Information Warfare: October 18, 2004


The camera equipped UAV overhead, and its vidcam link to troops nearby, has brought about one of those very noticeable changes in the way wars are fought, and imagined by reporters and film makers. Its now common for a company or battalion commander to run a battle looking at the screen of a laptop computer, which is displaying the video images being taken by the UAV up ahead. The last time combat commanders changed the way they went about directing combat  was 70 years ago, when portable radios allowed company and battalion commanders to run battles while holding a radio handset in one hand. Only in the last few years have commanders had access to the laptop video of the battelfield. Now, both the laptop and radio handset images are in for a major makeover. The U.S. Army is introducing headsets for the radio, so the user has their hands free, and eyeglass type video displays, that drop down over one eye and appear as about the same size and resolution as a laptop screen. That way, the commander can look at something else, like a map (which is more often on the laptop as well), and work a keyboard, using Blue Force Tracker to IM other commanders. Actually, a lot of officers have been developing these new techniques on their own, often with their own money.

While the radio headsets have been around for a while, the video eyepieces have only now begun to mature in terms of efficiency and low price. For example, Mitsubishi will be shipping, early next year, a new type of eyeglass display. SCOPO costs $400, and is a headset with a small liquid-crystal display (LCD) screen. The display, which is positioned in front, slightly below eye level, does not obstruct normal vision. Users have full visual range once they take their eyes off the display (by looking up or ahead. A device like this would be particularly useful for commanders on foot. Many of the smaller UAVs have ground receiving equipment that can be carried on your back. This would enable a platoon commander to go in with his troops, directing them as he simultaneously uses the UAVs birdseye view of the combat area, and what friendly and enemy troops are doing. Its a whole new way to fight a battle.


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