"Great battles are won with artillery" – Napoleon Bonaparte. In the 21st century, he’d probably change that to information. The trick is to get that information to soldiers on the front line quickly and in a manner that won’t distract them from the job at hand. To this end, BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems in the UK has developed the Q-Warrior – a head-up display for foot soldiers that’s designed to provide a full-color, high resolution 3D display of the battlefield situation and assets.
Call it military intelligence, situational awareness, or just knowing what’s going on in the next foxhole, but information has always been a vital military asset. Today, modern warriors have access to lasers, satellites, GPS, high-speed digital communications, and all the rest, but for the soldier on the ground it still tends to boil down to gestures and shouting that Julius Caesar would recognize. It is, in other words, a classic bottleneck.
For the engineer, the tricky bit is coming up with something that can keep a soldier in the know without distraction. Head up displays have been available to fighter pilots since at least the Second World War, and today everyone from helicopter jockeys to Iron Man has one. But a squaddy lives in a different, dirtier, and more chaotic world than that of a pilot. It requires a peculiar mix of awareness and concentration that doesn't take well to needless distraction or irrelevant data, so coming up with information systems for the infantry is less a matter of adapting technology and more one of almost building from scratch.
The Q-Warrior is the latest version of BAE's helmet-mounted display technology based on its Q-Sight range of display systems. Now undergoing field testing by the US military, it looks a bit like something an Apache helicopter pilot might wear, but that’s about as far as the similarity goes. Instead of controlling FLIR cameras and look-and-shoot weapon pods, Q-Sight is intended to give foot soldiers and special forces “heads-up, eyes out, finger on the trigger” situational awareness, friend-or-foe identification, and the ability to coordinate a small unit even when away from their vehicles.
Consisting of a large eye projector screen that is low power demand, low fatigue and has fast day/night transition, yet delivers high transmission, high-resolution color in a collimated, high-luminance, high-resolution see-through display, the Q-Warrior is also designed to allow for large movements of the helmet while maintaining the overlay of the display on the real world.
BAE says that the Q-Warrior will provide soldiers with their own portable command, control, and communications system in 3D with exact target designation and charting. With the Q-Warrior, a soldier will be able to see the location of friendly warplanes, including their speed, altitude, and payload, as well as being able to designate targets. The display will also track friendly and enemy forces with symbols overlaid on the real-world view, navigational waypoints and related data, and visual feeds from drones and other platforms.
According to BAE, the Q-Warrior will initially be used by the section commander level and with special forces, but that the technology will eventually spread to become standard frontline kit.
“The biggest demand, in the short term at least, will be in roles where the early adoption of situational awareness technology offers a defined advantage,” says Paul Wright, Soldier Systems’ Business Development Lead at BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems. “This is likely to be within non-traditional military units with reconnaissance roles, such as Forward Air Controllers/Joint Tactical Aircraft Controllers (JTACS) or with Special Forces during counter terrorist tasks. The next level of adoption could be light role troops such as airborne forces or marines, where technical systems and aggression help to overcome their lighter equipment.”
The video below shows off Q-Warrior's features.
Source: BAE Systems
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