Welcome to Soldier Modernisation
Equipping soldiers with 60, 70kg or more of ‘light’ equipment, to the extent that the load carried is approaching unity with the weight of the soldiers themselves is recognised as simply unacceptable. Militaries have arrived at this position for a variety of good and often inescapable reasons given technological maturity, finances and a particular urgency of need in meeting narrow requirements.
Although major operations and significant commitments will continue in Afghanistan, the drawdown has begun and their end is in sight. Soldier modernisation efforts are generally content with the range of capabilities they have, the gaps that remain are significant and less pressing than in 2003.
Additional enhancements to capability will continue to be fielded, but saving grammes off myriad items can only go so far, reductions in weight has its limits; ultimately all multi-band hand held Combat Net Radios are of a similar weight.
Several programmes are coming to the point where the substantial weight savings necessary have actually been found. Nett Warrior has moved from being Land Warrior redux via a drastic reduction, down to little more than a radio and an app filled mobile phone while the latest iteration of IdZ, now awaiting a production decision went from a weight range of 35-75kg to 35-45kg by a combination of redesign and simply eliminating elements of the system. As weight falls usability soars.
Reducing the dependency of soldiers on the kit that they carry so they can confidently take less equipment with them can be done and is being done. Neither the US nor German experience is noted for its expense. It relies of thought and deed rather than financing and in more ways than one, the new More really is Less.