“The Army’s soldier suit of the future, once left for dead, appears to be crawling back to life.
“After 15 years and a half-billion dollars in development, the Army officially cancelled the Land Warrior program, and its collection of electronic maps, GPS beacons, digital radios, and next-gen rifle scopes for infantrymen. All kinds of configurations of the wearable electronics were tried. But the gear always wound up being too bulky to justify the seemingly-modest help it provided frontline soldiers, the Army decided.
“And then, something rather odd and unexpected happened. The 4/9 — known since the early 1900’s as the “Manchus,” for their fighting in China — stripped Land Warrior down, made the gear more functional, and discovered the equipment could actually be pretty useful in combat.
“By consolidating parts, a 16-pound ensemble was whittled down to a little more than 10. A the digital gun scope was abandoned — too cumbersome and too slow for urban fights. And not every soldier in the 4/9 was ordered to lug around Land Warrior. Only team leaders and above were equipped.”