Future aircraft that break into several pieces mid-flight may represent a technological advantage rather than a catastrophic incident. The U.S. Air Force is looking to develop unmanned aircraft that introduce a new set of capabilities not available with humans in the cockpit. Among these many future possibilities are transformer-type vehicles that split into separate flying segments and then reattach when their mission is completed.
One would not transport a tribe from the Amazon jungle to an apartment house in Chicago and expect life to continue as before. One also would not lift thousands of applications that populate the U.S. Defense Department’s network and place them into clouds and expect no operations to be interrupted during the transition.
Faced with budget restrictions amid broadening mission requirements, the Netherlands military is adopting new tacks as it sets sail into a strong network-centric future. Its already sophisticated systems are being modernized to meet a growing international mission set that relies heavily on interoperability in joint and coalition operations.
Joint and coalition relationships that begin long before forces meet on the field have become a cornerstone of defense policies and officials in the military’s cybersecurity training arena are working to make sure the same holds true in the newest battlespace domain as well. Troops from the various armed forces branches already are attending education courses together, no matter which service sponsors the class, and in some cases coalition partners also are participating.
Members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) recently spent a year in what is arguably the most dangerous place on the planet for a U.S. service member—Helmand Province, Afghanistan. During the deployment, combat communicators were tasked with the normal duties of equipment operations and data transmission security. But by the time they came home, they had celebrated other noteworthy accomplishments, employed technology new to the Corps and identified several challenges as well as ways industry could help overcome them.
Throughout history, armed forces have faced the challenge of working together effectively. In the United States, the Defense Department has been working to make joint operations more effective since the origins of its armed forces, but the government institutionalized joint requirements in 1986 with the introduction of the Goldwater-Nichols Act. In Europe, NATO was created in the wake of World War II, built on the premise that the member nations were stronger together than individually and that an integrated joint approach was necessary.
The combatant command that propelled U.S. military transformation now is in the midst of a revolutionary transition of its own. U.S. Joint Forces Command, scheduled to be disestablished by the end of August, is making this journey led by its commander, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, USA. Gen. Odierno is applying the tactical expertise he gained while leading U.S. troops in Iraq from combat to sustainment operations to the portentous task of evolving his command into a completely new organization. Guided by the plans he and his staff developed, the general now is executing the implementation stage to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Persistent surveillance has been pegged as a crucial capability in current and future operations. Mind’s Eye is one of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) newest and most aggressive efforts to improve conditions for warfighters on the ground. The agency is working with the U.S. Army, industry and academia to create a way to educate video collection devices. Although existing cameras and sensors capture activity in an area, the mounds of visual data they collect are overwhelming to analysts and warfighters alike. Once visual intelligence is achieved, these information mountains will become actionable knowledge molehills that can be sent to commanders and perhaps directly to warfighters’ handheld computers in the field.
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine
With our military stretched among three fronts, our volunteer force is bearing a tremendous burden of OPTEMPO, reduced budgets and political posturing. A recent experience I had with our disabled veterans highlighted the reasons why we do what we do. It may be a good reminder to us all.
Unmanned ground systems on the battlefield provide critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data and help counter improvised explosive devices. Now, ground robots are positioned to expand into armed missions in Afghanistan.