In coming decades, warfighters could rely on artillery support from U.S. Navy warships more than 200 miles away. Instead of conventional cannons or rockets, these ships would use electromagnetic launchers to accelerate projectiles to many times the speed of sound. Using electricity instead of gunpowder to fire guided munitions, the weapons offer the potential of rapid, highly accurate precision attacks without the logistics and safety issues of conventional naval guns.
Several decades from now, a U.S. unmanned combat aircraft orbiting a battlefield will identify a ground target with its sensors and use its communications laser to beam the coordinates to an overhead satellite. After receiving target confirmation from analysts on the other side of the planet, the aircraft will bank sharply, refocus its optical communications array to weapons mode and destroy the target with a multi-kilowatt laser pulse. The system will then revert to its data transmission mode to uplink a battle-damage assessment. This may sound like science fiction, but recently developed technology that electronically moves and focuses lasers may one day make this scenario a reality.
A World Wide Web-enabled technology is on the verge of dramatically changing the way people and computers interact and share information. It provides a common architecture that permits data to be communicated and reused across application, enterprise and community boundaries. This automated context mapping capability will allow complex network-centric systems to reach their full potential and to scale beyond present systems.
What may be the oddest looking U.S. Navy craft to set sail in years is carrying the hopes of visionaries who aim to transform Navy ships and missions with the aid of advanced technologies. The composite-material craft couples a new hydrodynamic design with a modular network-centric electronic system to leverage the many innovations emerging from the information technology sector.
The U.S. Defense Department is migrating to an updated version of the Internet protocol that will efficiently connect warfighters and their equipment to theater and global data networks. Internet protocol version 6, or IPv6, can support an unlimited number of site addresses for wireless communications devices, remote sensors, vehicles and precision-guided munitions while offering enhanced security and administrative features.
U.S. warfighters soon may power their battlefield electronics with a lightweight water-based fuel cell system. Consisting of thin metal alloy plates soaking in salt water, the technology allows soldiers to replace heavy disposable batteries with lightweight rechargeable ones. Because the devices have no moving parts and are made of readily available materials, they may provide troops with a simple and robust reserve or primary power supply.
An experimental radio technology may provide a more efficient means of alleviating bandwidth congestion in wireless communications. Operating at lower power than most radio devices, time-modulated ultrawideband technology fuses communications, radar and tracking capabilities into one piece of hardware that can deliver improved performance while remaining compatible with most legacy and commercial off-the-shelf systems.
One year after surviving the year 2000 problem, computer users may be blessed with huge leaps in processing speeds and capabilities. Researchers at semiconductor manufacturers are developing new generations of chips that, in just three years, will offer 15 times as many transistors and compute several times as fast as today's models.
Semiconductor designers are increasing their dependence on computer-aided design and testing to advance microcircuitry beyond the current state of the art. Demand for more and more complex chips has necessitated taking design out of the hands of engineers and into the realm of cyberspace.
Researchers are demonstrating that good things, in the form of useful amounts of power, can come in small packages. At the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, researchers have been able to produce power with a generator approximately the size of a dime. The device, called a microgenerator, is one aspect of a project to create a microengine that weighs less and lasts longer than batteries used by soldiers in the field today.