“We lost almost the entire patrol,” said the lieutenant. “It was horrific.”

“We walked right into an enemy ambush,” he continued. “They easily picked my men off, one by one, because they were looking at their screens.”

Thankfully, the young lieutenant was not describing an actual firefight from Iraq or Afghanistan. It was a recent live-action simulation that used laser tag-like equipment and new tablet devices that display maps, live drone footage, and other critical information. But if the military doesn’t recognize the threat of soldiers distracted by the buzzes and whistles of the latest technology, real lives could soon be lost.

As the US military pivots from people-centric counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are making historic investments in researching and testing new technologies. For the ground forces, many of these devices seek to help the Army soldier or Marine understand the environment around them, see the enemy before they see them, and connect them to vast amounts of weapons, eyes in the sky, and other real-time information. Experiments with new technologies are not new, but there is a renewed vigor to modernize the military with increased budgets, new threats, and new imagined battlefields against technologically equipped foes like China and Russia.

Read the full piece at WIRED.


John Spencer serves as the Chair of Urban Warfare Studies as the Modern War Institute and Co-Director of the Urban Warfare Project. He is a retired Army major who served twenty-five years as an infantryman, including two combat deployments to Iraq. Follow him at @SpencerGuard.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the US government.


Image credit: Spc. Rolyn Kropf, US Army