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Army Technologies

A New Chip Thinks Like a Brain

March 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

An Army research team develops a device that could assist warfighters' decision making.

A U.S. Army scientist and his colleagues, working in the nascent field of neural computing and quantum physics, have earned a patent for a powerful quantum neural dynamics computer chip. The device, which has been tested in a laboratory, and the advanced mathematical computations that make it work may lead one day to powerful devices that could help warfighters sift through huge datasets of information and make important tactical decisions in the field. The chip also holds promise for civilian applications requiring the rapid analysis of big data, and it could represent a bridge to the next generation of computing.

“The patent covers different ways to make computer chips,” states Ron Meyers, a computer scientist with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) who is the principal investigator for the neural chip project. “We developed a type of mathematics that allows for quick function-changing and also emulates some of the processes of neural intelligence that the human brain uses. We combined those together, and we made a new type of computer chip that incorporates those functions. It’s qualitatively different. It doesn’t do the same kinds of computations as traditional computer chips.”

The chip, and its underlying operating system based on newly developed mathematical formulas, will make possible faster and more powerful computers. “We’re talking about the ability to compute that exceeds exponentially millions of times greater than any of the computers that exist today or are on the drawing boards using conventional approaches,” Meyers explains.

Army Hones Smart Grid Into a Tactical Advantage

March 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Significant fuel savings and operational efficiencies are some of the benefits of an intelligent power management system that includes multiple energy sources.

The U.S. Army has tested a proof of concept for a smart electrical grid that would support tactical operations in the field. The concept, which was tested last summer, could save potentially billions of dollars in fuel use at remote forward positions. By eliminating the need to transport fuel for generators at such encampments, the new Tactical Operations Smart Grid also carries with it the potential of saving the lives of warfighters.

The smart grid, which takes advantage of multiple off-the-shelf electrical energy technologies, is being developed and tested by the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command’s (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). Along with helping set specifications for a future vendor-developed system, data from the tests also are being compiled as part of the Defense Department’s longer-term program of reducing both manpower and fuel use for energy generation.

“These systems are designed to integrate existing military-standard tactical generators managed by portable electric power systems out in the field, providing the ability to intelligently work within a grid operation,” says Michael Zalewski, a project mechanical engineer with CERDEC’s Command, Power and Integration (CPI) directorate. The tactical microgrid is being developed as part of the HI Power program, for Hybrid Intelligent Power. Newly developed digital controllers allow the system to balance electrical production, storage and demand dynamically, he explains, “and by doing this, we’re able to right-size the production of power to the load and demand at that point in time.”

U.S. Army Innovates on Cloud Computing Front

March 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Officials work to provide a new cloud approach across 
the service as well as the Defense Department.

U.S. Army officials estimate that by the end of the fiscal year, they will go into production on a new cloud computing solution that could potentially be made available across the Defense Department and could eventually be used to expand cloud capabilities on the battlefield. The platform-as-a-service product incorporates enhanced automation, less expensive software licensing and built-in information assurance.

During the past year, officials with the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Software Engineering Center (SEC), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, have been working on a cloud computing approach known as Cloud.mil. A four-person team took about four months to deliver the first increment, which is now in the pre-production phase and is being touted to Army leaders, as well as to Defense Department and Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) officials, as a possible Army-wide and Defense-wide solution.

Communications Labs JOIN Forces Remotely

March 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts in a networked software engineering realm.

A network built after its major move to a new base is allowing the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command to link diverse communications systems into an overarching network. This enables capabilities ranging from debugging software updates before they are sent to the front to a multinational exercise for validating operational activities.

When the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) relocated from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, under the Base Closure and Realignment program (BRAC), it used the opportunity to consolidate capabilities and build new facilities from the ground up that would allow the command to take advantage of the latest technologies. Among these facilities is the Joint On-demand Interoperability Network, or JOIN. This network connects with other laboratories and communications facilities, including some in theater, to share resources and solve problems by using all of their capabilities.

The network has existed in some form for more than two decades. Today’s JOIN community includes research, development, testing and evaluation as well as life-cycle support. JOIN serves as the nexus for these diverse elements. It provides two capabilities: services and interconnectivity as a technical hub.

John Kahler, chief of JOIN, allows that the network was established to integrate the entire command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) community and to provide a technical hub so that organizations could exploit each other’s resources as well as work in “a collaborative, common operating environment.” Participants can conduct research, development, testing and engineering along with life-cycle support.

Army Communications Facility Centralizes Key Elements

March 1, 2013
BY Robert K. Ackerman

Aberdeen Proving Ground becomes the home of high-techology development, validation and deployment.

Consolidating its communications-electronics assets in a single location has given the U.S. Army vital resources and flexibility that it needs to address its changing information technology demands during a time of transition. This transition is twofold: not only is Army communications absorbing new commercial technologies and capabilities, the Army itself also is facing substantial changes as a force that has been overseas for more than a decade is redeploying back to its U.S. bases.

Some long-established programs have evolved to, or have been transitioned into, wholly new programs. These programs lend themselves to the new centralized approach, which is improving their implementation processes. Having research elements in the same location, as well as access to networked laboratory facilities at distant locations, is generating efficiencies that continue to be discovered as advanced communications and electronics technologies are developed for incorporation into the force.

