After a disappointing evaluation by users of a new high-tech soldier ensemble, the Army is redesigning portions of the system to make it lighter and easier to use, officials said.
The ensemble is a computer-radio suite that connects members of a small infantry unit into a mobile local-area network--a miniaturized version of the networked technologies that today only are found on vehicles. It provides moving maps that track their location in real time, and lets them send and receive data.
The technology, known as the "distributed battle command system," began as an attempt to assemble off-the-shelf components into a soldier-friendly electronics package similar to what the Army had been pursuing under the Land Warrior program.
Land Warrior has been in development for more than a decade, but only recently has the technology begun to earn favorable reviews and gain acceptance as a potentially useful combat capability for dismounted soldiers.
A platoon of soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, N.Y., tested the dismounted battle command system, or DBCS, last summer, and opted to not bring that technology, to Afghanistan, where they were being deployed.
"This version of the DBCS did not demonstrate the capabilities necessary, and the unit will not take it to Afghanistan," wrote David W. Duma, the Defense Department's director of operational test and evaluation, in his fiscal year 2005 annual report. According to soldier surveys, the report noted, the system was criticized for "excessive weight, poor communications and a number of human factors concerns."
Army officials said that, despite the unfavorable reviews, the DBCS technology will continue to be improved, and parts of the system are being integrated into the Land Warrior.
The trials at Fort Drum should not be deemed a failure, said Col. Richard D. Hansen Jr., project manager for warrior systems. "Some things they liked, others they didn't like or didn't understand."
If DBCS bad been successful, the program office would have sought funding to equip 30 combat brigades with the new technology. But following the tests, the Army decided to fold the system into Land Warrior and continue to fine-tune the components in preparation for a battalion-size field test this summer, at Fort Lewis, Wash.
The goal now is to eventually equip three of the Army's Stryker brigades with Land Warrior systems. The Stryker brigades are deemed ideal candidates for Land Warrior because they are trained to...