Full-featured distributed collaboration tools served to operators on a full-featured multiscreen workstation will be the emerging technology that will have the biggest impact on the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) in the future. It is a long way to go anywhere in the Asia-Pacific area of responsibility (AOR). Emerging technology that is mature enough to create virtual presence anywhere in the AOR and beyond enables real-time information sharing, decision support and direction, thereby improving speed of command and force synchronization. In short, collaboration tools will enable the command to be there without going there; that saves time and fuel and eliminates the need to secure real estate.
U.S. government computer scientists are studying how computer grids react to volatile conditions to understand how events such as virus attacks, sudden changes in workload and cyberattacks can affect linked groups of hundreds or thousands of geographically dispersed machines.
In keeping with its approach to incorporating blue-water-navy technologies for possible littoral uses, China is deploying a number of antisubmarine warfare systems to support potential conflicts against adversaries equipped with the most advanced submarines under the sea. As with most of China's military, these systems constitute a mix of legacy import technologies with indigenous developments.
High-resolution displays are allowing U.S. troops operating in Korea to view and share an uncluttered, near-real-time common operational picture of the region so they can monitor activity and respond to it faster than could an adversary. The images can be shared both horizontally and vertically with warfighters located throughout the command's area of responsibility, providing not only situational awareness but also situational understanding.
The U.S. military is developing a modular, scalable, multifunctional radio frequency system that would provide unprecedented interoperability through its communications and data gateway while performing signals intelligence collection, electronic warfare and psychological operations broadcast. The technology incorporates common radio frequency hardware components networked with pools of processors that are programmed through software to instantiate a variety of radio frequency capabilities and perform multiple radio frequency functions simultaneously.
The German army is fielding technologies to enhance its soldiers' lethality, situational awareness, survivability and operational capability. The new kit consists of an easily upgraded, modular system of body armor, integrated communications and night-vision equipment. Each squad member is fitted with a personal radio and a handheld digital assistant that can receive imagery and tactical data via a local wireless network. The new equipment already has been tested operationally in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
An experimental hybrid technology that combines both laser and radio frequency communications into a single system may soon provide warfighters with robust, high-bandwidth data networks. Software protocols will allow nodes in these networks to switch automatically between the two transmission modes based on the type of message sent and on prevailing atmospheric conditions.
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.
The lines between the tactical, operational and strategic realms of warfare are beginning to blur in large part because of technology. Investments in command and control have changed the character of the battlespace, and while some of the new capabilities provide commanders with more control than they ever envisioned, new challenges are surfacing that must be tackled. The command and control capabilities that deliver the benefits of network centricity have consequences that today's military and government leaders must address in their transformational efforts.