The Future of Infantry

Military technology is a long way off from fully automated, Terminator-style warfare, but as Jim Lai of reports, wearable computer systems will become a reality for infantry within the next year. The United States has researched network-based warfare since the 1990s, but only recently have increased computing power and decreased computer weight made the project feasible. Production of 34,000 individual computing units is slated for 2003, with enhanced versions expected every year.

The Land Warrior project links together components such as a radio system, a rifle-mounted video camera and thermal sight, and a Global Positioning System. The computer systems will be networked as well, and a helmet that has a special display will allow the soldier to display maps with the position of squadmates superimposed in their field of vision. The computer, also packed within silicon gel, serves as a shock absorber and a coolant.

At a cost of $15,000 each, Lai says the networking technology has the potential to radically reorganize how soldiers make decisions by enhancing the awareness of soldiers in the field. But even now, engineers are looking ahead to the possibility of a more “Internetted” system. On the technological horizon is the JEDI vest (an acronym for Joint Expeditionary Digital Information, not an homage to Luke Skywalker), which allows the user to be linked to satellites.
–Kate Garsombke
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