The Army plans to invest $500 million in the so-called Objective
Force Warrior, a system that integrates the various components of
a soldier’s uniform and battlefield equipment.
The program is managed by the Soldier Systems Center, in Natick,
Mass. Officials predicted that the first version of the Objective
Force Warrior could be rolled out by 2006. The Objective Force is
a term the Army uses to describe its vision for the future—circa
The Army will award concept design contracts in July to one or
two “lead technology integrator” companies, which will
then subcontract portions of the system to smaller companies. It
is expected that the Objective Force Warrior design concepts will
feature futuristic devices such as heat- and cold-alterable materials,
powerful lightweight batteries, advanced communication devices and
state-of-the-art navigation technologies—all integrated in
The Army’s flagship program for soldier modernization today
is the Land Warrior. Officials noted that the Objective Force Warrior
is not necessarily a replacement for Land Warrior, but rather an
incremental upgrade to existing Land Warrior capabilities.
“This is a head-to-toe integration of electronics, weapons
systems, smart materials, electronic textiles and form-fitting designs,”
said Donald J. Wajda, director of technology and program integration
at the Soldier Systems Center.
Wajda explained in a recent interview that Objective Force Warrior
is the largest program, in terms of dollar value, that Natick has
The challenges in the Objective Force Warrior program will be to
reduce the weight burden on the soldier, increase combat power,
provide better sensors, while making it affordable.
Col. James Kennon, commander of the Soldier Systems Center, said
that having long-lasting power sources is a critical capability
in this program. The idea is for soldiers to be able to operate—on
their own battery power—away from their vehicles for up to
72 hours. Batteries today last up to 10 or 12 hours.
The Objective Force Warrior also will have to be able to generate
water from fuel, for example. He will have improved ballistic protection
made of lightweight fabrics, such as spider silk made from goat’s
milk, which is five times stronger than steel, Kennon said.
At the Soldier Systems Center, scientists are working to upgrade
the traditional Army camouflage to make it an “interactive
textile,” which could “behave differently in different
environments,” said Wajda. The material, for example, could
be made “more or less permeable, depending on the environment,”
and the colors could lighten or darken—to blend in with the
Wajda explained that the requirements for the Objective Force Warrior
were determined through a complex information gathering process
at Natick. “We went out and solicited what types of technology
industry had, what types of technology academia had. … This
was a worldwide search for information,” he said.
“We had panels of experts, not only from the Army, but from
Department of Energy labs and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects
“We also had an independent review team that looked at various
technologies, and made recommendations on what were the best alternatives,”
At the conclusion of this process, it was determined that “the
Objective Force Warrior requires a soldier systems paradigm shift,”
said Peter Wallace, deputy technology program manager for the Objective
Force Warrior. “In the past, weight has simply been added
to the soldier, without clear thought as to how it would integrate,”
With adequate investment, “this is an opportunity to make
possible revolutionary improvements over Land Warrior Block I,”
he said. The version of Land Warrior currently in development and
scheduled to be fielded in 2004 is the Block I system. “Objective
Force Warrior could be considered the equivalent of Block III,”
said Wallace. “There is a second block that will be out by
2006, which will make intermediary product improvements in such
areas as power and networked radio connectivity performance. However,
Objective Force Warrior is expected to provide broad revolutionary
capacity in terms of weight reduction power management.”
Natick officials pinpointed nine key requirements for Objective
Force Warrior: lethality, C4I (Command, Control, Communications,
Computers and Intelligence), power sources, survivability, mobility,
sustainability, training, analysis and assessment and human performance.
These requirements have yet to be vetted by the Training and Doctrine
Critical to the success of this program is system engineering and
integration, “into a comprehensive system with weight, power
and cost treated as independent variables,” Wallace said.
Some of the new technologies will come from within the Defense Department,
and some from industry.
Enhancements in survivability will involve “full spectrum
individual protection, thermal management and physiological status
monitoring,” he said. Natick researchers have collaborated
with DARPA on this project, envisioning advances in microclimate
conditioning for the soldier, with “fluid circulated through
the vest to provide cooling or heating to the torso of the body,”
said a planning document. The goal is to provide heat stress relief
and a body heating system for extremely cold environments.
The Objective Force Warrior will have remote sensing devices—not
physically attached to the soldier. “Robotic mules, dogs and
eagles can provide intelligence and reconnaissance, and can provide
overmatch effectiveness in collaborative real time planning and
execution,” Wallace said.
This program represents a shift away from treating the soldier
like a Christmas tree, where new ornaments just get added on, said
Philip Brandler, program manager at the Natick Soldier Center. The
Objective Force Warrior will be designed as an “integrated
human-centric system,” he said during a conference of the
Association of the U.S. Army. The Land Warrior, he said, is “the
first representation of that kind of system.”
Robert E. Douglas, a member of the Army Science Board, noted that
the Army has worked for many years to develop lightweight equipment,
but that no effort has been made on the integration. “One
hundred pounds of lightweight gear is still 100 pounds,” he
said at the conference. The Objective Force Warrior’s load
could drop to 50 pounds, if the program is successful.
One issue that the Army must grapple with is the need to improve
the efficiency of the supply system, so soldiers don’t have
to bring so much stuff to the battlefield, said Douglas. “Soldiers
often are loaded down, because they don’t trust the supply
system,” he said.
Defense contractors, meanwhile, are awaiting the Army’s July
2002 contract award for a nine-month “concept-development
Cheryl DeLuca, director of Natick’s contracting division,
said the award will be based on best-value source selection criteria.
Lead technology integrator status will not be “awarded on
the basis of a low bid,” she said. Each lead technology integrator
initially will receive contracts worth up to $160 million, Wallace
The work that Natick has done already is “a point of departure,
not a final design,” said Wallace. Industry’s job will
be to “take and coordinate capabilities in technology, and
determine the system engineering and management needed to complement
the Army team and achieve the vision,” he said.
“We expect the lead technology integrators to look at all
the information and come up with a solution based on the visionary
documents that already exist,” Wallace said. “We will
down-select to one lead technology integrator at the end of that
nine-month period, for design, fabrication and support for the government’s
demonstration of prototype systems.”
The reason for selecting two integrators is to promote creativity
and create competitive tension in the program, Wallace said.
Companies expected to compete for the lead technology integrator
awards are General Dynamics Land Systems, Raytheon Electronic Systems,
Exponent Inc. and Lockheed Martin, among others. Numerous companies
are interested in being subcontractors to the lead technology integrators
in the concept-development period, as evidenced by strong industry
and individual involvement at several pre-solicitation briefings.
Approximately 100 companies and 450 individuals attended a pre-solicitation
conference in February, said Wallace.
“Industry will execute the Objective Force Warrior technology,
yet the government is the leader in the program decision process,”
he said. “The government has the right to review, assess and
influence competing lead technology integrator concepts.”
Among the smaller niche companies seeking participation are Meridian
Medical Technologies, a supplier of antidotes for nerve agent exposure.
“The products that the Objective Force Warrior would carry
are our antidotes,” said sales director Thomas Handel. “We
would envision that since the Defense Department already has our
unique product, that the Objective Force Warrior would be carrying
our kits, sensors and decontamination products.
“We’ve contacted the prospective lead technology integrators,
and they’re sending us briefings on where they are today in
the development scheme,” he said. “We could be involved
in injectible pharmaceuticals, medical devices, tele-medicine. We
are also working on bringing a cardiopulmonary next generation EKG
product to the battlefield,” Handel said.