's are what, 10 years old?), we'd be in much better shape.

      I already hump 65 lbs or so before I even put my ruck on; don't give me even more crap to carry that isn't going to help in 95% of the situations I will face. Seeing around corners with my weaponsight is cool, but it's not cool when the weaponsight is bigger than a thermal scope and heavier to boot. Not to mention the ridiculous wire connecting me to my weapon. I'd rather carry a thermal scope, at least they can see through walls.

      Not to mention the fact that any current model of heads up display will get guys killed. Try doing any kind of CQB with that ridiculous stuff on your head. If you have live opponents you'll find yourself dead pretty quickly. It gets in the way and distracts you. Not to mention the fact that the real threats we face on a day to day basis are from things that require our complete attention to detect: IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombers. I don't want to be distracted by the view from my gun's sight or my buddy's heart rate when I'm scanning. Scanning is how a soldier survives. If you're looking for the guy who's on mid-cycle leave from Iraq or Afghanistan, just find the guy who's moving his head and eyes constantly scanning and who gets tense and stops talking in large crowds. We don't need this crap distracting us from our jobs.

      Give me the stuff that will actually help. Why does the 5.56 coming out of my personal weapon punch little tiny holes in people at 150 meters when it should make great big ones? Maybe we should fix that instead of spending umpteen billion dollars in order to attach a video camera to my helmet, which is already too freaking heavy. Why does my rifle malfunction if I don't treat it like a beloved little sister and baby it every 6 hours or so? Better rifle technology has been available for a decade at least. why don't I have it? Because we are spending our money jacking off the military contractors.

      Hear hear.
  • 16 POUNDS! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:50PM (#18788759) Homepage Journal
    Look, even with a day pack, if you're carrying full ammo load, some extra frags and a pop-top launcher, plus the usual gigo stuff they load you with, you'll be sweating to the moldies with that much extra weight.

    I used to hump 70 kg (that's 150 pounds, boys and girls) as a combat FN C2 gunner in a combat engineer unit, and we were insane. In the heat, the kind of extra weight that 16 pounds adds is enough to get you killed.

    That plus you're already in full record mode in battle, with too much info to figure out.

    The only thing that even makes sense is a very light optical cam on the helmet (built-in) and mike, feeding in to a microradio and with a mini earpiece so you can hear (and promptly ignore) the CP orders that have zilch to do with the situation on the ground.

    Some CQ REMFs must have thought this payload up, cause it's only going to get more of us killed and feather the retirement nests of the upper brass that have us in an unwinnable war.

    Nuff said.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by shadowspar ( 59136 )

      Your microcam/mike/earpiece setup idea is bang on. Ten years ago (ten years!) when I was in, a few arty batteries tried the microradio thing. They picked up a bunch of cheap-ass headset radios from Radio Shack, and used it for passing bearings, communicating during firefights...all the kind of stuff we'd usually be yelling back and forth for. The things weren't high-tech, weren't encrypted, in fact they weren't even waterproof as shipped, but almost everybody still thought they were the best things since

  • that expensive military gadgets are big business. Spending money on training a soldier, providing good veterans benefits are all right out because this doesn't make anyone any money, but attaching a playstation 3 to a soldier's helmet is a huge contract that someone could make a huge profit off of (and not just in this administration; this has been true since the start of the cold war).

    We should be spending money on training and intelligence gathering. The military is suffering from the same tech envy as the rest of the population is suffering, and yet they have no one to be envious of. The enemy can blow up your $100,000 humvee with $5 worth of materials available in a third world country corner store. They don't care how big your guns or computers are. Spend some goddamn money on real intelligence gathering and building knowledge and experience of your troops.
  • Wow. Just wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xthlc ( 20317 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @06:00PM (#18788891)
    Check out the screenshots []. A GUI? A fricking email application with drafts, multiple mailboxes and priorities? A fully editable map?

