Ground Soldier Survivability Enhancement


The discipline of combat survivability is well defined for aircraft. Other physical combat systems like ships and ground vehicles have been explored, but not to the breadth and depth of aircraft. This ground soldier survivability assessment seeks to adapt the well-defined aircraft survivability discipline into concepts that fit the ground soldier while keeping as many terms the same to promote communication across combat specialty areas. Translating a discipline that is designed to assess machines to a discipline that assesses human survivability presents some challenges, but the task is certainly feasible.

Combat aircraft are typically tailored to specific mission sets. The F-22 Raptor is an air superiority fighter. The A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog) is an air-to-ground close air support aircraft. Some aircraft have been designed to have multiple roles like the F/A-18 Hornet which conducts missions ranging from conventional strike, close air support, air-to-air, anti-ship, mining, SEAD, and electronic warfare. However, the mission set of these aircraft is still quite narrow when compared to the diversity of ground soldier missions. US Army personnel must train for major state-on-state conflict, reconstruction, counter-terrorism, homeland defense, and humanitarian and disaster relief to name a few. Tackling the survivability of the ground soldier across all of these mission sets is beyond the scope of this paper. Instead, a single mission set is chosen and the aircraft to ground soldier survivability translation is completed to provide the beginning pieces of defining combat survivability discipline for the ground soldier.

The United States has been embroiled in two long-duration and low-intensity conflicts (OEF and OIF) for the last decade. The continuous presence of US Forces in this environment has resulted in a military that has morphed its focus from combat operations with major state actors (Cold War mindset) to an irregular warfare focus against a threat that lacks advanced standoff weapons. This focus has led to a US military ground force that lacks capability against a neglected middle area of adversary known as the stated-sponsored hybrid. Figure 1 shows the three levels of adversaries. The middle threat gains significant capability against the US by gaining state-sponsorship. Sponsorship by a well-funded state entity provides more advanced standoff weapon capabilities (Johnson, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, 2011).

Israel recently found itself in a similar capability gap. After persistently combating terrorists within its borders, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) found its skills had waned against the hybrid threat. When a battle raged with Hezbollah in 2006, Israel suffered greater than expected causalities against a threat that employed antitank guided missiles, effective standoff rockets, and Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). Hezbollah, having received advanced standoff weaponry from Iran, was able to inflict casualties on the IDF at a level unacceptable for Israel. Israel learned its lesson and rapidly changed training and tactics to more effectively combat its next hybrid threat in 2008: Hamas (Johnson, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, 2011).



A 2011 RAND report draws comparisons between the IDF before combating Hezbollah and the current state of US forces (Johnson, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, 2011). US Forces have been lulled by a threat that does not possess advanced standoff weaponry. The RAND report concludes that US Forces lack the training and equipment to handle a hybrid, state-sponsored threat capable of employing advanced standoff weaponry. Threat-operated GPS-guided mortars, advanced sniper rifles, crude but effective UAVs, cryptographic communications, and basic jamming capabilities would pose a significant threat to US Forces in a complex combat arena where the threat hides in an urban environment amongst non-combatants.

The middle adversary level, state-sponsored hybrid, poses a significant threat to the ground soldier. With this in mind, a ground soldier survivability assessment is conducted that focuses on the hybrid state-sponsored threat. The priority will be to reduce the susceptibility and vulnerability of the dismounted ground soldier in a complex urban environment.


Mission-Threat Analysis

Primary Mission

This document evaluates the survivability of the dismounted ground soldier during a high-intensity, low-duration mission against a hybrid state-sponsored threat in a complex urban environment armed with advanced standoff weapons.

Theaters of Operation

The primary theater of operation is any urban environment outside of the United States where a state-sponsored hybrid threat exists. Non-combatants will be intermixed with hostiles within the urban environment.

Typical Mission Profile

The state-sponsored hybrid threat seeks to use advanced weaponry to terrorize and threaten traditional nation-states. The threat will seek refuge amongst civilians to complicate tactics for nations that value the lives of non-combatants and face public relations battles on the home front. The typical mission objective for blue forces has the ground soldier transported into the combat environment to remove the threat or deny the threat its terror making assets. For example, a religious extremist group is trying to disrupt a traditional nation-state through terrorist acts. The religious extremist group has drawn sympathy from another nation-state that has in turn supplied advanced weaponry to support the extremist cause. The real world example here is the group Hamas, sponsored by Iran, which terrorizes Israel. When the extremist group exceeds the tolerance threshold for the US, the US military is sent to remove the extremist group from power. Precision-guided munitions cannot be used frivolously as the extremist group is hidden amongst a non-combatant population. Resultantly, ground forces are sent in to directly confront and remove the extremist group. The mission is high intensity and relatively short in duration.

Expected Threats

A major challenge for the United States’ land forces when faced with the state-sponsored hybrid threat is the multiplicity of advanced weaponry available from even modest state sponsors.

GPS Guided Mortars

Mortars are a cheap and readily available weapon. With state-sponsorship more advanced and expensive GPS guided mortars become available. These systems upgrade a regular mortar with GPS kit in a fashion similar to a JDAM kit upgrading a MK 80 series bomb body. The mortar is now advanced from a 136 meter CEP weapon to a 5 meter CEP weapon (Defense Insdustry Daily, 2011). The threat can then place a plain-clothes forward observer in an urban environment. The plain-clothes observer provides target coordinates via cell phone text message in a crude but extremely accurate call for fire scenario.

Remotely launched rockets

Remotely launched rockets posed a significant problem for the IDF during their war with Hezbollah. The rockets were keenly disguised and positioned in such a manner as to allow for quick and remote launches that permitted to operator to escape easily. The rockets terrorized the Israeli population and Hezbollah was able to maintain a consistent rate of rocket attacks throughout the conflict (Johnson, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, 2011).

Sniper Technology

Sniper rifles and the marksmen who fire them are not new to combat. The ability to pick off a soldier from a long range has always been desirable. Extremely long-range snipers traditionally needed extensive training and skill. However, new electronic instrumentation allows unskilled marksmen to achieve impressive distance and lethality. The hybrid threat will seek this instrumentation from their sponsor nation to inflict causalities on the friendly ground soldier. Currently available technology achieves allows amateurs to achieve kills up to 2 kilometers away ( RAND Office of Media Relations, 2007).

Advanced IED

An IED can be made out of any type of material and an initiator. Most IEDs share some common components such as a switch or trigger, fuse, main charge, power source and container (Global Security, 2012). In recent years, IEDs, and the people that fabricate them, have become increasingly more sophisticated. The latest development in the changing landscape of IEDs is the Explosively Formed Projectile IED (EFP-IED). This weapon incorporates a directional projectile that is more lethal than contemporary explosive devices (Gibson & Pengelley, 2006). In addition to penetrating vehicle armor plating, these weapons can be extremely effective against dismounted infantry at long ranges dependent on the size of the explosive used.

Chemical, Biological, Radiological

A final potential threat from a state-sponsored combatant group is unconventional weapons utilizing chemical, biological, or radiological agents (CBR). Although a combination of all agents could be used in a single attack, there is not likely to be synergism between radiation agents and other chemical or biological damage mechanisms. However, explosives would spread the substances to larger numbers of people and also likely cause other traumatic, traditional injuries (Mettler & Voelz, 2002). CBR agents are designed to attack specific systems or cells in the human body. For example, nuclear agents containing gamma and/or x-rays easily penetrate body tissue and deposit their energy in those tissues. This threat attacks easily infiltrated cell walls such as intestinal-mucosa cells and bone marrow cells. Some agents act immediately while exposure to other agents may take longer periods of time to see the effects. In all cases of CBR attack, the time, distance, and shielding are the major factors to assess when determining the likely effects against a ground soldier (Mettler & Voelz, 2002). The range and intensity of these threats is widely varied but in any case, contamination of equipment and clothing are likely byproducts of any attack. This contamination is capable of crippling large numbers of ground forces.


Unmanned and remotely piloted air vehicles (UAV, RPV) are becoming increasingly available in today’s marketplace. This technology offers terrorist organizations the ability to gather intelligence or deliver precision-guided munitions without the cost of losing highly trained personnel. Multiple occurrences of non-state UAV use have been documented in the last decade. In 2004 Hezbollah flew two UAV’s into Israel, one to gather intelligence and the other delivering a precision-guided warhead. Al Qaeda was also reported to be planning a UAV attack on President Bush in 2008 (Mandelbaum & Ralston, 2005). UAV’s are also difficult to track and intercept due to their low airspeed and altitude. As technologies advance and become more cost effective, UAVs will undoubtedly be increasingly utilized against ground soldiers.

Electronic Jamming and Counter Jamming

It is well known that the US Military and other first rate militaries bring a large electronic warfare package to any fight. The hybrid threat is well aware and with sponsor nation assistance is now able to counter some of the electronic threat. Hezbollah laid optical fiber communication lines to counter jamming and signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection. Hezbollah was also able to actively intercept IDF communication and use it to ambush IDF forces (Johnson, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, 2011).


