Gas Week

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US soldiers in Iraq now highly-protected “walking computer hubs”; but still remain vulnerable, success far from guaranteed

Posted by gasweek on 9 October, 2007

Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were outfitted with advanced armour and other protec­tion, including high-tech vests, anti­-ballistic goggles, earplugs and fire-retardant gloves, wrote Pauline Jelinek in The Canberra Times (6/10/2007, p.20).

Futuristic fighters: Night-vision goggles, thermal weapons sights and other gear made them more deadly to the adversary. In all, each soldier today was packing more than 80 items weighing about 34 kilograms, from socks to disposable handcuffs to a strap cutter for slash­ing open a seatbelt if he had to flee a burning vehicle. Drawings of the gear, some parts already in prototype and in the field, looked like futuristic “Master Chief,” who battled aliens in the popular sci-fi video game ‘Halo’. Researchers preferred to call it “the F-16-on-legs concept”, a nod to high-tech US fighter jets.

Your taxes at work: The ensemble made the soldier a highly protected “walking computer who can send out and take in information” such as maps showing where all friendly and enemy forces were arrayed, an equipment specialist at the Army’s research and develop­ment centre in Massachusetts, Dutch DeGay said. “Your tax dollars at work,” he said. Indeed, spending on ever improv­ing and ever more costly technology to make troops safer and more effective could be seen as just what taxpayers wanted. It reflected an American society that valued human life and had a distaste for too many casualties, a retired Marine now with the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Dakota Wood, said.

Still not enough, though: Still, troops remained vulnerable and success was far from guaranteed. Homemade insurgent bombs were the number 1 killer of Americans in Iraq, and were being used increasingly in Afghanistan. Insurgents detonated the explosives with mobile phones, washing machine timers and remote controls from toy cars.

The Canberra Times, 6/10/2007, p. 20

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