    This is a classic example of badly conceived and designed IT implemented by indifferent lifer government contractors working off of ridiculous 2000-page requirement docs instead of, you know, what troopers actually need. They spend all their time on jamming in 800 features that will never be used, and let the fundamentals (battery life and system responsiveness) go to pot because they don't show up in the demos.

    Map with location icons. Gun camera. Simple broadcast texting. That's all you need. Instead some clueless program manager decided it was critically important for a tactical rig to have all the features of his darling Outlook.
  • Unsurprising (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @06:01PM (#18788901) Homepage
    Having actually served in the military (unlike many Slashdotters), bitching about your gear is an old and honorable prequisite of the soldier, sailor, and airman. (That is bitching among yourselves or your bretheren. Outsiders and those senior to you get, unless the seniors ask specifically, the standard "works fine, lasts a long time, drains to the aft missle compartment bilge" routine.)
    From TFA

    "It's just a bunch of stuff we don't use, taking the place of useful stuff like guns,"

    I heard this pretty much every time new gear came to the boat. It was never as useful as the old stuff, and breaks more often too. (Sometimes, _very_ rarely, it's actually true.) Sounds like a Seargeant that needs to be busted and someone who will do the job put in his place. The job of a Sgt. is to teach people how to use and integrate the gear into their tactics. If his people don't or won't use the gear - it's his job to find out why, and report the same up the chain.
    • by Gregoyle ( 122532 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @09:24PM (#18791439)
      I LOVE new pieces of gear. I'm willing to accept a few flaws and glitches to get a better set of nods, and I love finding new gadgets to try on my rifle. I've switched weapon sights many times as new technology came out and loved each new one.

      I have also used the Land Warrior system. It just plain sucks. You can see some of my other posts in this topic if you want more detail but the short list is: it's too heavy, it's unreliable, it attaches your weapon to you, it's WAY too complicated for the average soldier (it's too complicated for me, and I run OpenBSD on my home system, imagine what it's like for the guy whose only email account is his AKO and he has only accessed it once when someone walked him through it), and it distracts you from the things that will get you killed.

      I'm not your regular technophobe soldier, but I want a piece of gear that I know will work and won't distract me from the fight.

      This isn't just bitching about new gear; this is stuff that will sit at the back of the supply cage and be brought out only for command inventory.
  • by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @06:23PM (#18789175) Journal
    I did a small part of the reqs for the network-centric part of the system. Without more detailed info, I can't tell if they took all of my team's recommendations or not. It seems like it does what it is supposed to do, but really badly. This is sad, because we were excited that we could really help "the grunts", as an ex-tanker put it. We really tried to make a good system, and it looks like the implementation got blown.

    Makes me embarrassed.
  • by Cervantes ( 612861 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @06:30PM (#18789273) Journal
    The problem with this system is that it just plain misses the point.