Of the advanced standoff threats listed above, two are analyzed more closely in Table 1. This table is similar to the threat analysis conducted on threats to aircraft systems. This survivability threat breakdown technique directly translates to ground soldier threats.


Advanced IED GPS Guided Mortar
Threat launcher Personnel Threat soldier
Propagator Stationary Blast and fragments
Detection Method Acoustic, electromagnetic, magnetic, infrared, visual Forward observer / UAV
Tracking Method N/A Forward observer / UAV
Guidance Remote, timed, electronic GPS / inertial
Warhead Blast, incendiary, controlled & aimed fragmentation Fragmentation
Fuse Timed, contact, proximity Proximity, contact


Encounter conditions

Threat laydown

The low cost and mobility of threats such as GPS guided mortars, IEDs, and sniper technologies enable effective use nearly anywhere and can be employed by a single soldier. However, urban and suburban environments increase their effectiveness while facilitating concealment of their location. In a hybrid threat scenario, GPS guided mortars can be placed on rooftops or outside urban concentrations to fire at areas of transit for ground soldiers. Mortar employment ranges can vary from 200 meters to seven kilometers (Global Security, 2012).  IEDs can be placed in roads, buildings, vehicles, or concealed underneath another object. Their detonation can be remote, timed, contact, or proximity based. Sniper technology is best suited for large fields of view such as elevated buildings, rooftops, and high terrain enabling the shooter to cover more area. From these positions, snipers can engage ground soldiers from up to two kilometers ( RAND Office of Media Relations, 2007). Additionally, each of these threats is mobile, allowing quick relocation and employment if detected.   They can be used against individual units or larger groups, depending on exposure and detection.


Rockets and CBR weapons are more likely to be used in less urban settings due to probability of collateral damage. While rockets require more manpower to operate and are slightly less mobile, they can be employed at distances up to 40 kilometers. Therefore, rockets are most likely to be found in defended and concealed locations where rapid movement is not necessary or being towed along roads. The large employment radius means ground soldiers can be exposed to rockets in nearly any open environment (Israel Defense Forces, 2009).


Electronic jamming and UAVs are high technology systems that often require significant support. They are typically employed to protect higher value assets in their proximity. Ground soldiers can be exposed to these threats when operating in expected deployment areas or near concentrations of enemy combatants.



State-sponsored hybrid organizations are likely to be moderately trained and disciplined. They often lack the organization of a modern combat force and field soldiers having basic tactical military training. The size and scope of forces will be smaller than conventional armies. Therefore, small group tactics will likely be employed against the ground soldier. Environmental familiarity and concealment within noncombatant groups are advantages they will most likely exploit (Johnson, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, 2011). For these reasons, two scenarios of engagement are likely for ground soldiers: An open engagement against a small-protected threat force, and urban warfare with enemy combatants embedded among noncombatants.


In the first scenario, friendly (Blue) forces on patrol or in transit encounter a small group of entrenched or protected combatants in a non-urban environment such as a terrorist camp. Unable to call for timely reinforcements, the Blue force engages the threat immediately. Exposure to non-combatants is limited, but cover and concealment is also limited for Blue troops increasing susceptibility. Although the threat force is smaller, they enjoy a well-defended and familiar environment. Reduced concern for collateral damage allows GPS guided mortars, rockets, IEDs, and small arms to be employed against the Blue force. Electronic jamming, UAVs and snipers might also be utilized if present. Additionally, inability to reduce signature makes friendly forces susceptible to mortars and rockets from alternate locations. Threat suppression and tactics must be leveraged to increase Blue force survivability.


The second, and more likely, scenario represents the modern urban warfare environment. Threat forces are concealed among non-combatants in an urban area. Blue forces must eliminate threats while minimizing collateral damage. Ground soldiers are exposed to ambush tactics, snipers in high buildings, mortars on rooftops, IEDs along roads or buildings, and small arms. Soldiers can be attacked from multiple directions with limited maneuverability. Lack of threat warning, limited field of view, and enemy signature reduction make the ground soldier extremely susceptible to damage as they navigate the urban environment.


System Description

The typical ground soldier is a “culture-bearing primate that is anatomically similar and related to the other great apes but is distinguished by a more highly developed brain and a resultant capacity for articulate speech and abstract reasoning” (Human Being, 2012). Because of his ability to perform abstract reasoning, he is capable of solving complex problems and reacting to a variety of different situations and acting out in very violent ways when threatened. The current ground soldier can carry anywhere from 39 to 95 pounds of equipment depending on the mission, weather, and expected mission duration. The typical combat load consists of a combat pack, Kevlar helmet, weapon, magazines, additional ammunition, and rations. Additional pieces of equipment typically found in a light infantry platoon might include machine guns, communication equipment, rockets, and explosives (Ehrlich, 2012). The appearance of a ground soldier is likely to vary considerably depending on the type of mission the soldier is embarked upon. Figure 4: Typical Ground Soldier Configuration, Figure 5: Cold Weather Combat Configuration, and Figure 6: Sea to Shore Combat Configuration are typical configurations of current soldiers for a variety of different missions.

Most human beings can be identified by the presence of two upper and two lower appendages, a head sitting upon shoulders, and a larger upper torso containing vital organs. On average, male human beings are 69.7 inches tall when measured from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet standing erect, and weigh between 160 to 250 pounds (Wikipedia, Human Height, 2012) (Wikipedia, Body Weight, 2012).



Critical Components and Kill Modes

Analysis of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has yielded numerous amounts of combat casualty data. Undoubtedly, the ground soldier is the most vulnerable weapon system currently in the US arsenal. Although nearly every other weapons system in the US inventory is meant to enhance or complement the combat killing effectiveness of a human being, the human being itself is still a very vulnerable component in the combat environment. Human beings are prone to a number of threats both man-made and natural. As opposed to machines, human beings can only tolerate a narrow range of temperatures, stressors, and inflicted damage. By itself, the human body is a weak, fragile, and easily damaged mechanism. Without the benefit of a vehicle providing protection from external forces, the dismounted ground soldier faces a myriad of threats.

The most common cause of deaths for US Special Operations Forces over the last ten years has been explosions, gunshot wounds, aircraft accidents, and blunt trauma (Holcomb, et al., 2006). Additional analysis of historical data shows that among the deaths of US forces, many cases are present where the injuries leading to death could have been survivable given the appropriate protection equipment and/or immediate trauma care. The list of survivable but life-threatening injuries in order of severity is truncal hemorrhage, hemorrhages amenable to tourniquet, tension pneumothorax, airway obstruction, and sepsis (Holcomb, et al., 2006). Current ground soldier enhancement studies focus on analyzing data from casualty-producing incidents and then tie individuals to an event and causal factors (Fober, 2012).

Considering these damage mechanisms by themselves is not enough because the human body is perhaps the most complex machine on the face of the Earth. The human body consists of nine main systems that are essential for life; these systems are the skeletal, digestive, muscular, lymphatic, endocrine, nervous, cardiovascular, reproductive, and urinary system. Failure of any one of these systems severely degrades the possibility of survival given trauma. Additionally, damage to one system often leads to the degradation or complete failure of complementary systems in a cascading fashion. Although the kill modes for each of these systems vary according to the type and intensity of the damage mechanisms, sustained damage, even when treated, can lead to severe mission degradation of the human body as a combat system and potentially the loss of life of a ground soldier.

Kill Categories and Levels

The aircraft survivability discipline has a widely accepted kill category system based on aircraft functionality. Proposing a kill category system for the ground soldier requires a different viewpoint, because the considered system is human and not machine.   Kill categories for aircraft focus on the status of the system, useful time remaining, and ability to complete the mission. An aircraft is an expensive system that is undesirable to lose in battle, but it is ultimately disposable when compared to a human life. Thus, the proposed ground soldier kill categories are based on the ability to administer lifesaving medical care. Table 2 compares aircraft kill categories with the proposed ground soldier kill categories based on already standardized wounded soldier classifications described below.

When ground soldiers are wounded on the battlefield, they are classified according to a medical evacuation patient priority system (MEDEVAC). There are five levels of classification: urgent, urgent-surgical, priority, routine, and convenience. The urgent classification “is assigned to emergency cases that should be evacuated as soon as possible and within a maximum of 2 hours to save life, limb or eyesight, to prevent complication of serious illness, or to avoid permanent disability. Urgent-surgical is assigned to patients who must receive far forward surgical intervention in order to save their life and stabilize for permanent evacuation. These patients need to be evacuated within a maximum of 2 hours. Priority is assigned to sick and wounded personnel requiring prompt medical care. This precedence is used when the individual should be evacuated within 4 hours or his/her condition could deteriorate to such a degree that he will become an Urgent precedence, or whose requirements for special treatment are not readily available locally, or who will suffer unnecessary pain or disability. Routine is assigned to sick and wounded personnel requiring prompt medical care. This precedence is used when the individual should be evacuated within 4 hours or his/her condition could deteriorate to such a degree that he will become an Urgent precedence, or whose requirements for special treatment are not readily available locally, or who will suffer unnecessary pain or disability.” Convenience is only used to move personnel in a medical vehicle for convenience, not necessity (Army, Aeromedical Summary Sheet, 2009).


