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Top 5 Gadgets on the High-tech Soldier

        Science | Soldiers

The Land Warrior Program
The Land Warrior system combines GPS, e-mail, video and other technologies to assist soldiers in combat.
The Land Warrior system combines GPS, e-mail, video and other technologies to assist soldiers in combat.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Land Warrior was one of the U.S. Army's landmark programs, designed to outfit infantry soldiers with a collection of high-tech equipment. The goal was to increase fighting ability in urban warfare and other situations where large, armored vehicles and long-distance weaponry aren't practical.

Land Warrior equipped soldiers with computers, GPS receivers, radios, video cameras and other gear, all designed to increase the battlefield awareness and combat value of individuals. More than 15 years of research and $500 million went towards Land Warrior's development, but the program was cut in 2007 due to glitches that caused more problems than they solved [source: Shactman]. In particular, commanders feared the 16 pounds (7.3 kilograms) of equipment would only make soldiers less mobile and more vulnerable.

However, in spite of those opinions, a battalion of soldiers took Land Warrior equipment to Iraq, and a funny thing happened. Individual soldiers immediately began stripping down the system to the basics, dropping its overall weight and using only features that were truly useful during the stress and rigors of combat [source: Shactman].

Land Warrior's most popular feature is its digital chemical marking system, which lets soldiers mark areas cleared of enemies so that other units don't repeat their efforts. Other useful elements are text messaging (good for when radios are hard to hear) and digital maps that display comrades' positions.

Despite its shortcomings, the program produced some practical equipment. In current war zones, an updated version of Land Warrior that weighs around only 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms) is in use, but only by team leaders and special forces [source: Cox].

So in spite of its flaws, the spirit of Land Warrior lives on. Although the program is officially dead, its successful components will be used in the Army's next (very similar) project, the Ground Soldier System.