The U.S. Army’s ambitious and controversial Future Combat Systems program to develop a family of networked combat vehicles, robots and sensors has been cancelled and is being broken up into three separate programs. These three divergent efforts will focus on new ground vehicles; technological upgrades, or spinouts, for all Army units; and network and software development. The changes are part of an undertaking to bring new capabilities into service over the next 15 years.
Building networks and speeding new information technologies into the field are changing U.S. Army acquisition permanently, according to a general tasked with maintaining connectivity among diverse forces. The need for commercial networking technologies and capabilities, along with the exigencies of warfighters facing unconventional combat, are impelling the Army to accelerate new technologies to the front and to change programs concurrently.
A small yet dedicated cadre of network and intelligence experts is helping keep the U.S. Army’s network safe in Europe—and by extension, worldwide—by ferreting out the bad guys in cyberspace. This unique group of civilian soldiers characterizes the threat by examining how adversaries ping and attempt to infiltrate networks, and then it seeks to find their motives. Rather than simply identifying the techniques enemies employ, the group provides the service with the context surrounding attacks so cyberwarriors are better prepared to defend the Army’s information infrastructure.
TThe U.S. Army’s ambitious transformation program is making headway with a series of successful tests and demonstrations. Designed to create an integrated family of vehicles, robots and weapons systems linked through a unified battlefield network, the program has been criticized as being overly complex and expensive. But Army officials hope that the recent tests, coupled with the initial deployment of components of the new system, indicate that the overall effort is on track.
The U.S. Army’s LandWarNet program is reinventing itself as it progresses toward its goal of full connectivity from the command level down to the individual soldier. Technologies deployed in support of warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan are leading to changes in the overarching program, and capabilities introduced by the private sector are adding a new flavor to the Army’s contribution to the Global Information Grid. Even Web 2.0 capabilities are coming into play as they resolve long-standing problems and offer radically new ways of development.
A revamped tool integrates satellite and Global Positioning System communications to give commanders in the field improved situational awareness. It hosts Blue Force Tracking software and is designed to meet the needs of the dismounted user. The device will push resources formerly reserved for units with multiple vehicles to commanders and other individuals in light infantry units.
After several changes in course, the U.S. Army is back on track for modernization and digitization. World events and priority shifts compelled the service to reassess its trajectory to take better aim at these moving targets whose pace quickens with the introduction of each new technology. Although the sheer size of the force and scale of the job amplifies the challenges, Army leaders say the service is now on a flexible yet stable path that leads to successful network centricity in the long term.
The U.S. Army's revolution in communications and information systems is winding down, but the frenetic activity that defined it is being replaced by a steadier progress toward a fully networked force. The result is a focus on capabilities rather than on enabling technologies as the Army continues to extend the benefits of the network down to the warfighter.
Dismounted infantry may one day rely on four-legged robots to carry equipment and ammunition into battle. The U.S. Defense Department envisions the machines following troops into rugged terrain or through densely packed urban areas too confined for conventional vehicles. These automated quadrupeds are part of a larger government initiative to study how animals move and to apply those characteristics to robotic systems.
The U.S. Army's Land Warrior program is making new strides-or more specifically, making new treads-in equipping soldiers for 21st century warfare. Army troops are testing Land Warrior Stryker Vehicle Integration Kits to study the effects of the human factor on the capability and to assess its worth in combat situations. The technology will connect warfighters on the ground directly with each other and with vehicle crews without needing to exchange the information only at the leadership level. At the same time, the ability to use a weapon will not be inhibited.