U.S. Army tank commanders now are looking up at information the same way fighter pilots do: through a helmet-mounted ocular. The head-up device allows tank crew members situated outside of the hatch to view the same information that is displayed on computers inside the tank. The equipment was introduced with troops in operation Iraqi Freedom.
Even the most vocal advocates of Bowman would accept that the program's lengthy history has led it to become a synonym for procurement delay. Nonetheless, Bowman's in-service date was declared in March when the first unit, the British Army's 12 Mechanized Brigade, successfully completed a formation-level operational field trial using two mechanized battle groups and a brigade headquarters.
Construction of a new tactical communications infrastructure is underway in Iraq that will support tens of thousands of troops and eventually benefit the Iraqi people as it is turned over for their use when the U.S. military leaves the country. With the help of commercial capabilities and industry expertise, the infrastructure will improve tactical operation coordination between multiple sites by increasing the speed at which information can be shared from kilobytes to megabytes.
A successful future U.S. Air Force tactical operation may end with both a bang and a whimper. Traditional munitions-based operations employing kinetic weapons increasingly are sharing the airspace with information-based nonkinetic measures. The result soon may be an air strike that neutralizes an adversary with only minor damage, if any, to enemy assets.
Several key impediments must be conquered if network-centric warfare is to achieve its potential for revolutionizing military operations. Long-standing concerns such as interoperability and cultural resistance are joined by issues of understanding human behavior and research and development investment. These elements threaten to slow or even derail efforts to incorporate the full advantages of network-centric warfare into U.S. forces by 2025.
The U.S. Air Force is examining technology that would enhance a B-1B Lancer crew's situational awareness while in the air and simultaneously record data that can be shared with other mission commanders or used to train future aircrews. The capability would provide pilots with information about existing threats, which would allow them to execute appropriate threat avoidance maneuvers.
Warfighters soon may be wearing clothing with built-in radio antennas and global positioning system receivers. These items would be embedded in uniforms and equipment harnesses laced with internal wiring and circuitry that connect personal communications devices, computers and power supplies to form a single network.
Unattended sensors in a future theater of operation detect enemy movements, identify and locate targets, and feed that information via unmanned aerial vehicle communications network nodes to the command center. Commanders collate their data with other information from space and U.S.-based sources, then signal unattended battlefield and airborne weapons to launch against enemy assets. These networked weapons keep track of battle damage and trade-off targets as they are destroyed.
The U.S. Army is deploying a transportable satellite broadcast management and uplink system that features greater bandwidth than traditional satellite systems, reduces transmission time and frees space on other tactical communications equipment.
Rapidly changing technology, along with the high demand for well-trained communicators to support current operations, is testing the limits of the U.S. Army's human resources and training facilities. To meet this challenge, the service is moving quickly to ensure that the people who keep communications up and running have the skills they need for the systems they will use.