The Base Closure and Realignment, or BRAC, process consolidated several Army elements, including the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. They are grouped under the umbrella Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Center of Excellence. One of these elements, the Program Executive Office (PEO) Command Control Communications-Tactical (C3T), is tasked with providing soldiers with tactical communications and computer systems.

Air Asset to Send Critical Material to Forces Faster

March 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

The plug-and-play technology will close large capability gaps in the field.

The U.S. Army is developing the first airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform fully enabled to connect analysts with the Distributed Common Ground System-Army. That system will help remedy problems currently hindering soldiers from having all data feed into a single repository. With the new aircraft, the process will be streamlined from the flying support, so information reaches ground commanders faster to facilitate more timely decision making.

Units will begin enjoying these connected benefits of the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) aircraft in 2014, with the Army accepting deliveries from Boeing beginning later this year. In the past, all airborne intelligence platforms employed their own unique processing, exploitation and dissemination procedures that transmitted to specific ground stations. Personnel then had to find workarounds to share it with the troops who needed it. Through the Distributed Command Ground System-Army (DCGS-A), analysts can query the single system and retrieve the sensor data remotely.

Soldiers have used the DCGS-A extensively throughout their operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the Defense Acquisition Executive only approved the system for full deployment across the force in mid-December of last year.

The Army’s Guardrail platform is also DCGS-A capable, but it does not have operators of the system on board nor does it have imagery intelligence (IMINT) capability. Guardrail is designed to support only signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the DCGS-A, while EMARSS will bring in the imagery piece at the secret Internet router protocol network level. In addition, EMARSS will be the first platform that can provide data from secret to top secret immediately into the Army's distributed system.

The Now and Next of NIE

February 6, 2013
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Army is finalizing its official report on the Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 even as it prepares for the next iteration of the event and Capability Set 14. Soldiers are tweaking processes to make the exercises more valuable while working closer with industry to speed fielding as much as possible under tight acquisition regulations.

Depot Service Changes With Technology

February 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The march of digitization has changed the mission of a longtime U.S. Army maintenance and repair depot from fixing broken radio systems in a warehouse to supporting troops using the newest software-driven communications devices in the field. This support ranges from testing or even manufacturing new gear in partnership with industry to integrating new information systems in combat zones.

The Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania, has had to evolve with the changes in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems in the information age. Changes in technologies and capabilities have been matched by the increasingly rapid pace of technology insertion into the force. The servicing of digital technology has expanded into new fields of operation.

Test facilities evaluate communications security, range threat testing, fire detection radars and satellite communications terminals for the Army as well as for other services. A rapid prototyping machine allows small additive manufacturing on plastics for prototyping. And, an Army language lab that can be deployed overseas helps military personnel in various countries around the world learn English so that they can train on U.S. systems and interoperate with their U.S. counterparts.

While the depot’s mission is defined as providing the overhaul, manufacturing and technology insertion services for C4ISR equipment, its activities extend into other areas that are increasing in importance in the digitized force.

“We keep the equipment going,” declares its commander, Col. Gerhard P.R. Schröter, USA.

U.S. Army Combines Key Acquisition Directorates

January 23, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Over the past month, the U.S. Army has consolidated two directorates in an effort to continue improving agile acquisition. Combining the offices is designed to allow more efficient and effective cooperation, enhance long-term planning capabilities and boost the service’s ability to acquire an overall system of systems.

The two directorates—System of Systems Engineering and System of Systems Integration—within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology [ASA(ALT)] have been combined into the Systems of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate. Heidi Shyu, the ASA(ALT), was briefed on the changes earlier this month.

Terry Edwards, who leads the new directorate, explains that under the previous organizational structure, no one was seeing the forest for the trees. “Unfortunately, these two processes weren’t connected optimally. The benefit first, for the Army, is the ability to look at a system of systems across the Army and to bring engineering and integration together,” Edwards says. “Nobody was looking at the system of systems.”

Additionally, he says, the former structure was too focused on the near-term. “The second benefit was to look at not just the near-term focused view of what we do for the Army, but also to look out at how we shape the Army’s architecture to be more capable but also more efficient in how we deliver that capability,” he says.

The ASA(ALT) officials have been developing long-term roadmaps toward the service’s future. “One thing Ms. Shyu has been doing is trying to establish this 30 year roadmap across all of our portfolios. One of the functions of our office will be to look across those portfolios and analyze how they align,” Edwards reveals.

Micrometer Materials Form 3-D Military Tools

January 9, 2013
By Rita Boland

Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University have discovered methods to control folding pathways and enable sequential folding on a millimeter scale using a low-intensity laser beam. Lasers at a low intensity worked as a trigger for tagging applications. Developers are fabricating sheets of millimeter-size structures that serve as battery-free wireless actuators that fold when exposed to a laser operating at eye-safe infrared wavelengths. The metallic structures may respond even to high-powered LED lighting. At the millimeter scale, the structures could attach, jump, apply friction and perform as mechanical switches serving a number of defense functions such as the remote initiation of energetic materials, micro thrusters for robotics and the attachment of transponder tags to fabric surfaces. They also could possibly integrate with logic/memory circuits, sensors, transponder tags and optical modules such as light emitting diodes.


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