While the individual armed services continue their march toward change, some forward-thinking military leaders are examining transformation on a larger scale-the realm of operations. Technologies likely to be available in the future will enable effects-based operations, a concept that may not replace conventional warfare but certainly could narrow its breadth.
Move over ships, aircraft and submarines, and make room on the waterfront for the latest component in the U.S. Navy's fleet-information systems. Although information technology has long been an integral part of the Navy, the service's newest command brings an increased level of support to fleet commanders and creates a clear operational focus for its networks, space activities and information operations.
Network-centric warfare is on the fast track with the U.S. Marine Corps in operation Iraqi Freedom. After mobile operation centers received rave reviews from troops that previewed them in-theater, the service decided to field the equipment months earlier than originally planned, prior to final testing and evaluation. Commanders relate that the capability dramatically improves situational awareness and cuts decision-making time in half.
Future U.S. Air Force pilots will rely on an extensive array of sensors and interconnected platforms to detect and destroy enemy forces. Lessons learned from recent combat operations over Iraq support the service's network-centric operational concept that envisions shortened sensor-to-shooter cycles, networked weapons and increased information sharing among all echelons.
The next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles may owe more to winged insects and birds than to the Wright Brothers. U.S. Air Force engineers are tapping nature's flyers for new designs that push the limits of aerodynamics.
A team of researchers from industry, academia and the U.S. Defense Department is creating high-speed, long-range communication technologies that will help eliminate the fog of war and take the element of surprise away from the enemy. The secure laser-based system will offer communication uplink speeds in the multigigabit-per-second range and will improve tracking so communications can be transmitted to satellites from mobile platforms. The research also will lead to aberration-free three-dimensional imaging at distances of more than 600 miles.
A new generation of highly capable robot aircraft soon may augment and perhaps replace manned platforms in high-threat combat operations such as suppressing enemy air defenses and deep strike missions. These vehicles are part of an ambitious U.S. Defense Department program to develop and field-test an unmanned aerial combat capability by the end of the decade.
Exciting a land mine may not sound like a good idea, but developers of the Seismic Landmine Detection System are doing just that. A group of researchers from the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, has developed a land mine detection system that sends seismic waves through a minefield, slightly moving the earth and items buried beneath. A noncontacting radar sensor measures the ground displacement to identify and locate plastic anti-personnel or antitank mines.
The Finnish Software Radio Program is meeting the software-defined radio requirements of a nonaligned nation and offering insight into alternative approaches to the U.S. Joint Tactical Radio System. The program concentrates as much on equipping forces to fight in high-intensity conflict as it does on equipping them for smaller peacekeeping roles. Along with supporting allied forces' equipment, it aims to support interoperability for disaster relief activities, nongovernmental organizations, and aid and emergency services work.
U.S. government personnel and emergency responders are using commercial mobile satellite communications systems to maintain connectivity in areas with little or no terrestrial infrastructure. Users can set up and activate equipment rapidly, and proprietary protocols allow systems to accelerate the transmission and reception of data, imagery and streaming video.