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U.S. Army to start testing high-tech combat goggles

U.S. Army to start testing high-tech combat goggles
An improved version of the U.S. Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System of high-tech goggles will start field testing in October. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army 

Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Rollout and field-testing of the U.S. Army's new targeting goggles -- called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System -- will begin next week, and they'll be distributed across the branch starting next year.

The do-it-all equipment, nicknamed "Frankengoggle," is designed to simulate the connected world of a fighter pilot in the sight picture of a combat soldier.

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With a heads-up display and other technology, it is meant to bring situational awareness, normally found on fighter pilots' goggles, to combat soldiers, Army officials have said.

The system will be unveiled at the Association of the U.S. Army conference next week, and then distributed to 40,000 soldiers across the Army starting in 2021.

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The goggles, the product of a $128 million contract with CACI International Inc., were developed after prior attempts to replicate the fighter pilot experience were disappointments.

IVAS goggles tested by Army Rangers and Special Forces personnel in 2019 received poor evaluations, notably in the areas of reliability and ruggedness. Those goggles, a civilian product modified for military use, proved unable to function in rainy weather, for example.

The U.S. Congress, mindful of past experience with failed high-tech military projects, has been skeptical that the new IVAS is worth an investment.

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The model to be tested in October at Fort Pickett, Va., is improved over the original attempt, and the difference is "Night and day," commented Lt. Col. Brad Winn of the Army Futures Command.

Among other functions, the goggles are designed to monitor a soldiers' hydration, fatigue, stress and temperature levels, a relevant feature in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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