Category Aircraft (Ball, 2003) Ground Soldier
KK Catastrophic Catastrophic
K Aircraft falls out of control within 30 seconds of a hit Soldier will remain alive for a short period of time, but medical attention cannot prevent death.
A Aircraft falls out of control within 5 minutes of a hit Soldier must be evacuated in less than 2 hours (equivalent to current MEDEVAC urgent and urgent surgical designations).
B Aircraft falls out of control within 30 minutes of a hit Soldier must be evacuated in less than 4 hours (equivalent to current MEDEVAC priority designation).
C Aircraft falls out of control before completion of mission objectives Soldier is no longer able to effectively contribute to mission completion, is medically stable, and needs to be evacuated when able (equivalent to MEDEVAC routine and convenience designations).


Critical Component Analysis

Skeletal System

Description: The human skeleton consists of both fused and individual bones supported and supplemented by ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage. It serves as a scaffold that supports organs, anchors muscles, and protects organs such as the brain, lungs and heart (Wikipedia, Human Skeleton, 2012). While the skeleton itself does not sustain life operations, it is vital as a protection mechanism for other vital organs including the brain, spinal cord, heart, lungs, and major blood vessels.

Kill modes: Damage to the skeletal system can lead to cascading damage throughout other vital systems. Additionally, bones breaking or shattering can act as damage mechanisms for nearby muscles, organs, blood vessels, or tendons leading to severe or life-threatening degradation of the human body as a whole. Additionally, the skeletal system provides structural integrity for the rest of the body, and fractures throughout major components can lead to overall system immobility.

Digestive System

Description: The human digestive system is divided into an upper and lower gastrointestinal track that includes the tongue, esophagus, stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, large and small intestines, rectum, and anus. It is responsible for processing nutrients, filtering byproducts, and transporting waste materials (Wikipedia, Human Gastrointestinal Tract, 2012).

Kill modes: A fully functioning digestive system is crucial for human life. Although limited survival is possible with degradation of various systems, quality of life and effectiveness as a combat element are impossible ultimately resulting in mission kill of the human system. Kill mode components include the intestines, liver, and stomach. Damage in these areas could lead to severe degradation in related and complementary systems.

Muscular System

Description: The muscular system is an organ system consisting of skeletal, smooth and cardiac muscles. It permits movement of the body, maintains posture, and circulates blood throughout the body (Wikipedia, Muscular System, 2012).

Kill modes: The muscular system is vital to maintain human movement. A severe vulnerability of the muscular system is that it can be fatigued to point where it is no longer useful. The muscular system is also limited in its ability to support or move large loads. Although there have been many advancements in science and technology to prolong the performance and longevity of human muscles, there are definite limits to usefulness of the muscle system. Kill modes include tearing, rupturing, fatiguing, overexertion, and exhaustion.


Lymphatic System

Description: The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system that consists of a network of vessels that carry fluid called lymph unidirectionally toward the heart. The lymphatic organs play an important part in the immune system to include removing interstitial fluid from tissues, absorbing and transporting fatty acids for the digestive system, transporting white blood cells, and stimulating immune system responses to disease and other trauma (Wikipedia, Lymphatic System, 2012).

Kill modes: Although damage to the lymphatic system most likely would not result in a system kill, damage to other systems could eventually lead to degradations in the lymphatic system that would ultimately lead to severe human life degradation or even death.

Endocrine System

Description: The endocrine system is the system of glands, each of which secretes a type of hormone directly into the bloodstream to regulate the body. The endocrine system’s effects are slow to initiate, and prolonged in their response, lasting for hours to weeks. The endocrine system is made of a series of glands that produce chemicals called hormones (Wikipedia, Endocrine System, 2012). Hormones are necessary to regulate other bodily functions across a variety of other organs.

Kill modes: Similar to the lymphatic system, direct damage to the endocrine system would not likely result in an immediate kill. However, damage to certain parts of the brain can directly affect the endocrine system and hormone production. The effects of hormonal changes on the human body can have a variety of kill modes ranging from psychological damage to unsatisfactory performance of other vital organs.

Nervous System

Description: The nervous system is organ network containing specialized cells called neurons that coordinate the actions of the body and transmit signals between different parts of its body. The central nervous system contains the brain, spinal cord, and retina. The peripheral nervous system consists of sensory neurons, clusters of neurons called ganglia, and nerves connecting them to each other and to the central nervous system (Wikipedia, Nervous System, 2012).

Kill modes: The nervous system is vulnerable to damage inflicted upon its major vital organs, the brain and spinal cord. Although a thick layer of bone known as the skull protects the brain, blunt force trauma or severe impact can have lasting effects on the brain’s ability to function. Additionally, severing any portion of the spinal cord results in immobility to the soldier. Because the nervous system serves as the primary sensory system for the human body, it is susceptible to external stimuli that, in excessive loads (intensity, temperature, or magnitude) can have permanents or temporary consequences that could lead to a system kill.

Cardiovascular System

Description: The main components of the human cardiovascular system are the heart, blood, and blood vessels. It includes: the pulmonary circulation, a “loop” through the lungs where blood is oxygenated; and the systemic circulation, a “loop” through the rest of the body to provide oxygenated blood (Wikipedia, Cardiovascular System, 2012).

Kill modes: Like the nervous system, the cardiovascular system is susceptible to different kill modes that can affect other systems as well as directly causing a combat casualty. The heart is vulnerable although it is protected by a series of muscles and bones throughout the rib cage. Arteries are another severely vulnerable area that could result in a system kill. The loss of blood or restricted blood flow to other vital organs can easily result in system failure.

Reproductive System

Description: The human male reproductive system is a series of organs located outside of the body and around the pelvic region of a male that contribute towards the reproductive process. The primary direct function of the male reproductive system is to provide the male gamete or spermatozoa for fertilization of the ovum. The human female reproductive system contains three main parts: the vagina, which acts as the receptacle for the male’s sperm, the uterus, which holds the developing fetus, and the ovaries, which produce the female’s ova. The breasts are also a reproductive organ during the parenting stage of reproduction (Wikipedia, Reproductive System, 2012).

Kill modes: Although there are no direct kill modes associated with the reproductive system. Soldier vulnerability and psychological damage are important factors to consider when discussing the reproductive system. Damage to male genitalia is painful and debilitating and the ability to make offspring is a psychological force that must be accounted for. In females, similar damage to the reproductive capacity is a potential kill mode for the human being as a weapon system.

Urinary System

Description: The urinary system (also called the excretory system) is the organ system that produces, stores, and eliminates urine. In humans it includes two kidneys, two ureters, the bladder and the urethra (Wikipedia, Urinary System, 2012).

Kill modes: Similar in effect to the endocrine and reproductive system, the urinary system does not have direct kill modes associated with its degradation. However, long-term effects of damage can effectively take a soldier out of the fight. Because of its inter-connectedness with other major systems, the urinary system, in particular the kidneys, are susceptible to adverse combat conditions like high temperatures leading to severe loss of bodily fluids. At this stage, although no physical damage by a damage mechanism has occurred, the system is still susceptible to damage and potentially a kill.



Mission Essential Functions

Considering each of the nine systems found in the human body, specific vulnerabilities can be identified for each system as well as critical components necessary to sustain life independent from critical care afforded by tactical combat first aid or assistance from high-level trauma facilities. It is important to consider the independent survival of the human body without assistance because care on the battlefield is dictated as much by the tactical situation as by the traditional medical necessity (Holcomb, et al., 2006).

Within the aircraft survivability discipline the mission essential functions are lift, thrust, control, and structural integrity (Ball, 2003). Defined for the ground soldier mission essential functions are obviously different but strong analogies to the aircraft terms can be made. The four mission essential functions for the ground soldier follow.


A ground soldier requires mobility for any offensive mission set or to remove himself from the hostile environment. Mobility combines the aircraft terms of thrust and lift. The cardiovascular and muscular systems are the chief contributors to a soldier’s mobility.


The aircraft system is directly analogous here. Both aircraft and the ground soldier require control. The control system for the ground soldier includes both the brain and nervous systems.

Structural Integrity

Aircraft systems require structural integrity. Similarly the ground soldier requires his body to be in a single piece and structurally sound to support itself. The chief contributor is the skeletal system. A broken femur severely limits a ground soldier’s capability to fight.

Sensory Perception

This mission essential function is unique to the ground soldier and does not draw upon an aircraft analogy. Within the aircraft survivability discipline the pilot is considered a part of the vulnerable area of the aircraft but is not listed as an essential function because it is the aircraft that is being evaluated. With the ground soldier the pilot/operator is the system being evaluated and thus sensory perception is a mission essential function. A ground soldier without vision is useless on the battlefield. The ability to hear is also vital for communication and is part of sensory perception. The senses of taste, smell, and touch are helpful but are not critical like the senses of sight and hearing. All of the sensory elements considered as one unit make up the soldier’s ability to communicate, interact, and react to their environment.

