Nett Warrior returns from the dead

Nett Warrior returns from the dead

WHITE STANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — Most people had left the Army’s Nett Warrior program and its futuristic eye scope in the expensive trash heap of Future Combat Systems. But it lives on here, where soldiers test the glorified smartphones that Army leaders want squad leaders carrying on the battlefield.

Soldiers such as Staff Sgt. Jesus Vasquez and Sgt. 1st Class Frederick Chinlever wear Motorola Atrix smartphones inside a green case mounted to their chests, connected to Rifleman Radios on their backs. They can’t make calls on it, but they can see fellow soldiers’ positions, mark IED and enemy positions, and even text each other.

“It’s just like having our cell phone out there. They make it easier for us because we can see everything,” Vasquez said.


The Army had envisioned Nett Warrior or Ground Soldier Systems to outfit its force with wearable 10 pound computers. Requirements and costs then spiraled, leaving many expecting Nett Warrior to die. It didn’t die, but the program was gutted down to the smartphones soldiers like Vasquez are testing at this Network Integration Evaluation.

Soldiers have tested smartphones at each one of the three NIEs. The Army plans on fielding 600 Nett Warrior consoles to each Infantry Brigade Combat Team to be worn by squad leaders.

Each squad will then have battlefield access to blue force tracking, which is the military’s system to track coalition troops on the battlefield. The Army has also connected Nett Warrior to the Tactical Ground Reporting system known as TIGR, pronounced “tiger.” Soldiers use the system to report what they see in the field from enemy positions to biometrics to weapons caches.

The Army is testing more than the Motorola Atrix for Nett Warrior. Soldiers are also testing the General Dynamics Itronix GD300, another wearable, rugged smartphone. Other soldiers here are carrying the Motorola Xoom tablet.

Army leaders have chosen to test smartphones that run exclusively on the Android system. The Army is not testing Apple iPhones or iPads at the NIE. Army officials have said they prefer the Android system because of its open architecture.

Spc. Aaron Boatwright said he and other soldiers prefer the phones mounted to their chests more so than the prototype they tested in the previous NIE that was connected to their wrists and had wires running down their arms.

“Those wires were terrible. This is much more comfortable,” Boatwright said.

The soldiers did have recommendations to improve Nett Warrior. First, they said the phones need higher resolution or non-glare screens to make it easier to read in the sun. Soldiers have struggled to read the phones moving across the New Mexico desert. Complaints about the glare even have some Army officials considering bringing back the eye scope that connects to a soldier’s helmet.

Second, the soldiers want better battery life. The Motorola Atrix lasts three to four hours. Each soldier carries an extra set of batteries, but trying to switch the batteries in the midst of a firefight is less than ideal.

Boatwright said his battle buddy made the recommendation to the data collectors here to offer a stylus that soldiers could slip over the forefinger of their gloves to make it easier to navigate the software.

“Right now we’re fat fingering too much,” he said.

Training on the smartphones remains easy. The soldiers spend about five days learning how to use the software, but most own smartphones and have familiarity with the Android system.

Army leaders have said they want to issue a smartphone to every soldier and expect those smartphones to make it to the battlefield. Soldiers like Chinlever said he liked the idea.

“We all have them it just makes sense for us to use them this way if we can,” he said.

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I like the idea, but isn’t the smartphone that little device that got the Marines in trouble for pi$$ing on the Taliban..?

Well the microphones are Nett Worrier but that’s all that lived its modified for the NIE system they are working on. So not all of nett worrier is dead but most of it still is.

My sources say they are looking at equipping three BDEs and it’s supposed to go to the individual grunt level. (That might have been good to include in the story most will think every swinging whatever might have one.)

Also Nett Warrior was hardly “gutted”. They put aside the HUD.

The BOI is smartphones for all the grunts. PLs & above also get a tablet to facilitate mission planning & orders presentation.

This is the first report that Nett Warrior is talking to BFT (something the PEO Soldier folks said they were working on back in Sep) but until I see some more reports I’m going to be skeptical. Would be great if you could get someone back out there and confirm they broke the code. It would be the FIRST time the dismounted infantryman had access to ABCS and vice versa. THAT’s noteworthy.

Thanks for the extra info and insight!

Using smartphone tech is a very smart idea. What I don’t like is that they’re treating this as the end-all final configuration. It should be a modular system, where peripheral equipment can be integrated (or not) as necessary, preferably wirelessly.

For example, I read that the Army recently ordered a new version of the PSQ-20 ENVG that, if upgraded as such, can act as a see-through HUD and a networked video camera. It sounds like a natural fit for squad leaders equipped with the new Nett Warrior systems. Also, the monocle display should at least be an optional feature.
Other things such as gunshot detectors, vital signs monitors, and helmet cameras should be optional features. The current smartphone + radio configuration can be the lightest, bare bones level of the system.

