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Army plotting pocket computer.

Army Plotting Pocket Computer

The Army is looking into extending the benefits of [C.sup.3] I to the individual soldier through a pair of programs now on the drawing board at CECOM and the Army's laboratory facilities in Natick, MA. The Soldier's Computer and Soldier's Radio are designed to enable infantry to transmit and receive voice and data in communication with central sites and each other.

As currently envisioned, the Soldier's Computer/Radio systems would comprise a pocket computer with an integrated voice/data radio and GPS receiver; a helmet-mounted display to provide virtual images; an earphone; a microphone; and a handled joystick to control operation. The unit is the brainchild of the Advanced Systems Concepts Office, working with the CECOM Center for [C.sup 3.] Systems.

Work on the computer is in its infancy, according to James Schoening, an operations research analyst at the Advanced Systems Concepts Office. While he has been attempting to drum up support for the idea since 1987, it is only within the last 12 months that significant funding and user interest have been forthcoming. The Infantry School is currently compiling a set of requirements documentation; meanwhile, Schoening and Matt Zieniewicz of the CECOM Center for [C.sup 3.] Systems are part of a team that will organize a series of capabilities demonstrations for Army user groups.

The first such demonstration will occur in October, when the concept will be displayed for the Army Material Command Little of the hardware that would compose such a system is currently available; Schoening said current commercial equipment would be used this fall, including an Agilis modular computer standing in for the pocket-sized unit. The Army does have a helmet-mounted display, developed by Reflection Technologies and marketed by Hughes Aircraft. However, while he likes the display, Schoening predicted the Army will work to develop a transparent heads-up display for the actual system. The Reflection/Hughes unit will probably be a part of the October demonstration, however.

The Army is already entertaining bids to develop the architecture for the pocket computer, and expects to award a contract during the first quarter of FY 1991. However, Schoening predicted it will be several years before GPS, radio and computer cards small enough to meet the service's requirements requirements will be available. He said the Army would buy the equipment on a nondevelopmental basis wherever possible.

The Soldier's Computer/Radio programs are part of a larger effort now under the supervision of the Natick Labs. Called the Soldier's Integrated Protective Ensemble (SIPE), this larger program will provide updated helmets, protective clothing and other gear for combat troops. An advanced technology transition demonstration (ATTD) of SIPE is scheduled for 1992; Schoening said his group has therefore made this a major milestone in its efforts.

The system will grant individual soldiers access to battlefield status information, maps, voice and text messages and other information, both while on foot and when aboard ground vehicles. However, Schoening said its greatest application may be as an embedded training system, enabling soldiers to learn new tasks in the field or enhance their knowledge of their current specialties without leaving their posts for classroom training. - S.M.H.

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Author:Hardy, Stephen M.
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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