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Objective Force Warrior (OFW)

DoD engineers had been developing the 2010-era Objective Force Warrior even before the next-generation Land Warrior was to be fielded in 2004. The US Army's Objective Force Warrior (OFW) soldier ensemble was intended to be a lightweight, fully integrated individual combat system, including weapons, head-to-toe individual protection, netted communications, soldier worn power sources, and enhanced human performance aids.

As part of its transformation to the Objective Force, the US Army embarked on a major Science and Technology (S&T) program supporting the development, demonstration, and planned fielding by 2012 of revolutionary Objective Force Warrior (OFW) Systems. This would complement the on-going efforts to develop platform-based revolutionary capabilities (i.e., Future Combat System, Future Rotorcraft, etc.) to realize the Army Transformation and the Objective Force vision. The Natick Soldier Center had been charged by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Research and Technology) (DAS(R&T)) with developing a full spectrum proposal with roadmap for a robust OFW S&T program. OFW was expected to be a system of systems and provide revolutionary capabilities for the individual war fighter and small units. It was necessary to exploit advanced and emerging technologies to make this a reality, and the OFW Team was casting a wide net to identify technologies being developed that could contribute to the revolutionary capabilities to meet the OFW warfighter needs.

Historically, researchers have devised upgrades to current equipment. The Objective Force Warrior program tossed out the current system of individual equipment in its entirety and designed a new "integrated, holistic" system from the skin out. The Land Warrior system was expected to add many new capabilities to the current system of field gear through an electronic component soldiers would carry. The Objective Force Warrior system, scheduled for fielding in 2008, was intended to completely integrate these electronic capabilities.

Soldiers would never again have to wear cumbersome night-vision or infrared goggles or heavy laser training components on their helmets. These and other features, thermal sensors, day-night video cameras, and chemical and biological sensors, were designed to be fully integrated within the OFW helmet. The system also included a visor that could act as a "heads-up display monitor" equivalent to two 17-inch computer monitors in front of the soldier's eyes. The uniform system was a multi-function garment working from the inside out, Degay said. It incorporated physiological sensors that allow the soldier, the chain of command and nearby medics to monitor the soldier's blood pressure, heart rate, internal and external body temperature, and caloric consumption rate. Commanders and medics would access the information through a tactical local area network. Heat and cold injuries have been responsible for a large percentage of casualties in both battle and training. If a medic can monitor a soldier's vital signs, many of these types of injuries could potentially be prevented. If a soldier were to be injured, medics could start making an assessment before they even got to the injured soldier.

The Objective Force Warrior system was designed with a built-in "microclimate conditioning system." Degay explained the private climate-control system had a "spacer fabric" that was a little bit thicker than a regular cotton T-shirt. The garment had "capillaries" that blow hot or cold air through the system. The system's many functions were powered by fuel cells, which were described as "cell phone batteries on steroids."

A primary concern in designing the Objective Force Warrior system was overall weight carried by individual soldiers. Soldiers on combat patrols in Afghanistan typically carried 92 to 105 pounds of mission-essential equipment. This could include extra ammunition, chemical protective gear and cold-weather clothing. The requirement for the Objective Force Warrior system was to weigh no more than 45 to 50 pounds. Many of the system's built-in functions were included to do away with the need to carry extra equipment. The climate-control feature eliminates the need to carry extra clothing. The outer garment has some biological and chemical protection capabilities, reducing the need to carry extra protective gear.

Anything else that's mission-essential, but not built in to the individual soldier system was expected to be carried on a "robotic mule." The mule would assist with not only taking some of the load carriage off the individual soldier, but a host of other functions. Primarily water generation, and water purification. It would also be a recharging battery station for all the individual Objective Force Warriors in the squad. It would acts as a weapons platform. It, as designed, has day and night thermal, infrared and forward-looking imaging systems inside the nose of the mule, as well as chemical-biological sensors. The mule could also communicate with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to give the squad members a true 360-degree image of the battlefield. This capability was not tradiationally available below the battalion level. The unit is a follower, and it has been intended to be manipulated and brought forth by any member of the squad. Essentially a mini load-carriage system that's there for the squad all the time, the unit would allow lightening of the load for the individual soldier, but keeping that resupply available at a moment's notice.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator has nothing over the Objective Force Warrior envisioned by the Army and a team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and organizations throughout the country. The goal was to develop a high-tech soldier with 20 times the capability of today's warrior and to have that soldier commissioned by about 2010. With advanced technologies, the Army planned to create an overmatch and greatly minimize danger to its soldiers. Innovative technologies would allow a soldier to engage and destroy the enemy at longer ranges with greater precision and with devastating results. Technologies that would make that possible include better communications devices, advanced situational awareness software, chem-bio detection and protection, advanced weapons, and protective equipment. Fatigues and the flak jacket of the past, for example, would be replaced by a system designed to protect a soldier and provide hemorrhage control in case a bullet penetrates. The helmet of the future warrior might be a sealed unit that contains communications, vision enhancements, a laser for target ranging and a heads-up display. While many of the technologies to make the OFW a reality were already mature, several others, called "breakthrough technologies," had yet to be developed. These included advanced fuel cells, exoskeletons, directed energy lethal and non-lethal weapons, and lethal robotics. The exoskeleton would augment the strength of a soldier and enhance mobility, speed, endurance, range and load-carrying capabilities.

The Army's vision for the Objective Force Warrior was of a highly lethal, survivable, networked soldier within a small combat team operating across a spectrum of future Army and joint service operations. The soldier would be equipped with self-protection gear, a range of weapons of varying lethality, and would be completely integrated into the fire support and C4ISR components of the Objective Force. The system would provide complete situational awareness, fully integrating the individual soldier into joint and combined arms operations. The Objective Force Warrior would use assets such as robotic cargo transporters, networked sensor fields and unmanned air vehicles. These capabilities would be compatible with the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) command, control, computer, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) system now in development as well as with existing and joint service C4ISR assets.

Objective Force Warrior will have "full-spectrum capabilities," meaning troops can use it for any mission from peacekeeping to high-intensity conflicts, and many new capabilities were to be developed to provide that flexibility. An envisioned ultra-lightweight, multi-functional protective combat ensemble and stealth technology would enhance survivability. An onboard physiological and medical sensor suite would increase performance and sustainability. Hybrid fuel cell and advanced rechargeable batteries would supply the soldier's power needs for at least 72 hours.

Soldier situational understanding would improve by developing a helmet with integrated sensory enhancements, networking with manned and unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, and using a rugged squad communications system. To dominate in combat, the warrior would use an ultra-lightweight family of weapons with advanced fire control distributed across the team and optimized for urban combat. The Future Combat System would aid in synchronizing direct and indirect fire.

As new technologies become available and practical, the concept of the Objective Force Warrior was expected to undergo major upgrades beyond 2010, especially with nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is the ability to manipulate materials on an atomic or molecular scale. The Objective Force Warrior demonstration program was scheduled for FY02-FY08, then transitioning to Project Manager-Soldier Systems in FY08 for system development and testing, and fielding in the 2010-2012 timeframe.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:47:56 ZULU