Event Title

Sex and military technology: Women and FIST (Future Infantry Soldier Technology)

Presenter Information

Megan Penney

Start Date

27-6-2010 10:45 AM

End Date

27-6-2010 11:45 AM

Description

This presentation is part of the Sex and Gender: Military Contexts track.

There has been a significant advancement in military technology recently. A shift has taken place from predominantly male infantry soldiers, with only basic protection and gear; to extremely effective, high-tech, lightweight protective gear and equipment, and some female infantry soldiers. It does not seem to be the case anymore that sheer brute strength is a necessary for an infantry soldier. Although there is no doubt that soldiers must be physically fit, recent projects like FIST (Future Infantry Soldier Technology) in the United Kingdom, have enabled soldiers to interact and respond to their environment in ways that was not previously possible. My aim in this paper is to discuss how new military technology seems to make traditional sexual distinctions irrelevant for soldiers. I will begin by briefly explaining FIST and the technological aspects that it entails. Secondly, I will explore some aspects of how this technology impacts women as infantry soldiers, and some possible ethical implications of this.

It must be noted that information regarding FIST does not specifically address women in the military, but I am going to be using FIST as a case study. I think that the description of FIST lends itself to issues regarding sexual distinctions in the military.

It is useful here to briefly describe FIST. FIST is an integration of various systems, which include (but is not limited to): weapons, GPS, body armour, and communications devices. It is a current military project in the United Kingdom slated to enter service sometime between 2015 and 2020 (www.army-technology.com/projects/fist, 1) It should be noted that the FIST programme is not intended for every infantry soldier. Instead it will at the discretion of unit commanders whether their mission requires the FIST system.

According to HYPERLINK "http://www.army-technology.com/projects/fist" www.army-technology.com/projects/fist, “The FIST programme covers the development of all areas of technology for the dismounted infantry soldier and emphasises (sic) the integration of the systems.” This means that they will try to improve conditions for infantry soldiers in the battlefield. Specifically this is done by increasing a soldier's awareness of their environment, which is crucial. Improved communications and navigation equipment are connected directly to the soldier's helmet mounted sight, which will be explain shortly (Ibid, 2).

The FIST system focuses on lighter, more maneuverable equipment and body armour. By shrinking the size of the equipment, and making it lighter, it will be much easier for a soldier to use. Likewise, body armour would be much more comfortable for the soldier of it was less bulky but nonetheless effective. The helmet mounted display will also be used for weapon sighting systems, which would reduce the amount of equipment the soldier would have to carry with them. Overall, “[T]he helmet-mounted display can show that battlefield situation, with wearer's position, positions of friendly and hostile troops and equipment and prioritised targets, as well as the downloaded imagery from his weapon sight.” (Ibid., 3)

From this brief description, I will draw some implications for women infantry soldiers. From the description, it seems evident that the goal of FIST is to enable soldiers with a better a chance at survival on the battlefield. The emphasis also seems to be on the accessibility of this equipment and making it much more lightweight. If this is the case, then physical strength will not matter as much when using it. Although there will be an obvious need for a soldier to have a certain level of physical fitness, there still opens the possibility for more people to become infantry soldiers who might have been excluded previously. FIST puts all potential infantry soldiers on the same level, as they will each have equipment that similarly enhances their ability to assess and interact with events on the battlefield. In this way, all traditional markers of sexual distinction, seem to no longer matter, nor even become apparent for the infantry soldier. It will become nearly impossible to distinguish between a female and a male infantry soldier on the battlefield when the FIST system is utilized.

This seems to be a positive outcome of the FIST system because it will allow for infantry soldiers to be judged completely on merit. Certainly, while this is for the most part already happening in the military; the FIST system would ensure that more soldiers could participate in areas of their choosing, which could lead to more job satisfaction, hence leading to better job performance. Traditionally, the United Kingdom has not allowed women to serve in front-line infantry roles (BBC News, available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/767098.stm). It is only in the past ten years that they have considered trials to see how women soldiers react in combat situations (Ibid). If all infantry soldiers had access to the FIST system, the argument that women would not be able to cope with the physically demanding work (Ibid), would be all but void. This would allow women the opportunity to participate in the military in areas that were not traditionally open to them, hence allowing them more freedom to pursue their military careers as they see fit.

