Sensors will swarm tomorrow's battlefields, allowing warfighters nearly complete situational awareness and denying enemy forces the ability to hide or maneuver without being observed. A recent U.S. Air Force wargame identified several technologies that may revolutionize warfare by 2020. Key to these applications is the use of datalinks in all platforms to create a flexible, redundant network that stretches from infantry units on the ground to satellites in geosynchronous orbit.
The U.S. Navy is using virtual reality to build better warships. By molding data into three-dimensional images with cutting-edge computer systems, engineers can identify potential trouble spots on a vessel's hull and share the information with other design teams around the country. Virtual imaging systems allow engineers to evaluate many different hull types before expensive model testing or full-scale trials occur.
The sea change occurring in military and government procurement processes today is rippling through large companies and affecting how they conduct business. Capabilities-based acquisition, super-size contracts and a reduction in the government work force are driving factors in a corporate transformation that includes scanning for business opportunities earlier than in the past, then teaming to offer best-of-breed systems.
Biologists and engineers are melding their expertise to develop robots that look more like a high-priced dinner than a high-explosive detonator. Taking their cue from nature, scientists are designing a sensor-toting techno-crustacean that can operate in sandy, rocky, undulating environments. For military troops, these devices could alleviate the hazard of underwater mines during beach landings and littoral zone operations.
After months of preparation, autonomous vehicles hit the road in the California desert to elevate the art of robotics and explore new capabilities for the military. Teams of robotics experts from across the United States brought their unmanned vehicles to Barstow, California, to compete in the U.S. Defense Department's first $1 million Grand Challenge. Although no entry crossed the finish line, the real winner is likely to be the warfighter. Military experts will sift through thousands of lessons learned and move forward on bringing autonomous vehicles to the battlefield.
Emerging technical capabilities and innovative concepts are turning the intelligence gathering, analysis and sharing process on its head. Tools that facilitate research at the beginning of the intelligence production cycle and reduce compilation time at the end will increase the amount of time available for analysis in the middle of the process. The result will be joint operational intelligence that enhances decision-making.
The challenge to achieving true joint operations is growing as the services interoperate to a greater degree for homeland security and in combat. As new technologies are impelled into the force at all levels, the need for interoperability becomes more basic. And, the complementary nature of the U.S. services now requires that systems, architectures and force structures are planned around joint operations.
The key to attaining the long-sought goal of fully autonomous unmanned ground vehicles may lie in their ability to recognize reality. Scientists pursuing the development of truly independent robotic vehicles are finding that perception is the key hurdle they must overcome. The development of these vehicles hinges on solving problems relating to perception and its data processing.
The groundwork for the rapid achievements of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom was laid in the years before those two wars even loomed on the U.S. national horizon, according to the general who led coalition forces in both victories. Long-term efforts in peacetime placed U.S. forces in a position to ramp up quickly for wars that achieved their main goals quickly.
Direct database presentation is pushing PowerPoint out of the way for a U.S. Navy fleet commander. A pilot project for the Second Fleet has changed the admiral's briefs from static factual displays to near-real-time Web-based presentations that allow users to access in-depth information through extensible markup language, or XML.