Even Wal-Mart's Sam Walton might stand in awe of the way the U.S. Army is transforming its logistics infrastructure. The service has identified four focus areas for change and is now in the blueprinting phase of improving how the supply chain links. With the support of commercial enterprise resource planning technology, the Army is targeting problems to ensure that data is not the only asset that makes it to the end of the last tactical mile.
Europe's armies and defense firms are working together to transform conventional ground forces into digitized, network-centric units. A major part of this effort seeks to connect legacy equipment to data and communications networks. The first of these advanced national brigades is scheduled to enter service by the end of the decade.
The cost of linking legacy systems with new technologies entering service across Europe has caused a major international firm to shift its operational focus. Faced with shrinking defense budgets and nations locked into large multi-year procurement programs, the European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS), Paris, recently underwent an internal realignment. The company shifted away from being a platform and subsystem provider to becoming a primary systems integrator. This distinction is important because smaller budgets mean that European defense ministries can no longer afford to duplicate the efforts of other nations. Instead, they must leverage the expertise of multinational defense firms through shared integration programs.
A family of advanced lightweight reconnaissance drones is enhancing the situational awareness of German army units in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Easily transported in ground vehicles, the aircraft feature an automated flight control and navigation system that does not require skilled pilots to operate and can be rapidly assembled. Designed for mobility and a minimal logistics trail, the aircraft can operate from forward areas without the need for a runway.
A recently developed individual navigation tool allows soldiers to know their precise location inside buildings or areas where global positioning satellite signals are jammed. By combining several technologies into a small, lightweight unit, the device would provide warfighters with a three-dimensional view of their position so they could retrace their path to exit an area. The equipment also could help civilian first responders such as fire, police and emergency personnel to find routes through damaged or smoke-filled buildings.
A prototype command and control system is being used to develop future network-centric technologies for the Swedish military. The scalable, platform-independent software serves as a testbed to evaluate new applications, link legacy systems and develop new operational doctrine. This work is part of an ongoing effort to provide the Swedish armed forces with an advanced battle management capability.
Constant upgrades have readied an advanced Turkish air defense system for foreign sales. Developed as Turkey's first fully digital command and control architecture, the technology interfaces with a variety of sensor and weapons platforms to provide operators with a real-time picture of the battlespace. The system can direct low-, medium- and high-level anti-aircraft systems as part of a layered defense network.
While information technology is furnishing combatant commanders with situational awareness in current operations, cutting-edge capabilities now provide overall situational awareness to the commander in chief. In recent years, and particularly since September 11, 2001, enhancements made to the White House communications systems ensure that the president can stay connected to his troops-all the time and from any location. Like the transformation that is taking place throughout the military services, the technologies that support the president have evolved into a system of systems at breakneck speed.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security went on a shakedown cruise in the military world with its inaugural participation in the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration this summer. Department personnel discovered how useful the event can be to explore new technologies, while military personnel gained greater insight into homeland security needs and how to support U.S. emergency operations. Many lessons were learned by military and homeland security participants alike in areas that reached beyond technology.
Demands to increase information sharing and collaboration among government agencies are creating a growing requirement for easy-to-use security products that facilitate classified communications. Many organizations are now realizing the benefits of videoconferencing; however, information protection in this area generally involves support from communications security-certified personnel, and moving from unclassified to classified conferences requires cumbersome procedures.