A communications system that is powerful enough to have seen military action in Afghanistan and versatile enough to have supported international humanitarian efforts also is small enough to be checked as airline baggage. The equipment supporting this capability includes an inflatable ball antenna combined with a flexible dish that comes in two sizes. The system is geared primarily toward short missions, but it can be used for months at a time or as a backup to larger systems when antennas need refurbishment.
The initial stages of the U.S. Army’s new tactical communications architecture are now operational. When it is complete, the network will connect units across all echelons with high-bandwidth voice, video and data streams. Many of the major components of this architecture are beginning to be fielded to units, providing forces with enhanced operational awareness and increased connectivity as the entire system goes online in coming years.
The U.S. Army is changing communications equipment faster than it can deploy forces equipped with that gear. The force benefits from improved networking capabilities, but this rapid technology insertion is changing the way communications battalions train and deploy.
Confusion is common in disaster relief operations. Destruction of infrastructure, inefficient coordination among participating organizations and lack of interoperability between communications systems contribute to the operational fog that surrounds first responders. Crisis management services help abate the confusion in such operations by providing interoperable equipment and software that can be deployed quickly for various scenarios.
Technology innovations and lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan are driving new directions in the U.S. Army’s communications road map. Because technology is changing capabilities so quickly—and because the need to equip combat forces in Southwest Asia is paramount—the Army is incorporating shorter decision cycles to measure progress as it speeds desperately needed capabilities to its warfighters.
Add spectrum management to the list of the U.S. military’s top priorities. Along with information sharing, interoperability and information security, ensuring that the latest communications and sensor systems have waves to ride on in the battlefield is now a hot topic at the highest levels at the Pentagon.
The Afghan army is transitioning to a system that will send and receive secure Internet protocol-based communications, a major step forward from its previous process of delivering written material via messenger.
An airborne networking system may soon provide warfighters with real-time battlefield data gathered from sensors and reconnaissance platforms across a theater of operations. A high-altitude unmanned aircraft serving as a flying information exchange will link to a constellation of low-altitude robot air vehicles, making this capability possible. Users will be able to access data from battlefield computers and ground terminals.
With a flip of a switch, a new tactical communications terminal enables warfighters to choose between troposcatter and satellite communications. This technology could reduce the demand on heavily saturated satellite bandwidth through its use of over-the-horizon radio transmissions to carry voice, data and real-time video imagery.
As debates and controversies continue to swirl about how to allocate the electromagnetic spectrum and how to improve interoperability among first responders, a plan has been proposed to solve part of both problems. The plan would place a specific portion of the spectrum under government control for public safety use. The caveat is that private industry would lease that space and build and maintain the network with the understanding that in an emergency, those private services would make way for public needs.