Last month I toured an industrial site once famous for its manufacturing proficiency. In its heyday, this steel and shipbuilding facility dominated the industrial world. Sparrows Point, in Baltimore's harbor, was a symbol of U.S. manufacturing might. But, it also has a special personal connection. This former world-class facility of Bethlehem Steel—my hometown's namesake—was responsible for building the USS Saratoga, which was the post-World-War-II aircraft carrier on which I embarked for a nine-month nugget cruise as an Intruder pilot during operation Desert Storm.
Information is a key weapon for combating an illusive and a decentralized enemy. By collecting, analyzing and sharing data among key organizations, the United States enhances its ability to outmaneuver and strike at its adversaries and to defend its shores against attack.
Interagency is the new joint. The U.S. military branches are shifting focus from developing methods for working with one another to determining the technologies and policies necessary to collaborate with other U.S. agencies and international partners. As warfare moves into the fourth generation, with an asymmetric, transnational enemy and battlefield, the need for better cooperation among allies and better understanding of a smart and technically savvy foe will be the keys to victory in a long war.
Forward observers are trading in their pencils and voice communications systems for a more digitized approach to calling for fire. A handheld technology reduces the chance for human error, enhances accuracy and saves troops valuable time.
As vastly improved surveillance capabilities and long-range, low-observable, precision-guided weaponry proliferates, the nuclear-powered submarine is emerging as the most likely platform to reach congested regions rapidly, to enter them covertly and to survive there for long periods. In today's FORCEnet environment, better near-real-time connectivity with submarines has become a goal of both technical and operational entities within the U.S. submarine force.
The People's Republic of China has launched a new series of frigates that provide an effective modern capability for littoral operations. Known as the Type 054 series, these new frigates can be categorized into two classes—the 054 Jingkai and the newer, much more capable 054A. The first appeared about four years ago, but China could be gearing up to produce both variants in large numbers.
New collection and storage technologies, along with the need for greater collaboration across the intelligence community, are changing the nature of intelligence analysis. But obstacles that stand in the way of that change could prevent intelligence analysis from achieving its full—and necessary—potential to serve national requirements in the Global War on Terrorism.
A multinational exercise is bringing African nations together by focusing on how they can cooperate across a range of operations that include conducting peacekeeping missions, coordinating disaster relief and responding to humanitarian emergencies. The event will improve communications and collaboration in a region where military cooperation is uncommon, and it will develop new techniques and standards to permit nations to interoperate.
The U.S. Marine Corps soon may have an additional set of airborne eyes available to help its warfighters on the ground. A technology development program is using a new type of robot aircraft to fill an operational gap between tactical- and headquarters-level forces. The platform will be used to assess a variety of sensors under operational conditions to find the right mix of systems to support troops in the field.
The U.S. Marine Corps is melding communications and networking systems from other military services with commercial technologies to meet transformational and warfighting information requirements. The Corps is plucking some technologies á la carte from large programs under way among the three other U.S. Defense Department services. And, it is collaborating with those services on the development of their future systems.
In the global war on cyberterrorism, the networks and applications that sprouted throughout the U.S. Navy like dandelions in spring are being culled to ensure that the most beneficial remain and can be centrally managed. The largest endeavor moves the Navy from fragmented legacy systems to centrally managed, decentrally executed configurations. At the same time, feeding incident data from many network centers into a single security site is helping cyberwarriors protect not only classified information but also other high-value data targets.
Anew type of digital receiver driven by a superconducting microprocessor could greatly increase the sensitivity of U.S. military satellite communications terminals. By directly converting signals from the antenna into data, the device eliminates the need for analog conversion systems, saving equipment space and reducing airlift and maintenance costs.
Troops on the move soon will find connecting to other service members much easier and less cumbersome. A satellite terminal in development will put connectivity at the fingertips and on the backs of warfighters. This ruggedized manpack combines a satellite terminal and High Assurance Internet Protocol Encryptor Type 1 security tool into one device. The terminal will give the military an Internet protocol advantage by providing secure, high-speed Internet access.
A tiny nation on the brink of bankruptcy and a tenacious technological futurist could parent a telecommunications leap as significant as the Internet itself. The Republic of Nauru, a South Pacific island one-quarter the size of Manhattan, is set to be the host country licensor of the Super Wide Area Network, defined by its creator as Wi-Fi or WiMAX on steroids. Once built and launched, the satellite system not only would offer unheard-of ubiquitous communications capabilities but also would bridge the digital divide with a business model that provides citizens of even the poorest countries with access to the latest technologies.
Military forces around the world can expect better information sharing beginning next year. The launch of the next generation of satellite communications will bring an order of magnitude jump in communications ability over current capabilities, and the new technology will interact with legacy systems to provide improved services for all users.