Also, the old Land Warrior concept included a thermal/video sight that could trasmit footage allowing the soldiers to look or shoot around corners. Even if this tech isn’t ready, it should at least be something the lab rats shouls keep working on.

If the Army is smart, many of the original Future Force Warrior ideas can be implemented relatively painlessly with commercial tech like this.

This is why I’m not a fan of referring to these as “smartphones” even though that’s basically what they are. When people here that they’ll think of teenage girls talking/texting at the mall or some idiot being filmed on Youtube. A better way to think of the military versions would be as a mini FBCB2 with smartphone ergonomics and tech.

Army leaders have chosen to test smartphones that run exclusively on the Android system. The Army is not testing Apple iPhones or iPads at the NIE. Army officials have said they prefer the Android system because of its open architecture.

Not that I have anything against Android. The Army really needs to get a better understanding of the architecture before you can say it is an “Open’ architecture. This architecture is processor chip dependent, and Android is not on the lips of Army G6 when it comes to mobile OS’s. Microsoft is .… unfortunately.

The chips come from the same place that Apple’s and other OEM chip manuf. come from .… Asia.

One word, ‘Weight”.

As typical, DoD Buzz gets the facts wrong where Army programs and modernization come in. None of these soldier-mounted devices were ever part of Future Combat Systems. The only FCS hand held device — the Common Controller — was meant to provide a common platform for the control of unmanned systems. Future Force Warrior was cancelled in 2006. Land Warrior trundled on until cancelled later. For whatever reason, HUD devices never caught on with the brothers of the bayonet. There is some pretty exciting see-through display technology out there, and there is also much value in audio devices, IMHO.

Was Land Warrior part of FCS? Yes and no. The Infantry, Armor and Artillery schools included its capabilities in input to FCS. Dismounted soldiers were always intended to be able to input and draw from the network. FCS descriptions, qualitative/quantitative experimentation both in live, constructive and virtual simulation portrayed ALL dismounted soldier positions on the battlefield in real time. They also fed into situational awareness real time under the “every soldier a sensor” mantra. The ONLY tool to execute those functions was Land Warrior yet the Infantry school kept land warrior on a separate funding line as it was before FCS was even a gleam in someone’s eyes. It was this separate funding approach that allowed Land Warrior to survive FCS and evolve into Nett Warrior.

So Land Warrior might not have been a program of record in FCS but it was none the less part of FCS much like the Excaliber arty round. That is unless one wants to admit FCS had a huge gaping shot trap when it came to fighting assymetric threats let alone even conventional ops whenever the soldier left the vehicle.

Which is why the system should be configurable. IIRC the computer parts were the heaviest part of the system, and shaving that down to smartphone-levels should give some more breathing room. I dont think including the ENVG or a monocle would be terribly heavy. And not everything should be piled on everyone. A thermal/video sight for platoon or company level, perhaps. Gunshot detectors on one or two people per squad. Cameras for scouts or JTACS, etc.

That said, at this point in time I’d say just getting the basic digital mapping and blue force tracking the smartphones have is most important, it would give us something to build on later and is an overduencapability.

So much wasted opportunity. FCS did have a few nuggets of good ideas in there like a highly networked force, manned and unmanned assets working in close coordination, and “every soldier a sensor”. Instead it was all buried under mountains of incompetence and unrealistic goals

I didn’t make myself clear nor share what I know.

Spoke with PEO Soldier rep in Sep. The ENVG already has the ability to push another systems info into it to serve as a HUD. The Old HUD still works. Soldiers just preferred the chest and wrist mounted versions. (From personal experience the HUD really cut down your awareness of what was going on around you and that’s lethal for guys onthe ground.)

As for hanging gunshot detectors, vital signs monitors, and helmet cameras on individuals I can tell you they are weighed down enough. Let’s try something different and cut weight BEFORE adding gadgets?

Why do you think the system is not configuarble? It is android based. You’re being impatient.

You’re a marvel. Every one of your posts is wrong. (The smartphone, sotware etc. are still part of Nett Warrior.) You’d be awesome to know during football season. Just get your predictions and bet the opposite. Instant millionaires!

Dismounted soldiers have been connected to ABCS for several years with Land Warrior. Unless you have served directly on these programs you don’t know what your talking about.…..I have.

No. Which version are you talking about because the last version I was working on (3 years ago when the program ended and went to Nett Warrior) was not capable of interfacing with the ABCS on vehicles or command posts. The Land Warrior software was a standalone stovepipe digital system. Connectivity consisted of someone having to hand jam data into the ABCS system at a CP. There was no digital connectivity with Infantry units using FBCB//BFT.

Even NETT Warrior has yet to prove connectivity to mounted ABCS systems though the news is promising according to PEO Soldier at the Infantry conference last year.

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