• U.S.

The Army’s Futuristic Mutant Snafu Turtles

1 minute read
Mark Thompson/Washington

The Army’s $2.1 billion effort to turn soldiers into 21st century fighting machines may be facing defeat. The “Land Warrior” program, launched in 1996, packs 90 lbs. of computers, radios, targeting devices and body armor onto a sci-fi G.I. topped with a Cyclops-like helmet.

But a report from the General Accounting Office details a rucksack full of problems: the $62,000 backpacks stopped soldiers from lifting their heads while on their bellies. When they rolled over, the packs lifted them far above the ground, pawing the air in what is known, in military parlance, as the “turtle-on-its-shell effect.” After that was fixed, key components–radios, helmet display and computer–let water in and electronic radiation out. The batteries lasted for less than five of the required 12 hours’ continuous use. And the Army doesn’t know how to get new batteries to the front lines.

The GAO has recommended that the Pentagon send the Army back to the drawing board–or cease funding the program.

–By Mark Thompson/Washington

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