Soldiers with the Land Warrior system

Captain J. Dow Covey and Staff Sergeant Justin Evaristo rely on the Land Warrior system in Mushahidah, Iraq.

U.S. Army, Program Executive Office Soldier

The men and women who serve in the armed forces face many challenges. Not least among those is the distinct possibility of entering a dangerous combat situation. Battles tend to be chaotic. Conditions can change unpredictably with dramatic consequences. Soldiers must rely on a combination of their training, their fellow soldiers and their equipment to get in and out of combat situations safely.

While nothing will ever replace a soldier's native capabilities and training, there are several military gadgets meant to improve safety even under battle conditions. And in the modern era of combat, some battles are fought not on a field or in trenches but inside towns and cities, so soldiers must also consider the safety of civilians.

Many of the gadgets some soldiers carry are related to gathering and analyzing information. Using a combination of sensors, cameras, transmitters and displays, soldiers have more information at their fingertips now than they've ever had. But does that equipment improve soldier and civilian safety?

Surprisingly, the answer isn't a simple one. Despite investing more than half a billion dollars in a digital equipment package known as the Land Warrior project, the United States Army has seen only limited success in incorporating high-tech communications systems with gadgets meant for the average soldier.