Periodically, we ask the senior leadership of the global security community to give us feedback on their top priorities in the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and information technology domains. In the past couple of years, they have been fairly consistent in saying that their top priority is interagency and coalition information sharing.
The U.S. Navy is designing its newest intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting system to fit advanced information systems that already have begun to take shape ashore and afloat. The first increment is receiving its shipboard introduction as a major milestone nears this spring.
The U.S. Navy is transitioning from network-centric to info-centric as it adjusts for the changing missions of the 21st century. The shift represents less a technology change than an organizational and operational one as the sea service faces more diverse missions with fewer assets.
U.S. Army researchers are taking the extended view as they plan near- and long-term intelligence and surveillance systems. New sensor suites are being designed to serve future requirements involving advanced data fusion and new approaches to situational awareness.
The U.S. Navy is rolling out its first new maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft in four decades, pushing mission technologies into the future. Upgrading the capabilities of the platform’s predecessor makes it better suited for today’s battle environment. Improvements include the ability to process more data, fly higher and longer and cover a larger area. The aircraft’s main purpose will be antisubmarine warfare, but it will be inherently flexible. In addition, the open systems architecture will make onboard adjustments easier and less expensive for the Navy and its partners while commercial production practices will reduce costs. Foreign nations and U.S. allies also are purchasing the aircraft and will provide input to the development process.
Seeing in the dark is a mere basic function of two versions of next-generation goggles, one preparing to roll out to troops and another in an early development stage. Researchers have combined image intensifier and infrared technology in one monocular device to offer troops improved sight capabilities in any light condition. As the U.S. Army prepares to expand the use of those tools from a few select units to a wider soldier population, it also is looking to the future. The next version of the goggles will digitize displays and enable users to pass and receive information to and from other sensors on the battlefield.
The U.S. Navy continues to take advantage of open architecture and an open business model to incorporate the most advanced capabilities into a key piece of the Submarine Combat System. Navy leadership is employing a program where technology upgrades can be inserted as necessary and as available to provide sailors with the tools they need to perform their missions. The effort reduces the time between upgrades as well as implements the best new ideas in industry more quickly. The plan is benefiting tactical control on submarines by keeping technologies in a state-of-the-practice configuration at all times, while being responsive to requests from the fleet and lowering costs.
Nine U.S. naval organizations are collaborating to increase the agility of communications to sailors and Marines conducting distributed operations in ground and littoral environments. Using a combination of manned and unmanned engagement platforms and integrated sensors, the system of systems not only will boost warfighters’ situational awareness but also will enable them to engage hostile forces remotely at the tactical level. This organic land, sea and air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability provides long-distance over-the-horizon communications capabilities and feeds into both lethal and nonlethal weapons. As a result, commanders will have a variety of immediate offensive and defensive options.
After decades of creating phenomenal information technology tools, the U.S. military is now focusing on convergence. The systems-of-systems approach gradually is being replaced by a more fully intertwining architecture into a powerful mash up. The benefits of initiatives that create unified communications capabilities are as dissimilar as the difference between having a single computer or radio and being part of a network.
A kaleidoscope of issues, priorities, methods and rules influences the decision-making process that provides warfighters with the equipment and technical capabilities they want and need in current operations. The challenges run deeper and wider than simply fixing the acquisition processes or building a new platform. They involve aligning just the right pieces of relevance, adaptability, scalability and affordability to promote significant change while smoothly tipping the mechanisms to develop at an ample rate.