The international telecommunications system is re-balancing into four major centers of innovation: the United States, China, India and an expanded Europe. If current trends persist, the United States may be hard pressed to maintain an advantage in communications technologies and services and could find its ability to prosecute information warfare highly constrained.
After years of economic stagnation, the satellite industry could find that a turnaround is about to begin. Early returns point to a resurgence in interest and visibility for a weathered, yet optimistic, industry. Now more than ever, the government community recognizes that the commercial satellite industry plays an essential role in both international and homeland security. Several important occurrences in 2003 have set the stage for a turnaround.
The U.S. Marine Corps has built a hybrid-electric land vehicle that could be a harbinger of future battlefield mobility. The combination diesel/battery vehicle would have greater range than existing four-wheeled infantry carriers and would be able to operate quietly without any visible thermal fingerprint.
New collection platforms, satellite communications links, a common operating data set and commercial-style database exploitation tools are at the top of the intelligence wish list for the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines fight in a manner similar to that of a joint task force, and their intelligence approach parallels this as it seeks to collect, process and disseminate information to users. Many of the hurdles that plague joint warfighters have been overcome by the Corps, but in doing so it has developed its own needs that cannot be met by joint service operations.
China's procurement of additional modern Kilo-class submarines for the People's Liberation Army Navy, development of second-generation nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarines, and continued production of improved indigenous diesel boats present a threat to the U.S. Navy and other antisubmarine forces. However, these submarines may present an even larger challenge to Chinese crews and support assets.
The long-sought dream of using lasers to defend against an enemy on a battlefield may be closer to realization, if recent tests in the New Mexico desert can be transitioned successfully into a tactical system. The U.S. Army is aiming to begin development next year of a prototype that would be ready in 2007 to defend against targets ranging from cruise missiles to incoming artillery shells.
The U.S. Army is looking to radically change the very concept of information management to meet its growing intelligence demands arising from force transformation. This will require a new way of processing and disseminating information in a network that links a rapidly growing number of increasingly diverse sensors and sources.
The focus of long-term changes underway in China's military is on regional rather than global improvements. This approach includes deploying systems that have only a local reach as well as developing or acquiring advanced technologies for specific military units or elements.
Mix advanced information technology, a rapidly increasing work force and a new architecture for sharing data and you have the recipe for transforming the military intelligence community, if the Defense Intelligence Agency has its way. Lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq have only reinforced the targets for change in defense intelligence collection, management and analysis.
As with other maritime forces, China has been seeking to network disparate assets, and to meet that requirement, it has been establishing signal stations on islands and atolls throughout the South China Sea. These facilities, which range from communications relays to radar units, both demonstrate China's expanding regional reach and provide a rare glimpse of the country's military electronics technologies.