Army tries to sell Land Warrior overseas

Foreign sales could replace funds cut from the program.

The Army has begun to market the Land Warrior network system to foreign militaries to replace a proposed funding cut to the program in President Bush’s new budget. Army officials will also meet this week to try to find internal funds to continue the program. Land Warrior is the Army’s $2 billion, 10-year effort to make each soldier a node on a battle network. The system incorporates advanced communications and imaging technologies into uniforms, giving dismounted soldiers the ability to trackfriendly forces, view maps, send e-mail messages, electronically mark targets and send imagery back to a command center.All funding for the program was removed from the Army’s portion of the administration’s fiscal 2008 budget request. Despite that, the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis,Wash., will deploy to Iraq in April to bring Land Warrior into the fight for the first and last time.The Army said Land Warrior’s deployment will shape the development of the Future Force Warrior program, a component of the Future Combat Systems. ButFFW won’t be ready until 2014, so the Army needs money to bridge the gap between current and future soldier-network systems.At the recent IDEX conference in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the Program Executive Office-Soldier, which manages Land Warrior, marketed Land Warrior to international customers and many expressed interest, said Claude Bolton, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology.There is no money in the Army’s $130 billion budget for Land Warrior, so foreign military sales are a good option, Bolton said. Funds could also be taken from other Army programs that don’t perform to standards, he added. “We’re out there looking for another way of doing this,” he said.Land Warrior will get some new internal funding when program officers meet with Army budget officials this week, but the amount is yet to be determined, said Brig. Gen.Mark Brown, who leads PEOSoldier. The success of Land Warrior in Iraq could spur greater demand, said Col. Richard Hansen, Soldier Warrior program manager. That in turn could produce new funding streams and potentially save the program from extinction, he said.If not, the Army will pursue other means of connecting soldiers to the network, such as giving soldiers personal digital assistants, Bolton said.Meanwhile, an 18-company industry consortium led by General Dynamics is proceeding with an independent research and development effort to move Land Warrior technologies forward. The Edge consortium, as it is called, has already produced an improved system, called Fusion, which addresses the weight and battery life problems the Army cited when it cut Land Warrior’s funding.Edge could sell Fusion technologies to the Marine Corps, the Air Force, back to the Army if funding is replenished, or directly to allied nations, said Paul Kempin, a General Dynamics project officer.Australia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark and Belgium all have soldier modernization efforts that could use the technologies, according to an article by Air Force Col. John Zenter.

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One voice in opposition to soldier network systemsNot all Army leaders believe that developing soldier network systems, such as Land Warrior and Future Force Warrior, is the right strategy. Individual soldiers don’t need to interact directly with the network, said Lt. Gen. William Wallace, commanding general of the Army Training and Doctrine Command.

“My judgment is that you don’t want soldiers dinking around with the network when they ought to be worrying about firing their weapon,” Wallace told reporters at the Association of the U.S. Army Winter Symposium and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla. Technologies such as Blue Force Tracker should be pushed down to the squad level, but not to every soldier, he said.

Wallace said he agrees with the Army’s decision to cut Land Warrior, but he added that the system’s deployment would likely yield valuable information about the utility of soldier-network systems.