Land Warrior will deploy despite budget cut rumors

The Army’s Land Warrior system will be fielded to Iraq for its first battlefield deployment next summer despite funding doubts. The program has enough funding for fiscal 2007 and developers are confident that Congress will support the deployment, according to program officials.

Last week, the Army suggested the defunding of Land Warrior in its six-year budget submission, according to several news reports. If the Army’s proposal becomes law, other major information technology programs, including the Future Combat System, would face severe cuts, the reports state.

No decisions will be made until Congress reviews the budget, and the Army will continue to move ahead with the deployment, said Col. Richard Hansen, Soldier Warrior project manager. “I have very little doubt the Army will deploy it,” he told reporters at the Pentagon Dec. 12. Coordinators in Iraq are already making preparations for its arrival, he added. “They know we’re coming.”

The program has enough resources to support the system in theater, Hansen said, but the Army will probably ask for additional Land Warrior funding in its upcoming supplemental budget request. Once the system is deployed and showing results, Congress may be more inclined to continue supporting it, he added.

Land Warrior represents the effort to bring network connectivity and advanced computer capabilities to individual soldiers. It is a steppingstone toward the more comprehensive Future Force Warrior system, which could be deployed as early as 2010.

The Army has been developing various Land Warrior iterations in the past 10 years at a cost of nearly $2 billion. The configuration of the system has changed over time with soldier feedback and technological advancement. The newest version is called Land Warrior Stryker Interoperable because of its close integration with the vehicles.

A stryker brigade combat team in the 2nd infantry division’s 4th battalion recently completed a series of field training exercises using 440 land warrior systems at Fort Lewis, Wash. Of those, 230 will go to drivers and squad commanders in Iraq. Also, 147 Mounted Warrior systems will be deployed.

Land Warrior, under its latest configuration, includes an advanced combat helmet with an optical display attachment, a modified M-4 rifle, digital imaging equipment, a lithium-ion battery with a 12-hour life span, a voice and data radio, a Global Positioning System, a computer subsystem, a multifunction laser, and a control card for identity management.

Inside the optical viewer, soldiers can manipulate a cursor to send e-mail or text messages, call for air support or a medic, electronically mark a target, or take pictures to send to the command center.

Upgrades coming soon include a full QWERTY keyboard and software upgrades that will give soldiers added ease for sending messages, said Lt. Col. Brian Cummings, Land Warrior product manager. The system could benefit from a larger antenna for better connectivity in rough terrain, he added.

The system uses Type 1 data encryption and uses various data protection technologies, said Paul Meyer, Land Warrior program’s chief engineer.

A team of contractors led by General Dynamics C4 Systems is developing Land Warrior Stryker Interoperable.

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