The march of technology is improving interoperability and increasing capabilities among NATO and Partnership for Peace nations. New systems and bridging components are allowing forces to share information to a greater degree and under more circumstances than ever. However, the same new technologies are spawning a new generation of capabilities that are complicating efforts for true alliance interoperability.
The increasing importance of network-centric warfare and the new war on terrorism have accelerated the urgency for NATO to implement new information technologies across the spectrum of its political and military operations. However, obsolete procurement architectures, differing political cultures and outright national chauvinism have been the major obstacles to rapid integration of new command, control and communications systems for NATO, according to a leading alliance official.
The post-Cold-War world holds both common and unique challenges for one of NATO's newest members. As one of three nations admitted to NATO in 1999, Hungary is wrestling with national and military goals that must constantly adjust to changing requirements both internally and internationally.
The future may be at hand in the form of a multicontinental contractor team that combines existing technology to develop an advanced radar system. This industry group draws on expertise from companies located in all 19 NATO nations to produce a system that could finally realize a long-sought NATO airborne ground surveillance capability.
The software programmable radio era has spawned a new generation of units designed to interoperate while simultaneously serving specific service and platform needs. The result of these digital genetics is instant interoperability among land, sea and air forces as well as software-driven upgrades and compatibility with other systems.
A group of Russian telecommunications scientists has developed a new technology that can serve as a backbone for today's multiple communications protocols or as a stand-alone network. It can be scaled from a local area network up to a global telecommunications system capable of carrying voice, data and video simultaneously.
Europe's armies and defense firms are working together to transform conventional ground forces into digitized, network-centric units. A major part of this effort seeks to connect legacy equipment to data and communications networks. The first of these advanced national brigades is scheduled to enter service by the end of the decade.
The cost of linking legacy systems with new technologies entering service across Europe has caused a major international firm to shift its operational focus. Faced with shrinking defense budgets and nations locked into large multi-year procurement programs, the European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS), Paris, recently underwent an internal realignment. The company shifted away from being a platform and subsystem provider to becoming a primary systems integrator. This distinction is important because smaller budgets mean that European defense ministries can no longer afford to duplicate the efforts of other nations. Instead, they must leverage the expertise of multinational defense firms through shared integration programs.
A family of advanced lightweight reconnaissance drones is enhancing the situational awareness of German army units in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Easily transported in ground vehicles, the aircraft feature an automated flight control and navigation system that does not require skilled pilots to operate and can be rapidly assembled. Designed for mobility and a minimal logistics trail, the aircraft can operate from forward areas without the need for a runway.
A recently developed individual navigation tool allows soldiers to know their precise location inside buildings or areas where global positioning satellite signals are jammed. By combining several technologies into a small, lightweight unit, the device would provide warfighters with a three-dimensional view of their position so they could retrace their path to exit an area. The equipment also could help civilian first responders such as fire, police and emergency personnel to find routes through damaged or smoke-filled buildings.
The home nation of the former Warsaw Pact is undergoing a multifaceted military revolution as it strives to provide significant contributions to Free World security. Shortly after leading the former Eastern bloc in joining NATO, Poland is facing multiple challenges to both modernize and transform its armed forces.
The thrust toward force transformation that is redefining the U.S. military also promises to revamp NATO and its member nations. The alliance is working to evolve a new military configuration that will serve 21st century needs, which is a task that many of its members-including a host of new nations-are facing on their own. The recent successes of the U.S. military, which already is reaping some of the benefits of its force transformation, are adding urgency to both individual-nation and alliancewide efforts.
An advanced Swedish radar system capable of rapidly detecting and tracking multiple targets provides commanders with precious additional seconds in medium- and short-range air defense engagements. The radar can quickly sweep a section of sky in three dimensions and relay data to weapons platforms or to other sensors on a network.
Front line British troops soon will be able to access maintenance documentation electronically through a portal-based software system. By clicking on an icon, personnel will download data onto their laptops or handheld computers for immediate reference at flight lines or repair operations. The technology saves space in logistics chains once required for transporting paper documents and allows process or equipment changes to be noted immediately and made available across all military services.
A prototype command center allows engineers and military officers to test the interoperability of new technologies and to simulate operational scenarios. Based on existing intelligence gathering and battle management systems, the demonstrator links equipment and provides commanders with real-time data collected from a variety of sensors. Data fusion and decision-making tools permit simulation participants to experience the effects of rapid processing of intelligence information-a clear picture of the battlespace and a shortened sensor-to-shooter loop.
French and NATO air forces are operating components of a networked air operations center for air defense and mission planning. Designed to coordinate tactical- to theater-level operations, the components feature a number of command and control as well as data management technologies in a compact, transportable package that can be deployed in containers or installed in an aircraft. Combining several operational technologies, the center provides commanders with enhanced situational awareness via real-time links to sensors and weapon systems.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence has launched a massive restructuring of its information technology infrastructure to increase efficiency and information sharing across the entire organization. A key element of this program is dismantling individual systems and networks to create a single overarching architecture. The goal is to seamlessly move data from front line forces to those parts of the national defense structure, such as intelligence and command centers, whose analysis and decisions can then be shared within the government or transmitted back to the warfighter.