By Brig. Gen. Michael Basla, USAF, Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems, and Chief Information Officer, U.S. Transportation Command
The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) provides common-user and commercial transportation, terminal management, aerial refueling and global patient movement for the U.S. Defense Department through the Defense Transportation System and serves as the distribution process owner (DPO) for the department. Information and enabling technologies are critical to delivering DPO capabilities. The DPO establishes and monitors Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise (JDDE) standards for operational performance, data and information technology. It also sets the Defense Department's distribution technology investment priorities and serves as the department's distribution portfolio manager, determining a data strategy to capture requirements and to establish standards.
The U.S. military must incorporate the ability to change on the fly in its information networks or it risks ceding the edge in the war on terrorism to the enemy. Better communications systems and networks must be implemented rapidly and in a manner that permits the force to adjust to the changing tactics of an elusive adversary.
NATO Rapid Response Force commanders soon will benefit from equipment that provides enhanced situational awareness and battle management capabilities. The improvements are part of a package of networked decision-making tools scheduled to enter service in 2008 to support the force's deployable headquarters.
A new NATO member nation is deploying an advanced air defense command and control system that provides its forces with enhanced situational awareness and that interoperates with allied forces' systems. The system connects short- and medium-range anti-aircraft weapons batteries into a battalion-level network. It is designed to provide commanders with a real-time picture of friendly and enemy air operations over the battlefield.
Troops in the field may soon have a little help handling their busy schedules. Researchers are working on a developmental distributed intelligent software system that adapts field units' mission plans as situations and events unfold. The software can be used with a variety of devices and reduces the time and personnel necessary when changing tactics.
The U.S. Air Force is claiming the virtual high ground. The service recently stood up a task force to study and define exactly what cyberspace means in relation to military operations. This group, part of an ongoing effort to reap the maximum benefits in force transformation, is developing recommendations that will help reshape doctrine, tactics and mission areas for years to come.
Convergence is taking place in the military for more than voice, video and data these days. The U.S. Air Force's new Network Operations Command and the redesignation of the 67th Information Operations Wing as the 67th Network Warfare Wing set into motion significant changes intended to improve network command and control and situational awareness as well as the synergy between network warfare disciplines. As the service implements the evolutionary strides of this reformation, information technology will become an even more integral part of a U.S. military global strike capability, one that transcends geographic areas of responsibility and that effectively reaches into the realm of cyberspace.
U.S. military aircraft may one day mimic the Hollywood special effects of Batman Begins with wings that change from pliable to rigid and back again or that expand and contract on demand. Two approaches for morphing aircraft structures are being considered that would give the armed forces the ability to use the same airplane in multiple roles, from slow-flying reconnaissance missions to high-speed target takedowns. Several enabling technologies are facilitating the development of this capability; however, determining how such aircraft would meet military requirements still remains to be done.
Pilots flying the new F-35 strike fighter may be forgiven if they begin to believe that their aircraft is disappearing around them: Its sensor suite, situational awareness and human-machine interface are so advanced that the pilot will have instantaneous knowledge of everything around him or her-in all directions. In an aircraft with displays that resemble video games more than conventional cockpits, pilots will have a greater variety of situational awareness information and more capabilities to act on that information than available on any other aircraft currently flying.
The U.S. Central Command faces an array of technological and procedural problems in the area of command, control, communications and computers. From a need to include interagency and coalition partners on networks that do not support their access to information to a requirement to update communications infrastructures that are primitive, nonexistent or targeted by the enemy, creating network centricity that fully supports the troops is a constant challenge for the command.