Fault Tree Analysis

Just as many of the aspects of aircraft survivability are difficult to quantify for the individual ground soldier, fault tree analysis is difficult as well. Because the mission essential functions for the human body are interrelated with numerous other body functions, it is nearly impossible to diagram all of the possible combinations of system failure that could lead to an attrition kill. Figure 18: Basic Ground Soldier Fault Tree represents one iteration of dozens of potential fault analysis trees that could lead to attrition kill. The “U” level represents an undesired event. In this case, attrition kill means that the soldier is not able to complete their mission. The “E” level represents a possible event that could lead to the realization of an undesirable event. The lowest “L” level represents the loss of a mission essential function.

Each of the “L” levels can be expanded to reveal the variety of events that could cause loss of that mission essential function. For clarity Figure 19: Loss of Control Fault Tree shows the expanded view of the possible events that could lead to a loss of control.



Similar expanded fault trees could be displayed showing the effect of damage or loss of redundant components like eyes, ears, lungs, and appendages. The same fault analysis could show the immediate decay of mission essential functions following damage or impairment to non-redundant components such as the brain or heart.

Damage Modes and Effects Analysis (DMEA)

Just as an aircraft system can be evaluated according to the damage-caused failures, the human body is no different. At a minimum, the following areas are the minimum areas for consideration: penetration, severing, shattering/cracking, jamming, deforming, igniting, burnout, and burn-through (Ball, 2003).

The number one killer of troops in combat situations during the last conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are Improvised Explosive Devices (Jamming Iraq and Afghanistan, 2012). IED injuries are a combination of traumas to include abdominal injury, chest injury, and extremity injury (Holcomb, et al., 2006). In order to survive and IED attack, the ground soldier must be able to survive all potential injuries associated with the explosion. During an IED attack the primary damage mechanism is to the lungs and other air-filled cavities, resulting from the interaction between the shock wave and these air-filled cavities. Secondary blast injuries result from the impact of fragments. Tertiary blast injuries occur when the whole boy accelerates causing impacts with other bodies or structures. Finally, quaternary blast injuries are caused by flash burns, heat-related damage, crush syndrome, and even psychological damage (Kirkman, Watts, & Cooper, 2011). Specifically among military explosion casualties, common injuries are blast lung, penetrating wounds, head injuries, and traumatic amputations.

Considering the flow of events during an IED attack, the damage modes and potential effects to the ground soldier’s body and/or equipment are evident. The primary damage mechanisms of the IED cause immediate burnout in both forms of physical and mental exhaustion. The initial shock of an IED blast is likely to be great enough to prevent a soldier from continuing his mission. The shockwave present can also cause internal deformation of air-filled cavities as well as shattering and cracking of vital organs. The secondary projectile and impact by fragments have the likelihood of penetrating armor and clothing and entering the body with potential to cause further internal damage. The excursion of these penetrants can cause severing, rupturing, and damage to vital organs and arteries. The tertiary blast injuries that occur when the soldier is displaced with great force is likely to cause shattering and cracking of the internal structural mechanisms necessary for continued mobility (i.e. broken bones). Finally, the quaternary blast injuries are likely to cause igniting of clothing, equipment, or explosive materials being carried by the soldier. Finally, the conflagration can cause incineration of the surrounding area and engulf the soldier in flame depending on the IED accelerant being used. The chain of events during the IED explosion can cause severe damage to communication equipment, effectively preventing any further coordination with that unit. As stated previously, the breakdown of an IED blast is complex and the survival of the ground soldier is dependent on their ability to survive all aspects of the damage mechanism. For this very reason, IEDs have been the cause of 67% of all injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are a very difficult threat to counter (Jamming Iraq and Afghanistan, 2012).


Components/Systems Kill Mode
Skeletal: bones, tendons, ligaments Mechanical/Structural damageFracture



Connection failure (dislocation)

Digestive: stomach, intestines, plumbing Flow distortion (constipation)Structural damage

Accessories failure

Muscular: muscles, tendons, ligaments Disruption of control signal path (dehydration)Mechanical/Structural damage (tearing, ripping)

Overheating (exhaustion, fatigue)

Loss of control power (spasms)

Actuator damage

Nervous: brain, spine, sensory system Disruption of control path signal (concussion)Computer (brain) failure (overload, shock)

Structural damage (impact, concussion)

Cardiovascular: heart, veins, arteries, lungs Void spaceHydrodynamic ram (projectile impact)

Loss of lubrication (hemorrhaging)

Overheating (exhaustion)

Blood supply depletion

Air inlet flow distortion (breathing constriction)

Foreign object damage (breathing toxins)

Kill Tree

A kill tree is a graphical tool used by the aircraft survivability discipline to examine critical components in conjunction with their redundancies. Figure 20 shows an example kill tree for a twin-engine helicopter with two pilots. The difficulty with the human body is its extreme complexity and propensity for cascading damage. A paper cut can be catastrophic over time if the cut becomes severely infected. For this reason, ground soldier kill trees are not feasible or appropriate and thus this element of the aircraft survivability discipline does not transition well to the ground soldier survivability.

Vulnerability Assessment

The vulnerability assessment is the second task of a vulnerability program after identifying the critical components and their kill modes (Ball, 2003). For the purposes of developing the professional language of ground soldier survivability, this vulnerability assessment selects one threat and notionally assesses the ground soldier’s ability to survive against it.

Threat Selection

Keeping within the scope of this document, a threat weapon is selected that is reasonably available to the state-sponsored hybrid threat. For this example threat analysis a GPS guidance kit that upgrades a standard mortar is made available to the previously low-tech threat. This GPS guidance kit attaches to the mortar and allows it to guide to specific coordinates. An enemy in civilian clothes with a view of friendly soldiers could easily text message coordinates back to the mortar operator who would type in the coordinates and launch a mortar round with a 5m CEP.

Ideally, the ground soldier would have significantly increased his survivability by using tactics and technology to reduce his susceptibility so that he never has to deal with getting hit. However, this susceptibility analysis is appropriately left to the next major section. Here the analysis is strictly in terms of vulnerability. The ground soldier must now cope with the probability he is killed given he is hit by the effects of a GPS guided mortar. An impact-fused mortar round has many ways in which it can kill a solider: area removal, energy density, blast, single fragment, and/or multiple fragments. In order to focus on the new conceptual terms of ground soldier survivability, the example explained here is kept simple. The GPS guided mortar is assumed to have impacted and detonated near the ground soldier and a single high velocity fragment hits the ground soldier.

Critical Component Kill Criterion

The soldier used for this analysis is a baseline soldier with basic armor and vulnerability reduction features currently available today. He is standing and facing the mortar round when it detonates. A K-level kill as defined for the ground solider in Table 2 is used. The critical components of the ground soldier are broken down by category in Table 4. The total vulnerable area presented (Ap) for the ground soldier in a standing position facing the explosion is determined to be 14.5 ft2. With the baseline vulnerability reduction features on the soldier, the probability of kill given a hit (Pk|h) by a single high velocity mortar fragment for each critical component category is determined. This is multiplied by the Ap to determine the vulnerable area (Av). From this the overall Pk|h is determined. The next section will look at methods to reduce vulnerability and thus reduce the overall Pk|h.


Critical Component Ap Component Pk|h Av Overall Pk|h
Skeletal: bones, tendons, ligaments 2.5 ft2 0.7 1.75 ft2 0.121
Digestive: stomach, intestines, plumbing 2 ft2 0.6 1.2 ft2 0.083
Muscular: muscles, tendons, ligaments 7 ft2 0.5 3.5 ft2 0.241
Nervous: brain, spine, sensory system 1 ft2 0.9 0.9 ft2 0.062
Cardiovascular: heart, veins, arteries, lungs 2 ft2 0.8 1.6 ft2 0.110
Total 14.5 ft2 8.95 ft2 0.617

Vulnerability Reduction

The aircraft survivability discipline outlines six areas where vulnerability reduction can take place. They have direct translation for the ground soldier survivability and are analyzed below.

Component Location

Component location “is achieved by positioning critical components in a manner that reduces the probability that a damage mechanism will produce lethal damage” (Ball, 2003). Unfortunately, the location of the human body critical components cannot currently be repositioned into less vulnerable locations. For now, the ground soldier is at the mercy of Mother Nature in determining the location of the brain, heart, eyes, lungs, and other vital components.

Component Redundancy

Component redundancy is the “employment of multiple devices, structural elements, parts, or mechanisms in combination for the purpose of enhancing survivability” (Ball, 2003). Although there are not any specific features that are controllable for adding redundancy or separation to the human body critical components, there are already numerous examples of the human body providing built-in redundancy. The human body has matching sets of limbs, eyes, ears, hands, and feet. It is debatable how much use the ground soldier would be with one arm or one leg but the complementary component still exists. Internally, the body demonstrates amazing symmetry along the structural construction and placement of organs like the lungs, kidneys, and arteries. Although the human body is sensitive to damage from a variety of sources, the component location with separation is strikingly well developed.

Component Shielding

“Critical component shielding is the placement of ballistically resistant materials usually in the form of armor… in front of a critical component to prevent damage mechanisms from hitting the component” (Ball, 2003). In the last decade, body armor has become more integrated with tactical vests and helmets. The Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV) and Modular Tactical Vest (MTV) have placed armor at the forefront of design for tactical gear. However, at over 30 pounds each, these body armor systems reduce speed and agility of the ground soldier (Wikipedia, 2012).


