The US DoD’s modular handgun system
The US DoD’s modular handgun system is considering next-generation ergonomic and human factors with the introduction of modular handgrips to cater for different hand sizes and shooter preferences. (NATO)

Finally, it appears armed forces worldwide are now beginning to pay particular attention to human factors associated with modern soldier systems, with widespread acknowledgement regarding optimised ergonomic fit as well as how best to prepare soldiers for specific missions.

According to Lieutenant Colonel John Vest of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, the “human dimension” is one area that is not talked about to any great extent. “We should be doing things better,” he urged delegates attending the Soldier Equipment Advanced Technology Forum held in London this March, while referring to specialist skill sets such as snipers and special operations forces which generally go into much more detail regarding human factors associated with operations.

Describing sniper awareness training, Lt. Col. Vest explained how US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Evaluation Centre teams had considered the utility of “calming techniques” to steady the heart rates of troops ahead of taking a shot, as well as improving self-awareness and performance on the battlefield. Such efforts have included simulation and training models designed to identify the most efficient means of controlling emotion and other behavioural control during an operation.

Referring to the US Department of Defence’s ongoing Modular Handgun System (MHS) and Precision Sniper Rifle solicitations, which include requirements for modular handgrips, Lt. Col. Vest described how not every soldier has the same hand size. Additionally, he described how hearing protection needed to be fitted to the personal specifications of a soldier or risk being combat ineffective.

The US DoD’s modular handgun system
The US DoD’s modular handgun system is considering next-generation ergonomic and human factors with the introduction of modular handgrips to cater for different hand sizes and shooter preferences. (NATO)

Calming Influence

In the UK, the Royal College of Design has been contracted by the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Equipment and Support agency to consider next-generation ergonomics and human factors associated with future soldier technology. Early options have considered a natural billowing under the arms in order to generate power for cooling technology although MoD sources remain worried with regards to the investment involved. “Once you scale this technology out to 110,000 ensembles, then the money involved begins to mount up. Is this achievable?” one such source asked Armada. “Biometrics monitoring is going to be the way forward,” they added.

On 12 January, the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) revealed it had begun the process to seek partners to conduct a research project to consider future human factor capabilities for the dismounted combat community. A total of $56.8 million has been set aside for a four-year programme to work alongside academia, industry and the military. Called the Dismounted Soldier System Engine Room concept, it will focus on delivery of an integrated soldier system in line with DSTL’s Future Soldier Vision effort, the first phase of which (Vertus Pulse 1) is currently being rolled out to the British Army’s 16th Air Assault Brigade and the Royal Marine’s 3rd Commando Brigade.

According to DSTL programme manager Duncan Stewart, the concept will provide an opportunity for suppliers to contribute to what the soldier could look like in the future including developing the next generation of weaponry and supporting the integration of person-worn power and data.

by Andrew White