Defense Tech: High-Tech Uniforms Finally Heading to War

Looks like the Army is finally getting it’s Land Warrior suite to combat, with 4/9 Infantry (the “Manchus.”). We’ll see how it goes. I’m sure the field grades are going to love it.

One interesting thing comes up near the end of the piece:

The concerns were so great that the original vision — giving every soldier a full set of high-tech gear — has been scrapped. For now, only Manchu team leaders will get the entire Land Warrior ensemble, Col. Hansen tells Defense Tech. Regular riflemen will be equipped with GPS beacons, to let their sergeants and lieutennants know where they are.”

This is probably wrong. It’s so their captains, majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels, operations officers, chiefs of staff, intelligence officers, commanding generals, and deputy commanding generals know where they are.

I used to deal in tactical aviation C2 systems, and believe me, the more that the battle captains see, the more they are in the weeds controlling things that they probably don’t need to be controlling.

Most successful armed forces delegate C2 to the lowest level possible. This has been the trend since at least the Franco-Prussian War with the advent of open-order tactics. The armies that bled themselves white in WWI were the ones insisting on “regimental column, battalion on line” formations, while the Germans actually learned to press their C2 to small detachments. Ernst Juenger, a WWI storm troop officer (wounded 14 times, several decorations for gallantry), said in his WWI memoir “The Storm of Steel,” that “all success in battle depends on individual initiative.” I’m inclined to agree.

Giving these systems to individual soldiers will stifle initiative precisely because:

1) higher will always be up their a$$ telling them what to do… (“hey you…Pvt Bonottz…move to the right 10 meters. There’s a bad pixel on my Blue Force Tracker and I can’t see you when you stand there!”).
And…

2) The psychological impact of having the all-seeing eye of higher on the individual soldier will be just as bad.

In short…armies don’t win because of high-tech gear, and they don’t win because generals see everything. They win because individual soldiers, squads, platoons, and companies, with the help of combined arms, locate, close with, and destroy the enemy.

That’s not to say this Land Warrior system isn’t going to be any good. It just might be. But when we design systems, we need to take into account the kind of C2 system we want our armies to have. Giving every soldier, or every 4th or 5th soldier, a C2 suite is probably going to make him worry a whole lot more of what the OpsO is thinking rather than destroying the enemy and staying focused on the tasks ahead.

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