Working together with industry and other military partners, the U.S. Special Operations Command is piecing together communications technologies-some designed-in from the start-to make the command a leaner, lighter, more efficient force.
A portable device that will be among the first of its kind to incorporate secure voice capability as well as e-mail and personal digital assistant functionality is on schedule for distribution by the end of the year. The device's features will include secure transmission up to Top Secret level for voice and up to Secret level for data. Its small, integrated package will enable troops to take advantage of these features while they are mobile.
Advances in technology soon may make large-scale mesh networks a reality. The developments will create a system that can handle hundreds of sensors without occupying all the available bandwidth. The advancements improve communication among mobile nodes and support low-bandwidth sensors.
The U.S. seat of power will be home to the country's first regional communications network of networks to link police, firefighters and first responders. Working with its geographic neighbors, Washington, D.C., begins acceptance testing of the network within the district next month. Once fully in place, the system will enable emergency personnel throughout the National Capital Region to communicate and share information seamlessly with each other.
The U.S. Defense Department's ambitious effort to develop and field a family of multipurpose software-defined radios is beginning to make progress after numerous setbacks. The Joint Tactical Radio System program's goal is to replace the services' myriad radios with equipment designed for joint interoperability. The project is back on track after cost overruns and a lack of oversight in key areas drew government criticism and forced it to undergo a major reorganization in March 2006.
The latest version of a widely used commercial communications standard may soon provide U.S. troops with faster, more efficient networking technologies. Designed to greatly improve data throughput rates, the new rule also offers potentially greater operating ranges than current networks. However, the rule faces several challenges from developers before it can be fully approved.
An experimental technology soon may allow U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilots to use the fighter's radar as a high-bandwidth communications system. This capability would enable F-22s and other platforms to transmit in near real time imagery and other files too large for rapid dissemination by current datalinks. The application could greatly enhance the U.S. Defense Department's network-centric warfare capabilities by turning tactical aircraft into reconnaissance and surveillance platforms.
A new network management technology soon may change the ways unattended ground sensors are designed and operated. By focusing on the radio systems that link individual devices, scientists hope to create an intelligent networking architecture that uses the radio's full communications capability both to conserve energy in a passive mode and to provide brief high-bandwidth data streams. Such operational flexibility would allow the development of multisensor devices able to activate a variety of onboard applications from microphones to real-time streaming video to meet intelligence collection needs.
Envision a future filled with millions of wireless nodes connected through a smart network that automatically adjusts to optimize communications performance. Achieving this reality would require developing low-cost devices and mitigating current weaknesses in networking technology. However, when this vision is realized, troops will be able to infiltrate areas devoid of communications infrastructure yet stay in touch with each other and platforms in the battlespace.
The North American wireless market is poised for the introduction of next-generation applications that deliver sophisticated multimedia and data products to handheld devices. Within the next 24 months, a variety of third-generation technologies services will become available, allowing consumers and enterprises to conduct business and to access data more efficiently.
Optical fiber may be losing one of its last advantages over wireless as military experimenters have demonstrated the ability to establish secure Internet radio frequency links over more than three dozen miles. This capability can be established to serve land forces on the move, aircraft operating in a small area or ships sailing near unfamiliar coastlines.
Location and intelligence information that only recently was introduced to U.S. Army ground combat vehicles soon may find its way into the hands of the individual soldier. Army engineers working with industry partners are finding ways to move vital position-location information down past the command level. The result may be a two-way flow of intelligence between headquarters and individual soldiers on the ground.
The U.S. Army is leading the charge in securing the new networking frontier: wireless communications. Recognizing the benefits and vulnerabilities of staying connected without being tied to wires, the Army's leadership has developed a policy that highlights security and that has become the model for all the services as well as for the U.S. Defense Department. Industry offers critical components to help the Army and others comply with these policies by designing solutions and sharing best business practices.