Continuous improvement in the size and weight of ballistic resistant materials will be required to improve shielding while maintaining speed and agility.


Body armor does not decouple the blast wave experienced during IED attacks but survivors are protected from fragmentation (Kirkman, Watts, & Cooper, 2011). Additionally, the shielding of critical components in the torso leaves muscles, bones, and arteries in the limbs and neck exposed to damage. Shielding and body armor has been the focus of vulnerability analysis for years but true innovation has not yet been realized. While performance of torso protection systems has increased, improvement in weight, mobility, heat, and limb protection have seen little results.


One concept that might increase mobility and shielding coverage is an exoskeleton. Several conceptual prototypes of exoskeleton shielding systems have been designed in the last decade, most notably the Trojan Exoskeleton suit that claimed to offer complete ballistic protection weighing only 40 pounds (Wikipedia, 2012).




While these systems have not yet found a place in today’s warfighter inventory, they might represent the future of combat. If future designs can effectively maintain mobility, ventilation, and vision for soldiers they might offer improved protection for the entire body, not just the torso and head. The US Army has also released sketches of future body armor concepts shown in Figure 23.


Component Elimination/Replacement

“Vulnerability can be reduced by completely eliminating a particular critical component or by replacing the component with a less vulnerable component that accomplishes the same function. (Ball, 2003)”. Much like component location and component redundancy, the individual soldier cannot remove specific critical components from harm. Instead, viewing the individual soldier as part of a land warrior network, the entire soldier himself can be replaced to some degree by unmanned guided vehicles (UGVs) and unattended sensor suites. UGVs are harder to detect and kill; therefore, they can penetrate deeper into enemy territory (Steeb, Matsumura, Steinberg, Herbert, Kantar, & Bogue, 2004). The risk of heading into enemy territory is shifted away from the individual soldier and placed upon the guided vehicle. Furthermore, tactical systems like the Army variant of the Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment Vehicle (MULE) can reduce the burden of introducing heavy, technologically advanced components to the ground combat environment.



Active Damage Suppression

“Active damage suppression describes any technique that reduces vulnerability by incorporating a sensor or other device that, upon the impingement of a damage mechanism or the occurrence of a damage process, activates a function which either tends to contain the damage or reduces its subsequent events” (Ball, 2003). If the soldier experiences some kind of damage or system degradation, his equipment automatically activates a function that improves his chance of survival.


Present-day systems in development include individual cooling systems that integrate with other uniform components to cool the hot parts found on a soldier (i.e. armpits, groin, and spine). These systems do not necessarily make conditions feel cooler but they decrease the likelihood of a soldier becoming a heat casualty (Soldiers Give Cooling Systems Mixed Reviews, 2009). Couple this capability with a temperature monitoring system and then the individual can monitor their performance and identify any potential performance degradations that could affect their mission. Take the monitoring system one step farther and integrate temperature-monitoring probes with heart rate monitors and instantaneous blood pressure sensors to develop a system that records and tracks the exertion and stress levels of a group of soldiers. This information can then be helpful to determine if a group of soldiers is coming under fire or if they will not be able to react to an enemy situation.



Oftentimes during battle, many wounds go unnoticed and untreated for extended periods of time due to the affects of adrenaline on the cardiovascular and nervous system (Frisbee, 2012). Just as temperature or blood pressure monitors could identify performance stressors, bullet hit monitors could detect impact and alert the soldier or central information hub about enemy contact. Similar devices like the Head Impact Telemetry system gather and record blast information when a soldier encounters an IED explosion (Simbex Solutions, 2009). If similar systems could be developed to record bullet impact against the soldier’s equipment and compare that to their blood pressure, potentially fatal bullet wounds could be identified and treated with greater expediency.


Far future technologies that could enhance the realm of active damage suppression could be exoskeleton structures that could actively assist a soldier when they are damaged and return them to friendly territory. Additionally, nanotechnology could open a new horizon to repair damaged tissue and bones. If a soldier broke his leg after falling from a building, an active damage suppression mechanism would be a vial of injectable nanotechnology robots that would immediately travel to the damage site and begin repairs on the affected area (MEMS, 2009).


Passive Damage Suppression

Passive damage suppression “describes any design technique that reduces vulnerability by incorporating a feature that, after the impingements of a damage mechanism, tends to either contain the damage or reduce its effect.” The major focus areas for passive damage suppression are damage tolerance, ballistic resistance, delayed failure, leakage suppression, and fire and explosion suppression (Ball, 2003).


Improvements in body armor design have been very effective at increasing damage tolerance and ballistic resistance for the individual soldier. However, to protect a soldier from all aspects of a projectile or explosive attack is unrealistic because of the required weight and thickness associated with current armor design and material science. In the future, advanced materials will be developed that are lighter and more resilient in order to afford full-spectrum protection to the soldier.


There are limited areas to improve the delayed failure aspect to the human body. However, the equipment that a soldier carries into battle must be able to function after an attack even at a limited capacity. Analyzing the design and robustness of soldier equipment, like a radio, can improve the individual soldier’s chances of surviving an enemy attack.


The leading cause of battlefield deaths is hemorrhaging, or bleeding out. Once hemorrhage is arrested, fluid resuscitation is needed to sustain life (Kirkman, Watts, & Cooper, 2011). 50% of service members who died of injuries had “potentially survivable” wounds. 80% in this category were hemorrhaging injuries. 30% of these were in the legs and arms where a tourniquet could have been applied, 20% were in the neck, groin, and armpit where direct pressure could have stopped the bleeding, and 50% were in the chest and abdomen where pressure could not stop the bleeding and a tourniquet could not be applied (Eckstein, 2010). Leakage suppression components should be built directly into soldier body armor and uniforms. In the event of damage or skin penetration, automatic hemostatic material should cover a wound and prevent hemorrhaging similar to self-sealing fuel tanks. Simple bands or cuffs built into uniform pants and blouses could facilitate application of a tourniquet following severe damage to a soldier’s extremities.


Other passive measures like flame retardant clothing are already in place to suppress fire and explosions. The Fire Resistant Environmental Ensemble (FREE) uniforms “are manufactured with specially-knit flame-resistant fabrics designed to provide lightweight protection and safeguard Soldiers from flames, wind and extreme temperatures” (Osborn, 2010). Future improvements to fire and explosion suppression could include advanced ammunition shell casings and explosive storage devices that are resistant to impact and explosions caused by enemy weapons.

Vulnerability Reduction Results

The result of implementing the six vulnerability reduction concepts is a decrease in the ground soldiers overall Pk|h. For example, if hemostatic bandaging were built into a soldier’s clothing and improved lightweight full-body armor became available; the overall Pk|h could be significantly reduced. Table 4 examined the baseline ground soldier. With these proposed improvements the ground soldier vulnerability is reduced with notional values seen in Table 5. Ground soldier Pk|h went from 0.617 to 0.390. This is nearly a 40% reduction in ground soldier vulnerability.


Critical Component Ap Component Pk|h Av Overall Pk|h
Skeletal: bones, tendons, ligaments 2.5 ft2 0.5 1.25 ft2 0.086
Digestive: stomach, intestines, plumbing 2 ft2 0.4 0.8 ft2 0.055
Muscular: muscles, tendons, ligaments 7 ft2 0.3 2.1 ft2 0.145
Nervous: brain, spine, sensory system 1 ft2 0.7 0.7 ft2 0.048
Cardiovascular: heart, veins, arteries, lungs 2 ft2 0.4 0.8 ft2 0.055
Total 14.5 ft2 5.65 ft2 0.390





Susceptibility Analysis

Essential Events and Elements (Ball, 2003)


Essential Events Questions
Blast and fragments strike the ground soldier. How many fragments strike the soldier and where do they hit?
Threat explosive detonates within lethal range. Is the soldier carrying any equipment that could inhibit proper fusing?
Threat propelled or guided towards soldier or group of soldiers? Can the targeted soldiers outmaneuver the threat?
Threat guidance systems are functioning properly. Are the soldiers carrying any effective decoys or feinting materials?
Threat propagator ignites. Can the propagator or source of fire be determined?
Threat weapons seeker targets appropriate source in soldier’s vicinity. Is the soldier’s camouflage effective in preventing tracking? Are other means available to prevent soldier-produced signals from being taken advantage of?
Enemy element maneuvers to put target soldiers in field of view and within range. Does the enemy possess a performance advantage? Does the target soldier have any offensive capability against the enemy threat?
Target soldiers acquired by enemy’s sensors. Does the targeted soldier have any counter-measure assets available?Can the soldier maneuver to get out of the targeted weapon’s range?

Are camouflage techniques effective?

Enemy element is receiving targeting cues from other sources. Are there communication-jamming assets available?Are organic support assets available to neutralize the threat?
Enemy command, control, and communications networks performing sufficiently. Are there communication-jamming assets available? 
Enemy is able to effectively track target soldier or group of soldiers. Are the targeted soldiers easy to track and subsequently engage?Are there any standoff tactics that would limit the soldier’s exposure to this threat?
Early warning network detect and alerts enemy to potential ground soldier threat. Are soldiers easily detected and tracked by available enemy sensor suites?

