The Army is remaking its heavy combat divisions into an information-age fighting force, trimming the number of troops for more agility and incorporating computer technology to better track friendly and enemy forces.

Five years in the planning, the first modern division will be ready by 2000, the Army said Tuesday in announcing the redesign that's supposed to be better able to handle a predicted 21st century battlefield with multiple fronts and quick-changing threats."We need physical agility. We need smaller forces," said Gen. William Hartzog, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the architect of the new design. "We want to dominate a much larger battlefield."

Under the plan, which would affect six of the Army's 10 divisions, the number of soldiers authorized would drop from 18,069 to 15,719. The amount of some types of heavy equipment also would fall, from 58 tanks to 45 per battalion, for example.

The new divisions will have fewer armored vehicles and more reconnaissance and artillery assets than before as well.

At the same time, the Army said the new division, because it would be more flexible, would be able to cover a battlefield of more than twice the size of an old division.

The new division will rely more on digital information, including battlefield maps and orders, and less on communicating by telephone and radio, the Army said, although conventional systems will remain as backups. Computers will be "embedded" on soldiers and vehicles to provide up-to-the-second data and will use sophisticated technology to protect against possible enemy hackers.