The U.S. Navy in 15 years will differ vastly from today's Navy, states Adm. Vern Clark, USN, chief of naval operations. But, that degree of change pales in comparison to what will occur in the 15 years that will follow. And, information technologies will be at the core of all of these changes.
The U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command may be taking on its greatest challenge to date with the implementation of the service's FORCEnet effort. The complex endeavor, which is designed to be the linchpin of the Navy's network-centric warfare thrust, will transform information into decisive effect.
As the initial rollout of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet enters the final stages, U.S. Navy officials are confident that adopting an enterprisewide network was the right decision. Despite being an arduous process, the installation effort is still on schedule to be complete in fiscal year 2005, and the service has reaped many unforeseen benefits during the past four years. Some of the advantages are becoming evident today, but those most intimately involved with the project predict that the best is yet to come.
An advanced software architecture will allow the U.S. Navy to increase substantially the bandwidth and data throughput of its satellite communications systems and will serve as a bridge to the next-generation capabilities envisioned in FORCEnet and Sea Power 21. It will enter service as part of a sophisticated multiband satellite communications terminal designed to link with future spacecraft.
With FORCEnet being touted as the glue that binds the pillars of Sea Power 21, the U.S. Navy is developing a concept to link sensors to shooters to weapons on demand and across joint platforms. By leveraging technology and system engineering know-how developed during the past 10 to 15 years, engagement packs would employ capabilities that are based on sharing and fusing multisource information and could be fielded in the next 5 years. The concept relies heavily on adaptable, flexible, composable forces and a distributed, network-centric, services-oriented architecture to make information available and usable by many systems.
A research and development organization originally created to boost economic development in North Carolina is now providing cutting-edge technologies to the U.S. Defense Department. Areas of exploration range from information assurance to sensors to ultrahigh-speed communications. Many of the projects will facilitate intelligence gathering and directly support warfighters.
Researchers at a national laboratory have discovered a way to construct microelectrical systems using magnetic fields to arrange internal structures. The technology already is opening the door to breakthroughs in sensor and magnetic identification systems, and yet-undiscovered capabilities such as realistic artificial limbs and more esoteric applications may lie on the horizon.
It takes a lot of brains to develop new technologies, and one U.S. Navy project is capitalizing on another type of brainpower. Navy researchers are examining work conducted jointly by the New York University Medical School and Russia's Nizhny Novgorod State University and Institute for Applied Sciences that uses brain activity as the model for controlling movement in unmanned undersea vehicles. The advances culled from this research could support better designs for autonomous underwater vehicles that could hunt mines, deliver and retrieve sensors, track ship movement or gather plume samples.
Researchers are taking optics to new levels by developing the architecture, components and prototype systems for all-optical packet routing that can send and receive up to 100 terabits of data every second. The research is based on the premise that photons can do more than just carry a signal from one point to another; they also can facilitate extremely high-speed switching.
The French army soon may benefit from a prototype command and control system for helicopters that allows low-flying aircraft to share data in a tactical network. The technology features detailed digital terrain maps that can be viewed in the cockpit or from a groundstation before a mission. Mission-planning information and text messaging also can be transmitted via this airborne system.