Upgrading Land Warrior while pulling ideas from the Future Warrior concept, the Army begins...
Objective Force Warrior
In an effort to develop a warrior system to meet the Army’s transformation goals for the Objective Force, the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick) is leading a new Army-wide research effort called Objective Force Warrior.
The proposed concept for Objective Force Warrior will upgrade Land Warrior and enhance warfighter lethality and survivability by bringing many of the ideas of the Future Warrior concept to reality in the 2010-2012 timeframe.
“We’re looking for a revolutionary change with the way soldiers fight at the small unit level,” said John Munroe, Warrior System Integration Team leader at Natick. “What is revolutionary is still to be determined. It will be a combination of technology advances and fighting capability.”
The concept system fits into the Army chief of staff’s vision of a mobile, versatile and lethal Objective Force for 2010 and beyond. Objective Force Warrior will be one of the primary pillars in the warrior-centric Objective Force, integrating with and complementing capabilities of the Future Combat System (FCS)—the Objective Force’s family of combat vehicles—to change the way the U.S. military will fight in the coming decades.
“The (Army chief of staff’s) vision is that the soldier is the centerpiece of the force,” said Cheryl Stewardson, Warrior System Integration Team member and team leader for the Objective Force Warrior protective ensemble. “Vehicles and airplanes don’t close the fight. Soldiers close the fight.”
Still, vehicles won’t be an afterthought with the new warrior, as development will be synchronized with FCS advances.
“This is the first time we’ve had a chance to include everything,” Munroe said. “We have the challenge to look at every aspect of soldier’s warfighting capability, including the equipment and integration of all of it into a comprehensive package. We can make judgments of what goes in and what comes out, and that’s exciting for us.”
Objective Force Warrior will have “full-spectrum capabilities,” meaning troops can use it for any mission from peacekeeping to high-intensity conflicts, and many new capabilities are in store to provide that flexibility.
An envisioned ultra-lightweight, multi-functional protective combat ensemble and stealth technology will enhance survivability. An onboard physiological and medical sensor suite will increase performance and sustainability. Hybrid fuel cell and advanced rechargeable batteries would supply the soldier’s power needs for at least 72 hours.
“Cost is an issue considering the large numbers of combat soldiers, and there’s a huge challenge to lower the weight burden,” said Munroe. “We want lightweight, mobile capability so that soldiers won’t toss everything away except for their weapon, ammunition and helmet when it’s time to fight.”
He added that he thinks the system could slim down to 50 pounds from the current 90 pounds a soldier carries, and he’d be thrilled with that result.
Soldier situational understanding would improve by developing a helmet with integrated sensory enhancements, networking with manned and unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, and using a rugged squad communications system. To dominate in combat, the warrior will use an ultra-lightweight family of weapons with advanced fire control distributed across the team and optimized for urban combat. The Future Combat System will aid in synchronizing direct and indirect fire.
“We want to dominate the enemy with this new system,” Munroe said. “It’s not just technology, it’s human performance, so training is also paramount.”
Knowing how to best use the new technology means a shift in methods of warfare, and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has been involved from the beginning to avoid the resistance to change from traditional practices, said Stewardson.
“Land Warrior, being the first soldier system, is invaluable. We will learn so much from that which we will apply to Objective Force Warrior,” Stewardson said.
U.S. Army Communications and Electronics Command; U.S. Army Tank and Armament Command Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center; all directorates of the Army Research Laboratory, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are among the agencies contributing to the program.
As new technologies become available and practical, the concept of the Objective Force Warrior will undergo major upgrades beyond 2010, especially with nanotechnology, said Stewardson. Nanotechnology is the ability to manipulate materials on an atomic or molecular scale.
The Objective Force Warrior demonstration program is scheduled for fiscal year 2002-2008, then transitioning to Project Manager-Soldier Systems in fiscal year 2008 for system development and testing, and fielding in the 2010-2012 timeframe.