Soldiers and Marines have been putting the first militarized prototype of the US Army’s new Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) to the test at Fort Pickett in Virginia.
The evaluations, part of the third of four Soldier Touch Point events, are a big step forward as the Army pushes to begin fielding this technology later next year.
The headsets offer soldiers a number of valuable digital tools, as well as improved night vision and target acquisition capabilities, among other things.
The US Army just took a big step toward fielding a futuristic augmented reality headset that the service hopes will give soldiers the edge on battlefields that are “increasingly urban, congested, dark and unpredictable.“
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne and Marines recently put ruggedized versions of the Army’s new Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) to the test at Fort Pickett in Virginia during a Soldier Touch Points (STPs) held by Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team.
The first STP event in early 2019 involved commercial HoloLens headsets from Microsoft. During the second STP last fall, troops tested modified commercial Microsoft’s headsets that offered a lot of capability but would not survive infantry combat. That version did not even work in the rain, Breaking Defense reported.
During the latest STP, which was held in October, soldiers and Marines tested the first militarized IVAS headset, using it for land navigation, live fire, mission planning, rapid target acquisition, trench clearing, and after action review, Army Futures Command explained in a press statement.
There’s still a little more work to be done on IVAS before soldiers take it into battle. Following a fourth and final evaluation event, the Army is expected to begin fielding a combat-ready IVAS in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021.
In line with the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s emphasis on great power competition and the threat posed by near-peer rivals like China and Russia, the Army is undergoing a massive modernization effort. The Army is hopeful that systems like IVAS will allow the US to maintain its combat edge.
IVAS offers soldiers immediate access to dozens of valuable combat tools in a digital space, such as mapping, orienteering, target tracking, battle management, facial recognition, and text translation.
With integrated tools like the target tracking feature, troops can hop out of any vehicle with increased situational awareness, knowing not only where their team is but also where the enemy is. And that is only a small part of what this system, which Insider had the opportunity to experience firsthand, can do.
Brig. Gen. David Hodne, head of Army Future’s Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, said recently that while the US military has traditionally “owned the night,” advances by US rivals and adversaries have caused that advantage to erode.
“In an environment where we share the night, the folks who can move faster, decide faster and think faster are the ones who have the advantage on today and tomorrow’s battlefield,” Hodne said, according to the Army.
The new heads-up display also provides improved night vision with the help of digital thermal and low-light sensors built into the headset. Not only does this allow soldiers to fight better at night and in the dark, but it also allows troops to battle through smoke and other obscurants.
For added combat capability, IVAS can be connected to the Family of Weapon Sights – Individual attached to a soldier’s rifle, allowing them to see what the weapon is pointing at in their heads-up display. Soldiers can rapidly acquire targets, effectively shoot from the hip, and accurately fire around corners without exposing themselves to the enemy.
The heads-up display can also connect with other combat assets, such as reconnaissance drones.
The Army has also been experimenting with using IVAS for simulated combat training by allowing soldiers to wage war against augmented reality enemies in a digital space where data can be collected and returned as feedback in an after action review.
“There are a lot of features on it that are pretty futuristic,” an Army platoon leader from the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment who took part in the most recent STP, said in an Army statement. “I can see how this is going to make a great impact on the way we fight.”
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