Dismounted Soldier Situational Awareness
Historically, battlefields have been places of great confusion and uncertainty in situational awareness, making information one of the most valuable commodities to a soldier. Indeed, even the classic guide to combat strategy, Sun Tzu’s Art of War written in the 6th century B.C., carries the underlying theme that victory on the battlefield comes from a commander’s ability to acquire, control, and manipulate information. In modern terms, this means information about enemy location and force strength, information about your own squad members and their locations, as well as information from remote-sensing platforms such as UAVs and other aircraft and satellites. In an ideal situation, and one the armed forces of the United States have been working on for decades, every soldier would act as both a consumer and a producer of information as part of a larger network. Over the past several years, the foundational elements of such a system have begun being deployed.
Nett Warrior is an integrated dismounted soldier situational awareness system for use during U.S. Army combat operations. As shown in Figure 17.8, the current implementation of the system utilizes an Android-based smartphone-like handheld/chest-worn device that connects to the soldier’s Rifleman Radio for the sharing of position information, text messages, photos, maps, and other data. This secure radio-based connectivity is referred to as the On-The-Move self-forming network.
Figure 17.8 This image shows U.S. Army soldiers using their Android-based Nett Warrior integrated and dismounted situational awareness and mission command systems.
Credit: Image courtesy of DoD
The next phase of the program under active development will add a head-mounted augmented reality display component to the system intended for both day and night tactical applications. This phase of the program is intended to provide networked heads-up situational awareness to further reduce fratricide, as well as increase lethality, survivability, and maneuverability.
An example of tactical information to be displayed within such a device is shown in Figure 17.9. The baseline software for the system, known as ARC4, was developed by Applied Research Associates of Albuquerque, New Mexico, during a six-year collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The display-agnostic ARC4 software gives users accurate geo-registered icons overlaid on their real-world view. The precision placement of the iconic information will be enabled via a helmet-mounted head tracking/video processing unit. The military version of the interface is intended to provide a common operating picture (COP) for commanders and small-unit teams, including heads-up blue (friendly force) tracking, navigation, target handoff, and nonverbal, non-line-of-sight communication between a team leader and individual warfighters (Applied Research Associates, 2015).
Figure 17.9 This image depicts an example of a dismounted soldier tactical information display enabled using the ARC4 augmented reality software solution developed by Applied Research Associates of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Credit: Image courtesy of Applied Research Associates, Inc