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.
Emerging technologies and new strategies may result in as much as a tenfold increase in the U.S. military's operations planning capabilities. In what has been touted as the largest military experiment in history, participants analyzed how the armed forces will fight in the future and what tools they will need to wage war more effectively. Although many of the systems and concepts are aimed at a 2007 battlespace, several of them may bring more immediate benefits for warfighters.
The U.S. Army is testing a new technology that will enable a seamless connection between the wireless world and the landline world by means of tactical radio networking. Through the use of an already proven network infrastructure, the addition of a centralized routing capability within a family of current-generation tactical field radios has provided access to multiple forms of connectivity that were previously unattainable in the field.
The rapidly transforming U.S. Army is developing an entire force of next-generation fighting systems around information technology capabilities. This force, which is being designed from the bottom up to suit the requirements of the 21st century, will incorporate a host of new technologies that will work in concert to achieve desired warfighting goals.
The long-sought dream of using lasers to defend against an enemy on a battlefield may be closer to realization, if recent tests in the New Mexico desert can be transitioned successfully into a tactical system. The U.S. Army is aiming to begin development next year of a prototype that would be ready in 2007 to defend against targets ranging from cruise missiles to incoming artillery shells.