Performance Analysis

Speed and Mobility

Minimizing weight and maximizing freedom of motion optimize speed of the human body. For example, track athletes wear the lightest and least restrictive clothing available. Every piece of equipment carried by a ground soldier reduces his speed. Therefore, reduction of weight and intelligent placement of equipment are essential to improving speed. The current ground soldier carries between 60 and 100 pounds of equipment. However, a 2001 Army Science Board study recommended that no soldier “carry more than 50 pounds for an extended period of time” (NPR, 2011).


Warfare throughout the ages has demonstrated that technology will only serve as a partial solution to the problem. Although no load is the ideal load for fighting efficiency and every pound an infantryman carries cuts down his mobility and the tactical mobility of his unit, the solution of the load-carrying problem will be a compromise between what the individual must carry to do his job and the ideal. The soldier must carry the minimum essential load and in a way that causes the least adverse effect on his operating efficiency. Today’s commanders must give serious consideration to the problem of overloading and its effects on battlefield mobility. The solution will not be found in a simple set of prescriptive rules; risk acceptance and sound judgment will continue to be the foundation upon which any viable answer must rest.


Against a hybrid threat, the ability to quickly maneuver is essential for the ground soldier. When assigned to urban warfare missions, the ground soldier must make appropriate tradeoffs in order to minimize his combat load. Equipment weight should be kept below 50 pounds, well below that of a soldier on patrol. Staging of additional gear or established lines of supply will aid the soldier in minimizing susceptibility during operations.


Stealth/Clandestine ability

The ground soldier’s ability to operate independently and without detection is dependent on tactics and equipment. Tradeoffs must occur with weight and mobility when attempting stealth or clandestine operations. These mission sets are typically given to special operation forces with higher funding for unique equipment. The common ground soldier has camouflage uniforms with equipment and rations to sustain himself for 48 to 72 hours (Economos, 2003). The large spectrum of requirements and flexibility required in operations do not enable wide use of mission specific equipment for load reduction. Therefore, while ground soldiers have basic equipment for stealth and clandestine operations, they are not sufficiently equipped for sustaining these operations. Susceptibility under these conditions would be much higher than special operations forces.


Signature Analysis



Ground Surveillance Radar (GSR) systems have been developing since the mid 1960’s. Current GSR systems are integrated into aerial or ground vehicles or carried by soldiers for transient application. However, foreign GSR systems such as the Russian PSNR-6 are optimized for detection of ground vehicles and weaponry (Bryant, 2002).   Systems that have the ability to detect individual troops such as the Australian AMSTAR are optimized for open field use with foliage penetrating ability. In most cases, the urban warfare environment offers significant isolation and terrain masking from radar detection (Sen, 2011). While the ground soldier is not completely immune to radar tracking, very little technology exists in reducing radar return for individual units. Radar absorbent materials developed for vehicles is highly expensive and not cost effective for ground soldiers. Until other susceptibility features become more effective, RCS reduction should remain a low priority.



Infrared (IR) and Near-Infrared (NIR) signatures can be both beneficial and detrimental to ground soldiers, depending on the enemy capability of detection. Against a low-technology threat, IR signature can be exploited using illumination devices to avoid friendly fire casualties. However, a well-funded hybrid threat may have the ability to exploit IR signatures.


The most significant sources of IR signature on the human body are the head and chest. Uniforms and clothing can partially mask dispersed energy, but uncovered body parts traditionally cause the greatest signature. Thermal protective clothing and body paint are now available to reduce IR signatures, but are not used extensively outside of special operations. By incorporating IR reduction technologies such as DYFLON into current uniforms, a significant reduction in IR signature can be realized.



Carried equipment can also be a source of IR signature. Heat generating devices such as radios and weapons might increase the signature of an individual soldier even if using IR protective clothing. Advanced coatings such as alkyd and urethane have proven to reduce IR signatures by 50% when used on weapon systems (Motley Exim, 2010).



The primary source of visual signature is the clothing or equipment that covers a soldier’s body. Additional mass of carried equipment can lead to greater exposed area and higher signature. Incorporation of appropriate camouflage to respective environments is not only important for clothing worn, but also for equipment carried. Although uniform camouflage had undergone extensive development, many handheld weapons in the US inventory do not currently incorporate camouflage coatings. Integrated systems with camouflage are the best way to reduce exposed area and visual detection.


Soldiers must also be aware of any reflective surfaces that might increase their visual signature. Metal, glass, and plastic found on equipment can unknowingly reflect light causing detection. Rifle scopes, radios, and protective eyewear are examples of reflective materials utilized. Anti-reflection coatings must be utilized, where applicable to reduce detection.


Weapons can also increase detection by their flash and the use of tracers. During night operations, flash suppressors can be utilized to reduce flash. However, the soldier must weigh the drawbacks of added weight and performance loss when choosing this option.



Explosives and weapons cause the highest decibel signatures for ground soldiers. Noise reduction is not typically a design feature for weaponry, except when designed for special operations. Silencers can be used on many guns but do not decrease audible signature significantly. Testing indicates that typical gunshots produce around 160 decibels, while suppressed gunshots average 120-140 decibels. These levels are still comparable to ambulance sirens (Silvers, 2005). Therefore, every time a soldier expends a weapon he is at risk of detection.


Communications can also cause audible detection. While small group communications can be achieved with hand signals, command and control networks often require high-powered radios with greater audible signature. The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) being developed for joint service communications will require larger handheld radios for ground units (Army Techology, 2011).



Incorporation of earpieces and throat microphones can greatly minimize audible detection and reduce equipment weight, but are not yet available for all personnel units. By integrating both tactical and C2 communication systems with throat microphone technology, audible signature can be reduced significantly while also decreasing combat load.



Troop movement can also be a source of audible signature, but is typically a relative function of speed. Soldiers have the ability to slow down if movement noise is a major factor. Many equipment carriage systems have been implemented to minimize noise during movement. Additionally, most combat boot soles utilize material to reduce sound during impact.


Olfactory (Scent)

Bacteria and perspiration can cause human body odor. While eliminating significant perspiration can reduce olfactory signatures, soldiers typically do not have control over their perspiration when conducting operations. Over time, humans will develop unique odors that can be detected with human or animal olfactory systems. Additionally, on long missions body waste can increase the threat of detection.


Several methods exist to mask or eliminate scent from the human body. Deodorants, antiperspirants, and alternative scent compounds can be used to create different olfactory profiles and confuse the sensing system. Scent elimination compounds can also be used to decompose the fatty perspiration solids and reduce signature (Central Intelligence Agency, 2007). However, if canine detection is used against the soldier, very little success can be expected. No studies were found suggesting that odor masking or elimination compounds were effective in canine detection. Therefore while soldiers can take action to reduce their scent through hygiene, it cannot be eliminated.

Susceptibility Reduction

Threat Warning

Threat warning is the advance notice of a possible mission threat. The mission-planning phase involves identifying enemy threat locations and then coordinating movement plans and ordnance required to counter these potential threats (Ball, 2003). Passive and active threat warning devices are prevalent in the aircraft design discipline but are still in their infancy when designing threat warning for the individual ground soldier. When fighting a hybrid enemy, threat locations have to be predicted while planning a mission because enemy defenses can be relatively easy to relocate if location information is compromised. This causes groups of individual soldiers to have to react to threats as they arise.


Advanced optics in development like the M25 Stabilized Binoculars can allow reconnaissance elements to visually detect enemy threats before venturing into the enemy’s engagement envelope. Furthermore, integrated radio networks, in conjunction with other sensors such as unattended ground sensors and thermal detection cameras, can allow ground soldiers to identify and react to impinging enemy threats. Networked information can then be relayed to other ground elements through systems like Blue Force Tracker (BFT) and notify battle space commanders of areas of enemy contact.


However, the detection phase sometimes fails and soldiers must react to immediate threats. In the urban environment, following engagement by small arms or sniper fire it is extremely difficult to identify enemy threat locations. Systems known as Sniper Location and Gunshot Detection have been reduced in size from vehicle-mounted to portable-sized so that a one-pound wearable unit can be integrated with a soldier’s current equipment. These acoustic sensors detect the sound of a gunshot and quickly triangulate the shot location position to a small wrist-mounted display (International Online Defense Magazine, 2008). These systems can give a ground soldier additional situational awareness and reduce reaction time by no longer having to identify where an enemy gunman is positioned. Future variants of these systems will likely include electro-optical and infrared detectors in addition to acoustic sensors to provide an even more detailed threat laydown.



Signature Reduction

Signature reduction features decrease “the apparent size of the target observables or signature” in order to degrade the ability of the threat system to detect, locate, identify, and accurately track a target” (Ball, 2003). Two fundamental principles of signature reduction that can be carried from the aircraft survivability discipline and applied to ground soldier susceptibility are reducing soldier signature to a level below sensor threshold, and masking observable signatures by minimizing the soldier-to-background contrast.


