AFCEA long has been an international organization moreso than by the mailing addresses of some of its members. Just as successive U.S. administrations recognized the inexorable strategic link between North American democracies and their counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean, so too did AFCEA's leadership. The establishment of the AFCEA Europe office in Brussels, Belgium, in 1980, site of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters, emphasized this importance. During the Cold War, the trans-Atlantic AFCEA link helped provide a valuable two-way dialog for command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) experts tasked with deterring aggression and maintaining the peace of nearly a half-century.
Twin pressures of extremely complex advanced technologies and far fewer major defense and aerospace programs are propelling the worldwide consolidation of industry. This evolution is characterized by moves away from nationally based, fragmented approaches and toward mergers, consortiums and joint ventures in an era of fewer major global prime contractors.
Buttressed by a wave of mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, France's defense and aerospace industries are becoming increasingly competitive in cutting-edge technologies. This especially is the case in the development of electronics, command, control, communications and sensor systems.
Building on a broad research base at the forefront of military technologies, German industry is developing a vast array of components and systems for the Bundeswehr and other allied military forces. New concepts tumble forth almost daily from German industry and government laboratories to improve tactical programs, especially in the areas of sensor, fire control, combat management, communication and simulation systems.
Spain's army is benefiting from information technology development by the nation's domestic industry. A mesh system of nodal centers is being developed and deployed for mobile command, control and communications. Independent of terrain considerations, the multimedia voice and data system covers the operational area of an army division.
As the U.S. armed forces continue to transform their own inner workings and construct the means for cooperating in a joint environment, a similar-though much larger-phenomenon is well underway as countries throughout the world explore their role in international operations. At the heart of the matter are questions about political objectives, legal constraints and the status of technology development-tough issues that require the framers of this new global community to be part architect, part foreman and part bricklayer.
The U.S. Marine Corps is moving toward a network-centric warfighting capability that will allow more troops to be placed in the field with a smaller logistics footprint. New communications technologies are aimed at enabling the service to conduct and participate in joint operations with other services and coalition partners with unprecedented levels of coordination and speed.
The U.S. Marine Corps is assessing a new communications system that will enable deployed forces to establish data network connectivity between land and sea forces in support of joint amphibious operations. A combination of commercial off-the-shelf and Marine legacy equipment would provide basic tactical communications designed to meet the requirements of international operations. Currently undergoing a series of tests, the technology could be ready for full-scale implementation as early as fall 2001.
A state-owned company's heavy investment in research and development is paying off for Italy's military and in the international export market. This research powerhouse is providing advances in radar, electro-optic, infrared and cryogenic technologies harnessed in a variety of weapons fire control systems.
A David and Goliath rematch is shaping up in Northern Europe over the next few weeks. This time, however, there are several Goliaths, and no one will be using a sling. All opponents are armed equally with the latest technological advances, and the contest is in one of the giants' own backyards. Two other titans wait in the wings.