    Let's start off with the interface. Why is it hanging in front of half your face? If I'm being shot at, my first concern is going to be shooting back accurately, and if that damn thing gets in my way it's going off and not coming back till after everything is done.
    The preferred option should have been a full width half-visor, similar to a hockey visor. See-through (probably slightly tinted), non shiny, not-in-the-way, but if you want data displayed on it, you can use it as a projection surface. Build the projection hardware into the helmet. You don't need much, because really, you don't need full-colour 30FPS.
    Now, I do believe everyone should have an earpiece and short-range transmitting microphone built into the helmet as well. That just makes sense.
    Video... yes, let's wirelessly link video from your gun into a projection on your helmet. But let's not go adding stuff just for fun. Change up the scope, take it from optical to digital, and in filters for night-scope, infra, etc, display it on a nice small TFT at the back of the scope, and wirelessly send it to the helmet. Now your gun is still mostly the same, but you have this extra functionality without more shit hanging from your kit.
    Wires... why the hell does this thing have wires everywhere? They're a hazard waiting for an excuse to fuck you up. The only possible visible wire should be power from the body-mounted battery pack to the helmet. Everything else should be built in surface connections on your armour. A full-function controller on your forearm, powered by a surface pad connection on your jacket, is really the only other thing that should be out.
    And while we're at it... is the M16 really the gun of choice for urban combat? The feedback I've had from people who've been over there has been that it's simply too big, too long, for the majority of what they do. It's great to be able to sniper some sucker from 500ft, but when all you want to do is crawl under the jeep, shoot the guy on the corner, then sneak around the corner and shoot the other guys, it's just too long. Let's switch up to a shorter, stockier gun (but with the same ammo, otherwise it's a nightmare). That guy in Israel demo'd the Amazing Folding Gun last year, that's a perfect bet. No need to expose yourself, you can do new and nifty things with it, and having the screen on the back end of the gun means that can be your one main place for information. Power it with contact pads on your gloves, so no wires between you and the gun.
    And speaking of information... this is the one part that worries me. You're taking these soldiers, who have to keep their location 100% secret or they die, and sticking a transmitter on them. It doesn't matter if it's encrypted, or if it goes up to a satellite or connects to AOL and uses a Buddy List to update everyone on where you are... it's still putting out power, and it's not gonna take long before someone goes "Hey, I don't need to know what is being sent out, I just have to get a scanner to see if there's any signals being radiated, and from where". Broadcasting your location probably isn't the best idea, it's just a matter of time until it gets you killed.
    So what extra EQ do we have here? A visor, small LED projection system, and a mike... maybe an extra kilo? Probably not even. Weight penalties from changes to the gunsight are offset by the new model. Extra weight for the folding stock and screen. 2 kilos, max, but worth it for the functionality. Running all this shouldn't take much, hell, the new Palms have enough processing power. And with such little equipment, batteries suddenly became a whole lot lighter. Now you have a much more effective soldier, in audio communication on demand, and he isn't burdened by 17 pounds of crap that looked cool in 1999.

    The focus of this project should have been "Improving the soldier", not "Improving the middle-level managers ability to micromanage". Give the soldier more info, easy communications, better visuals (night,
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @07:37PM (#18790069)
    The average soldier carries not just his gun and a helmet. There's food, medical equipment, ammo, more ammo, even more ammo, some grenades, spare parts for your technical equipment (like batteries for your radio junkie or another barrel for an MG), the list goes on. You haul around a few pounds and usually you already wonder where to put it, not to mention where the jeep is waiting to haul that junk around.

    Every single piece, though, is there because YOU will need it. It will serve you to stay alive. It will kill your enemy, it will give you a chance to survive 'til help comes around in case you get shot, it enables you to call for help in the first place. Every piece has to be "worth" its weight.

    8 pounds doesn't sound like a lot (hey, my laptop weighs more with ist case), but you don't just carry 8 pounds around. You carry that on top of the other stuff. As everyone who's into hiking will tell you, 8 pounds more or less carried over 30 miles means a sizable difference. Don't believe me? Try it. Take your laptop to work with you and walk that last mile. Then do it without. You WILL notice a difference, trust me!

    So that equipment has to be "worth" those 8 pounds. Its value comes supposedly from additional information. Like what? Position of your buddies? You better know that anyway or what the hell are you doing there without proper training? A map? Nice to have, but useless in a firefight when you have better things to do than looking at a map. And maps weigh less. What's worse, either feature would distract you from what's happening right in front of you.

    Even those amongst you who never had any military training will know that when they've been playing some shooter game with a built in map. Do you have time to ponder the directions on the on screen map when people are shooting at you?

    What COULD be a leap ahead would be some kind of "target marker" that designates an identified hostile, not on some map but right on your visual arc. This in turn is near impossible.

    So I can well see why soldiers aren't too happy with it. It means that they either have to leave 8 pounds of equipment they need behind or haul around 8 pounds more. And for what it seems, it's 8 pounds that don't really add to their efficiency in combat.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!