A hybrid opponent might use canines, infrared cameras, radio frequency scanners, and visual and acoustic sensors as detection sources. Soldiers trying to remain clandestine have to be able to avoid or evade detection from this mixed array of sensors. Reducing nasal signature might be accomplished just like big game hunters do by masking human scents with other animal scents. This method might prove effective against canine detection. Equipment has to be designed with proper fit and function to prevent unnecessary noise generation during movement. Low-power, encrypted communication equipment and communications brevity only during necessity is a requirement to avoid radio-scanning detection. Visual detection reduction can be accomplished through the effective use of camouflage. Current developments in camouflage technology include digitally deceiving designs and low-observable modular equipment accessories.



With the proliferation of infrared sensors, future uniform designs should incorporate IR reduction capabilities. Although one potential disadvantage of IR-absorbing uniforms is heat retention, the reduction in IR signature could prove to be beneficial when the temperature difference between soldier and surroundings is large such as in an arctic climate. The US Army also issues camouflage face paint that reduces the visible and near-infrared spectrums of exposed skin for protection against thermal imagers (Army, Program Executive Office Soldier Portfolio, 2012).



The purpose of using expendables is to eject materials or devices that are designed to deny or deceive “threat tracking systems for a limited period of time” (Ball, 2003). Once again, the unique operating environment and myriad of threats posed to the individual ground soldier do not facilitate the use of expendables traditionally used for aircraft and ships, namely chaff and flares.


However, some techniques are available to deny the hybrid combatant from acquiring a group of ground soldiers. In extreme cases when enemy detection is imminent, smoke screens can provide sufficient cover to evade an enemy and retreat to safer locations. Also, night-vision-capable detection systems can be overwhelmed by bright IR flares in the correct spectral range. If night-vision systems are known to operate in a threat environment, expending IR flares or decoys could provide last minute deterrence to visual detection. The US Army’s current M203 grenade launcher can be outfitted to fire smoke screen rounds with similar effect to the rounds fired from the vehicular smoke grenade launchers.



Threat Suppression

“Threat suppression consists of actions taken by friendly forces with the intent to physically damage or destroy part or all of a threat system” (Ball, 2003). In almost any modern warfare scenario, the ground component of a mission operates under the watchful eye of some form of air support. Close air support, unmanned aerial vehicle reconnaissance and long-range field munitions are just some of the joint elements that can reduce a ground unit’s susceptibility to enemy threats. Yet, the hybrid combatant, especially when hidden in the confines of an urban environment, is not as susceptible to these traditional forms of support as they have been in the past.


The Army has worked to develop advanced weapons for the individual soldier that allows them to detect, track, and engage the enemy in order to “get them before they get you” (Ball, 2003). The XM25 Individual Semi-Automatic Airburst System (ISAAS) is one such advancement that allows the ground soldier to suppress the enemy from greater distances and under difficult terrain is. The XM25 system automatically adjusts for range, environmental factors, and user inputs. This advanced weapon integrates thermal optics, laser rangefinder, compass, fuze setter, ballistic computer, and internal display to reduce the reliance on non-organic assets like artillery and mortars to engage enemies in hard to reach places (Army, Program Executive Office Soldier Portfolio, 2012)


Other weapons in development to replace legacy systems are the M320 Grenade Launcher, M26 12-Gauge Modular Accessory Shotgun, XM2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle, M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle, in addition to advanced sighting optics and close quarters battle complement kits. All of these weapons and accessories are being designed to increase the effectiveness at which ground soldiers can engage and defeat the threats they encounter.




“Tactics is the employment of units in combat. The tactics consist of the [mission] profiles, operations, and formations used to accomplish the mission. The tactics employed in a particular combat operation are influenced by many factors, such as the intensity and effectiveness of [enemy] defenses, the urgency of the mission…the availability of supporting elements, and the terrain and weather” (Ball, 2003). The Army has been developing their fighting tactics since the establishment of a permanent ground force and has been working off experience learned after centuries of armed conflict. In the hybrid combatant scenario, the enemy can be expected to use a fusion of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism, and criminal behavior in the battle space (Johnson, Hard Fighting: Israel in Lebanon and Gaza, 2011). It was not until the early 1990’s that the Army actually started to develop a comprehensive concept around training and fighting in an urban environment. In order to make themselves less susceptible to the tactics employed by hybrid combatants, the Army has developed urban tactics to account for the large number of unknown factors when fighting in a city.


Currently, land soldiers focus on finesse and attacking key nodal areas such as communication centers and utilities to limit their exposure to the threat environment. Computer modeling and urban combat ranges allow ground commanders to model, rehearse, and refine their tactics before going into a specific environment to see the effect of their tactics (Peck, 2005). The rehearsal process is now becoming increasingly important as more information can be relayed to the commander, inevitably impacting their decisions when executing a mission. In the future, the impact of information will have a greater influence on the selected tactics to reduce a ground unit’s susceptibility to enemy threats. To account for the future integration of advanced technology in the ground fight, the Army has a special 1000-man developmental unit in Fort Bliss, Texas that is responsible for developing and testing the new tactics, techniques, and procedures that are necessary when incorporating technology like the Army’s “Future Combat System” with more traditional forces (Feickert, 2008).



Noise Jamming and Deceiving

Noise jamming and deceiving is an important “countermeasure concept to be considered for any survivability program”. In most cases, “onboard, off board, or standoff active electronic equipment [can be utilized] to degrade the effectiveness of the various nonterminal elements” (Ball, 2003). For the ground soldier, carrying jamming equipment is nearly impossible because of the weight and power requirements of such equipment. However, organic airborne and land-borne assets can carry equipment that can enhance the individual ground soldiers’ survivability when venturing into enemy territory.

Airborne assets are capable of jamming enemy communication networks while maintaining full friendly communication capability. Also, ground-based spoofing equipment can be used at adequate standoff ranges to confuse or inhibit enemy electronic equipment. In some cases, jamming equipment has been manufactured down to the portable level. Man-portable IED jammers can be employed as part of a platoon to deny the enemy from activating radio-controlled IEDs.





Survivability Analysis

The survivability assessment takes the results of the susceptibility and vulnerability assessments as well as the mission-threat analysis to determine an overall system survivability assessment for a given system. For this example assessment, the survivability of the ground soldier is evaluated against the GPS guided mortar threat previously discussed in the vulnerability assessment.



Figure 46 is a one-on-one probability tree that has been adapted from aircraft combat survivability. Susceptibility and vulnerability assessments are completed and reduction techniques for each part of the kill tree are proposed. Using the GPS guided mortar as an example; the kill tree progression is described below.

PA: Probability the threat is active

This part of the tree determines whether or not the GPS guided mortar threat is active. The enemy may not have the capability to man the device 24 hours per day. The GPS guided mortar may have been taken out by offensive military actions.

PD|A: Probability the threat detects the ground soldier given an active threat

A forward observer is likely sent out to find the ground soldier. This forward observer communicates remotely the GPS guided mortar operator. The forward observer’s ability to detect the ground soldier could be impeded by the signature reduction techniques discussed in susceptibility reduction. If the sponsored forward observer has advanced night vision goggles but is unable to find the ground soldier due to his IR signature reduction technologies then the kill chain gets broken here and the GPS guided mortar never gets fired.

PR|D: Probability the threat responds given detection of the ground soldier

If the forward observer detects the threat the decision must be made to respond. If he identifies that the ground soldier has the capability to detect the location of the forward observer when he communicates electronically then the forward observer may choose not call back to the GPS guided mortar operator. Similarly, if the forward observer assesses that the ground soldier has the technology to determine the launch point of the GPS guided mortar, then again the forward observer may choose not make the call for fire. These are both possible ways in which the kill chain is broken here.

PE|R: Probability that the threat engages given a response

The forward observer must relay back the position of the ground soldier to the GPS guided mortar operator in order for an engagement to result. The engagement starts when the GPS guided mortar is launched. The kill tree can be stopped here by communications jamming equipment. If the forward observer’s communications are jammed then the engagement cannot commence. Another possible tactic would be to infiltrate the sponsored threat’s supply chain and fill it with faulty mortar tubes. The mortar tubes could be of insufficient strength and fracture upon mortar launch killing the operator and eliminating the enemy’s ability to engage.

PH|E: Probability that the threat hits the ground soldier given an engagement

There are many ways to decrease the probability that the GPS guided mortar hits the ground soldier. While the US is able to selectively shutdown GPS availability, other nations have functional GPS satellite systems that may be available (China, Russia, Europe). If this is the case GPS frequency jammers can be used to decrease the accuracy of the inbound mortar, thus reducing it to a conventional mortar. Inbound mortars could also be targeted by automated close in weapon systems similar to the Phalanx CIWS system found on US Navy ships.

PK|H: Probability the ground soldier is killed given a hit

PK|H reduction has already be discussed with regards to this threat in the vulnerability assessment section. Again, vulnerability reduction techniques could be utilized to break the kill chain here as well. However, it is far preferable to break it earlier with susceptibility reduction techniques.




