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.
The command in charge of the U.S. Army's information systems is refocusing the way it provides services to its 1.3 million users. For the first time, Army personnel will receive a negotiated level of support that is based on service-level objectives and performance indicators. This effort, information managers say, will lead to measurable improvements in the quality of information processes the Army uses in its missions. In addition, this new service-level management process is scalable to the entire Army, they warrant.
The future infantry soldier, who already is looking at new personal armor and communications systems, also may be equipped with a multisensor system that can provide him with a range of spectral views that can be changed with the flip of a switch. Helmet-mounted sensors would comprise both infrared and image intensifiers, and rifle sights would provide multispectral capability. Information gleaned from these sensors would fuel network-centric operations.
The U.S. Coast Guard is undertaking a massive upgrade of its command and control with an eye toward improving situational awareness. Digitized information will alleviate some of the tasks currently performed manually by crew members actively engaged in operations at sea, and it also will provide a clearer picture of both missions and options.
The U.S. Defense Department is bringing its expertise on the battlefield to the home front. Under the direction of an organization that was chartered less than eight months ago, the department is taking aim at those who would do the nation harm, assisting law enforcement and federal agencies with technical capabilities and proficiency in tactics, techniques and procedures. Although this is not a new mission for the military, it is an indication of the department's resolve to win the war against terrorism.
Military leaders are developing a vision of the tactical operations future where adversaries will have to decide if they should send flesh and blood troops to fight nuts, bolts, circuits and sensors. The implications of this battlefield revolution are far-reaching, and initial technical capabilities exist today. Military experts agree that it is only a matter of time before nations send sophisticated machines to augment well-trained troops. They also assert that it is in the United States' best interest to be the leader in this inevitable transformation of combat.
Effectively standing watch over 3.5 million square miles of ocean area and 98,000 miles of coastline calls for careful planning, and the U.S. Coast Guard is taking a layered approach to carrying out this mission. Ever-expanding homeland security demands have prompted the sentinel of the seas to create maritime domain awareness plans that extend from international to local borders and from industry to the federal government. Assessing, addressing and reducing risk is at the core of the strategy.
The changing composition of the semiconductor industry, combined with foreign government action that has leveraged market forces, has resulted in the shift of chip manufacturing from the United States to offshore locations, particularly China and East Asia. This migration has substantial national security ramifications, as the transformation of this nation's military into a network-centric force requires high-end semiconductor chips to provide the processing power for numerous defense applications.
In the near future, U.S. Army units will benefit from high-speed, high-capacity data networks that will connect every unit, from individual infantrymen to headquarters units. However, to realize this vision, hurdles such as managing mobile ad hoc networks and providing beyond-line-of-sight communications in a fluid combat environment must be addressed.
A major U.S. Defense Department research program is developing lightweight, miniaturized, low-power radios for dismounted infantry and support equipment. The program, which is part of an initiative to replace the current generation of military radios, has drawn competing design teams from across the defense industry.
Interoperability is a key issue in the move toward advanced software definable radio systems. Lessons learned from operation Desert Storm indicated a need for greater communications between the services during combat, necessitating the development of radios sharing common waveforms usable by all the services and that can be rapidly reprogrammed in the field.