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2 Sep, 2022 22:29

US Army approves purchase from Microsoft – media

The military has reportedly approved the first deliveries of combat goggles made by the US tech giant
US Army approves purchase from Microsoft – media

The US Army has received clearance to start taking deliveries of new combat goggles made by software giant Microsoft, pushing forward with a deal that had been placed on hold because of concerns that the devices might not work correctly.

The purchase will be the first under a contract that could be worth nearly $22 billion over 10 years if the goggles perform as intended and all of the Army’s options are exercised. The Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, Douglas Bush, approved acceptance of the first batch of goggles under a March 2021 order for 5,000 sets valued at $373 million, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.

The initial deliveries had been delayed on concern that more rigorous testing was needed to ensure that the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) goggles performed as expected. Based on initial testing, the devices won't immediately be deployed on battlefields.

The Army is “adjusting its fielding plan to allow for time to correct deficiencies and also field to units that are focused on training activities,” Bloomberg quoted Army spokesman Jamal Beck as saying.

Microsoft publicly markets the standard IVAS augmented-reality headsets, known as HoloLens, at a base price of $3,500 for each set. The Pentagon made a $480 million deal with the company in 2018 to develop a military version of the goggles. The bigger contract followed three years later, calling for Microsoft to supply as many as 120,000 IVAS sets to the Army.

The value of that deal works out to more than $182,000 per set. Microsoft also will provide spare parts and support services.

The goggles project a hologram over a soldier’s field of vision in combat, giving troops more information about what they’re seeing – similar to heads-up displays used by pilots. The IVAS also has night vision capabilities.

Some Microsoft employees protested the company’s initial IVAS deal with the Army in 2019, saying the military version would be used “to help people kill.” Workers posted an open letter to Microsoft executives, demanding that the contract be canceled. “Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology,” the disgruntled employees said, adding that the goggles would turn combat into a “simulated video game.” Microsoft President Brad Smith stood by the Army deal, saying, “The people who defend our country need and deserve our support.”