Ground Element Survivability

The survivability of the ground soldier is governed by probabilities. Being killed in combat is always a possibility. The goal of the survivability discipline is to reduce the likelihood through an understanding of the systems involved and their probabilities. The previous section looked at the very specific case of one soldier’s survivability against a GPS guided mortar. The soldier will face far more threats in combat. A single mission may have hundreds of possible attempts on his/her life. Stochastically modeling every incident for a single soldier to determine ground soldier survivability is futile. Decision makers want to know before combat how many soldiers they can expect to lose over a given number of missions. Within the aircraft combat survivability discipline missions are called sorties. Historical data exists for nearly all major air combat operations and is used to predict future combat survival rates. The decision makers concerned with the ground soldier use this same data to understand what kind of losses they might face in an upcoming campaign.

Reducing any of the probabilities described in Figure 46 by even a small amount can have an exponential effect on the campaign survivability of the ground soldier. For example, assume the historical loss rate for a specific mission set is 3 soldiers per 1000. If a platoon of 42 soldiers is assigned to a campaign that is expected to last 60 days with two missions a day, the number of soldiers expected to survive the campaign can be calculated.


Soldiers who survive the campaign=


If the soldier’s platoon is upgraded with counter GPS guided mortar equipment (GPS jamming, communications jamming, inbound mortar detection, etc.) then the loss rate might be reduced from 3 to 2 per 1000. This small change can have a dramatic effect for a platoon over 60 missions.

Soldiers who survive the campaign=


In this example four lives were saved over the course of a two-month campaign by reducing the loss rate with susceptibility reduction technology.

Current and Future Ground Soldier Survivability

The history of the ground soldier has traditionally seen a consistent arms race in vulnerability reduction. That is, more advanced armor to counter more capable threats. OEF and OIF have seen significant increases in ground soldier and vehicle armor to counter the IED threat. The threat has been neither advanced nor sponsored significantly. The results has been a lack of creative developments for the ground soldier that could move the survivability focus away from the well-developed vulnerability reduction side of the equation and towards the susceptibility reduction region. Figure 47 shows the six vulnerability reduction and six susceptibility reduction concepts in terms of the estimated current and future capability of the ground soldier. The capabilities are rated one through ten based on the research conducted for this document. The ground soldier was compared to other weapons systems like aircraft that typically enjoy greater fidelity in some areas. For example, fighter aircraft typically have greater threat warning awareness via an onboard radar warning receiver that identifies threat aircraft radars and modes. The figure clearly shows the ground soldiers current heavy focus in vulnerability reduction vice susceptibility reduction. While recent integration with ISR assets via data and voice communication have recently increased the ground soldiers ability on the susceptibility side, it is believed that much more work needs to be accomplished in this area.


Enhancement Trade Study

By making some of the enhancements suggested in this paper, the baseline soldier’s survivability in the combat environment can be greatly enhanced. The adoption of new equipment, tactics, and techniques greatly improves the enhanced soldier’s ability to survive numerous missions against the hybrid opponent. Although these systems are expensive, treating them all as a system from the early development phases can drive down the system costs and lead to a fully integrated but modular ground combat system.

The world’s land forces are changing. Land forces in the future will be expected to operate with much less brute force. Platforms will be expected to weigh less, have less armor, and rely more heavily on information (Steeb, Matsumura, Steinberg, Herbert, Kantar, & Bogue, 2004). In addition to the accouterments added to the load of the individual soldier, robotics, active protection systems, and special sensors will prove to be essential (Steeb, Matsumura, Steinberg, Herbert, Kantar, & Bogue, 2004).

It is important to remember that survivability enhancements for the individual soldier need to be thought of as an entire system. Past failure with Army programs such as Land Warrior, show that simple modulation of gear sets is not the recipe for success to enhance the survivability of the future ground solider. Over a ten-year period, Land Warrior worked to develop and field next generation combat equipment with limited success. In-the-field testing of new equipment by the warfighters themselves showed that new pieces of equipment are not sufficient to enhance the combat capability of the soldier as a whole (Defense Industry Daily, 2010). Just as weapons system like the Joint Strike Fighter have survivability enhancement features designed into them from the initial concept, the 21st century warrior and their equipment must be thought of in the same way. Soldiers can easily become burdened with a succession of improvements that tend to interfere with one another (Rupert Pengelley, 2006). Furthermore, individual infusion of new technology undermines the progress of the “integrated” soldier but oftentimes makes these improvements palatable to budget supervisors. Piecemeal adoption of new systems brings immediate benefit but it does not aid in enhancing the overall C4I capability (Rupert Pengelley, 2006). When all ideas for enhancing individual solider survivability are thought of in the developmental phase, all of these systems work better together and are likely to have a synergistic effect.

There have been great advancements in the development of an integrated soldier. Although there is still a great deal of debate over the level of detail of the information being fed to the individual soldier, even limited infusion of fully-equipped integrated soldiers is likely to have an appreciable effect on more traditional forces (Rupert Pengelley, 2006). New weapon systems that treat the “soldier as a system” integrate the weapons, sensors, information tools, and protection systems all into one package that can easily be adapted to the tactical environment (Steeb, Matsumura, Steinberg, Herbert, Kantar, & Bogue, 2004). Unfortunately, all of these improvements come at a cost. This cost is not just measured in dollars, but is also measured in the overall impact they have on the way soldiers operate in combat. New combat systems are heavy. Every ounce added to improve a piece of equipment has an adverse effect on the speed, endurance, and performance of the individual. Therefore, the benefits of new technology and changes must be significant enough to account for these costs (Steeb, Matsumura, Steinberg, Herbert, Kantar, & Bogue, 2004).

Combat Damage Repair Assessment

The human body is an interesting system to consider when looking at it from the standpoint of Battlefield Damage Assessment and Repair (BDAR). The purpose of BDAR is to “rapidly return disabled [combat elements] to the operational commander by expediently fixing, bypassing, or jury-rigging components to restore the minimum essential systems required for the support of the specific combat mission or to enable the [element] to self-recover” (Department of the Army, 1987). Undoubtedly there are components of the human body that can sustain damage and can be fixed. One cannot forget that underneath the armor, and without the weapons, lays a human being. Unlike other military weapon systems, when a soldier returns from a combat situation, they are affected in both physical and psychological ways. Understanding the human body from a physical as well as a mental perspective is important in the assessment and repair of the damage caused during combat.

From the physical perspective, advances in modern medicine are allowing soldiers injured during combat to survive injuries that once used to be a death sentence. The development of tactical emergency care procedures and better battlefield first aid allows ground soldiers to receive aid almost immediately following an injury. In reality, the majority of deaths that occur on the modern battlefield are caused by non-survivable injuries (Holcomb, et al., 2006).

Body armor has greatly decreased the level of damage caused during enemy engagements. Ballistic protection and longer-range standoff weapons have decreased the number of incidental wounds inflicted on the ground soldier. Only 6% of those soldiers that sustain a potentially survivable wound to the chest area were not protected by body armor (Bellamy, 2007). In other words, if the ground soldier is wearing body armor, even if they get shot, they are very likely to survive.

Platoon-sized ground combat elements typically undergo missions with a combat medic embedded in the force element itself. These brave professionals are able to quickly assess and repair battle wounds on the spot, and keep individual soldiers in the fight. Combat medics now carry with them advanced medical supplies that permit them to treat battle damage ranging from exhaustion and dehydration to acute hemorrhage and circulatory collapse (Convertino, Cooke, Salinas, & Holcomb, 2004). Unlike battle during the Civil War era where a bullet wound was a death sentence, modern day soldiers are able to withstand a much higher level of damage and continue fighting.

Unfortunately, the rise in the wounded-to-killed ratio, due in part to medical advances and better vulnerability reduction equipment, has left a large population of wounded ground soldiers no longer capable of engaging the enemy (Bellamy, 2007). Disparate from other combat machines, the physical damage incurred by a ground soldier has a measured effect on their mental capacities. In a sense, the battlefield tactics used by a hybrid combatant can lead to virtual attrition of the ground force. After surviving a traumatic physical injury, the individual soldier is more likely to suffer the debilitating effects of mental trauma. Increasing individual soldier survivability in the combat environment is incomplete without taking this mental trauma into consideration.

After a violent physical altercation, combat stress tends to manifest itself in a variety of different ways. High rates of divorce, physical abuse of loved ones, mental distress, and suicide attempts are just a few of the ways this stress exhibits itself. More commonly known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the mental damage caused by combat often remains invisible to the rest of society (Tanielian & Jaycox, 2008). Suicide rates across the armed forces are alarmingly high compared to the civilian population. The Army suffers the highest rate with nearly 20 service members out of 100,000 committing suicide (Ramchand, Acosta, Burns, Jaycox, & Pernin, 2011). Couple the stress of physical violence with long deployment cycles and isolation from loved ones, and there is a recipe for mental debilitation on a large scale. Rest and recuperation sometimes is enough to repair the invisible damage caused by combat; but other times it takes a whole team of mental health professionals to begin repairing the damage caused by confrontation with the enemy.

Technology is making the ground soldier harder to kill. The decrease in physical susceptibility and vulnerability reduces the number of combat casualties but gives rise to other factors that must be controlled if an effective, robust, and capable ground force is to be ready to react to a myriad of conflict situations.





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