"Bringing home the bacon" is an old saying that in one of its interpretations means providing for the necessities of life. A new U.S. Air Force variation might be "bringing home the BACN"-or the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, a force multiplier that will help offset force reductions and bring new, affordable communications capabilities of which the warfighter could only until recently dream.
A recently completed international military experiment has developed strategies and doctrines for stability and peacekeeping operations that now are being applied in Afghanistan and Iraq. The event focused on using all available capabilities to achieve mission goals, ranging from direct combat to reconstruction and humanitarian aid.
After several years of tight budgets, key European defense market sectors are poised for growth with satellite communications systems, major network infrastructure projects and battle management equipment on the shopping list. But analysts predict that market segments such as handheld tactical radios will either remain at current levels or shrink due to decreased sales.
Enhancements in unmanned aerial systems, interoperability and network centricity will drive the U.S. command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance market, according to industry analysts. While each branch of service can expect investment and development in specific areas, attempts to move the U.S. military from a stovepipe structure to a system with greater cooperation and corroboration between government agencies and the military services will pervade the market for the near and long term, they say.
A U.S. Army organization has found a way to move badly needed technologies and capabilities to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is adapting existing products such as leaf blowers to meet vital requirements in the field, and it is inserting technologies such as advanced sensors directly from military and commercial laboratories to accelerate the evolution of combat capabilities.
Diminutive but potent, a versatile unmanned micro air vehicle leaps tall buildings to look for rooftop shooters or hovers and stares through windows to search within for hidden enemies. New applications continually tumble forth for a 14-pound ducted fan vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. This nascent platform rapidly is being recognized for its important platoon-level infantry and cavalry reconnaissance capabilities.
The U.S. Air Force is applying lessons learned from current operations about how new warfighter technologies can build the best bridges between the operational, tactical and intelligence elements of warfare and increase information flow. But while putting more information in warfighters' hands increases situational awareness, challenges remain about how to ensure that more data does not overwhelm troops but rather can be transformed into the applicable knowledge warfighters require.
The new initiative that is reshaping U.S. Army forces into smaller, more flexible formations allows them to realign themselves to meet commanders' mission requirements. The process changes how the service trains, refits and equips its active duty and reserve components as they rotate out of an operational theater. The modified units not only meet Army transformation requirements but also are tailored to perform specific types of missions.
Warfighting technologies are improving the way the maritime branch of the U.S. Defense Department gathers information and intelligence as well as how the sea service uses these technologies to make operational decisions. With fresh initiatives and electronics, personnel on ships and at land-based operations centers will be able to identify changes and irregularities, allowing warfighters to focus on fewer targets and to share communications over a more dispersed area.
All that the U.S. Defense Department has to do to network the force properly is to implement advanced information technologies and systems through multi-billion-dollar programs; quickly equip combatants in two ongoing wars with state-of-the-art capabilities; ensure full interoperability among the services and coalition partners; and guarantee information assurance across the entire department infosphere. And, it must achieve these objectives successfully while the entire force undergoes a revolutionary transformation.
I am concerned-despite the discussions that take place in favor of information sharing, information security, network-centric operations and communications support to the warfighter-that the U.S. military remains a platform-centric force. That same case may be made for many NATO and other allied nations. Military leaders throughout the Free World continue to focus their discussions on tanks, ships and aircraft. These warfighting platforms are important big-ticket items that have a key role in warfare. But, to move from our industrial-age mindset to today's information age, I suggest that virtually every platform planning session include a discussion on how that platform fits into the warfighting network.
Fundamental advances in U.S. night vision technologies are unfolding rapidly. These sweeping military developments already are being demonstrated successfully. Called visual collaboration, the sharing of real-time image, graphics and information from soldier to soldier is enabled by exploiting new sensor and digital network technologies.