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Jun 27th, 10:45 AM Jun 27th, 11:45 AM

Sex and military technology: Women and FIST (Future Infantry Soldier Technology)

This presentation is part of the Sex and Gender: Military Contexts track.

There has been a significant advancement in military technology recently. A shift has taken place from predominantly male infantry soldiers, with only basic protection and gear; to extremely effective, high-tech, lightweight protective gear and equipment, and some female infantry soldiers. It does not seem to be the case anymore that sheer brute strength is a necessary for an infantry soldier. Although there is no doubt that soldiers must be physically fit, recent projects like FIST (Future Infantry Soldier Technology) in the United Kingdom, have enabled soldiers to interact and respond to their environment in ways that was not previously possible. My aim in this paper is to discuss how new military technology seems to make traditional sexual distinctions irrelevant for soldiers. I will begin by briefly explaining FIST and the technological aspects that it entails. Secondly, I will explore some aspects of how this technology impacts women as infantry soldiers, and some possible ethical implications of this.

It must be noted that information regarding FIST does not specifically address women in the military, but I am going to be using FIST as a case study. I think that the description of FIST lends itself to issues regarding sexual distinctions in the military.

It is useful here to briefly describe FIST. FIST is an integration of various systems, which include (but is not limited to): weapons, GPS, body armour, and communications devices. It is a current military project in the United Kingdom slated to enter service sometime between 2015 and 2020 (www.army-technology.com/projects/fist, 1) It should be noted that the FIST programme is not intended for every infantry soldier. Instead it will at the discretion of unit commanders whether their mission requires the FIST system.

According to HYPERLINK "http://www.army-technology.com/projects/fist" www.army-technology.com/projects/fist, “The FIST programme covers the development of all areas of technology for the dismounted infantry soldier and emphasises (sic) the integration of the systems.” This means that they will try to improve conditions for infantry soldiers in the battlefield. Specifically this is done by increasing a soldier's awareness of their environment, which is crucial. Improved communications and navigation equipment are connected directly to the soldier's helmet mounted sight, which will be explain shortly (Ibid, 2).

The FIST system focuses on lighter, more maneuverable equipment and body armour. By shrinking the size of the equipment, and making it lighter, it will be much easier for a soldier to use. Likewise, body armour would be much more comfortable for the soldier of it was less bulky but nonetheless effective. The helmet mounted display will also be used for weapon sighting systems, which would reduce the amount of equipment the soldier would have to carry with them. Overall, “[T]he helmet-mounted display can show that battlefield situation, with wearer's position, positions of friendly and hostile troops and equipment and prioritised targets, as well as the downloaded imagery from his weapon sight.” (Ibid., 3)

From this brief description, I will draw some implications for women infantry soldiers. From the description, it seems evident that the goal of FIST is to enable soldiers with a better a chance at survival on the battlefield. The emphasis also seems to be on the accessibility of this equipment and making it much more lightweight. If this is the case, then physical strength will not matter as much when using it. Although there will be an obvious need for a soldier to have a certain level of physical fitness, there still opens the possibility for more people to become infantry soldiers who might have been excluded previously. FIST puts all potential infantry soldiers on the same level, as they will each have equipment that similarly enhances their ability to assess and interact with events on the battlefield. In this way, all traditional markers of sexual distinction, seem to no longer matter, nor even become apparent for the infantry soldier. It will become nearly impossible to distinguish between a female and a male infantry soldier on the battlefield when the FIST system is utilized.

This seems to be a positive outcome of the FIST system because it will allow for infantry soldiers to be judged completely on merit. Certainly, while this is for the most part already happening in the military; the FIST system would ensure that more soldiers could participate in areas of their choosing, which could lead to more job satisfaction, hence leading to better job performance. Traditionally, the United Kingdom has not allowed women to serve in front-line infantry roles (BBC News, available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/767098.stm). It is only in the past ten years that they have considered trials to see how women soldiers react in combat situations (Ibid). If all infantry soldiers had access to the FIST system, the argument that women would not be able to cope with the physically demanding work (Ibid), would be all but void. This would allow women the opportunity to participate in the military in areas that were not traditionally open to them, hence allowing them more freedom to pursue their military careers as they see fit.