In the heat of battle I imagine things can get pretty hectic and pinpointing just where the shooting is coming from, as quickly as possible, could mean the difference between life and death. To give its soldiers an edge in this regard the U.S. Army will begin providing its forces in Afghanistan with the first of 13,000 gunshot detection systems later this month. The Individual Gunshot Detector (IGD) uses the sound waves generated by enemy gunfire to instantaneously determine the location and distance toward the enemy fire.

The IGD, which is made by QinetiQ North America, consists of four small acoustic sensors contained in a box that sits on the soldier's shoulder, which is attached to a small display screen attached to the body armor that displays the distance and direction of incoming fire. The entire system weighs less than two pounds (0.9 kg).

Over the next 12 months, the Army plans to deliver up to 1,500 IGD's to its soldiers per month, with the plan to strategically disperse the systems throughout small, dismounted units to get maximum protective coverage for platoons, squads and other units on the move.

In the future, the Army also plans to integrate the technology with its Land Warrior and Nett Warrior systems. These are network-situational-awareness systems that include a helmet-mounted display screen that uses GPS digital-mapping-display technology that is designed to give dismounted soldiers enhanced tactical awareness.

"The next thing we want to do is try to integrate this capability with other capabilities; for example, we have Land Warrior deployed in Afghanistan and we're going to have Nett Warrior coming into the force. How about, if you get shot at, not only do I know where that came from, but others know where it came from because I can network that capability," said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, Program Executive Officer Soldier.

The U.S. Army's US$9.95 million order for the IGD's was placed back in 2008, when the device was known as the Soldier-Wearable Acoustic Targeting System (SWATS), but AOL News reported last year that the need for such technology was identified as far back as 2003 and military bureaucracy only contributed to the long wait between then and now. The soldiers on the ground will no doubt be glad the IGD's are finally on their way.