Defense electronics contractors are going commercial in a bid to equip the United Kingdom with a rapidly deployable battlefield communications network. The country's Ministry of Defence is seeking a commercial off-the-shelf solution that is low-risk, easy to enhance and ready for deployment in about two years.
The Allied Forces Central Europe Command, once a bastion of Western Europe's defensive line, is reinventing itself to serve as a key element in alliance operations outside its area of responsibility. It is consolidating with another regional command, incorporating two of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's newest members into its structure, and preparing to serve as a parent headquarters to other alliance commands.
As the U.S. armed forces continue to transform their own inner workings and construct the means for cooperating in a joint environment, a similar-though much larger-phenomenon is well underway as countries throughout the world explore their role in international operations. At the heart of the matter are questions about political objectives, legal constraints and the status of technology development-tough issues that require the framers of this new global community to be part architect, part foreman and part bricklayer.
Spain's army is benefiting from information technology development by the nation's domestic industry. A mesh system of nodal centers is being developed and deployed for mobile command, control and communications. Independent of terrain considerations, the multimedia voice and data system covers the operational area of an army division.
Building on a broad research base at the forefront of military technologies, German industry is developing a vast array of components and systems for the Bundeswehr and other allied military forces. New concepts tumble forth almost daily from German industry and government laboratories to improve tactical programs, especially in the areas of sensor, fire control, combat management, communication and simulation systems.
Buttressed by a wave of mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, France's defense and aerospace industries are becoming increasingly competitive in cutting-edge technologies. This especially is the case in the development of electronics, command, control, communications and sensor systems.
Twin pressures of extremely complex advanced technologies and far fewer major defense and aerospace programs are propelling the worldwide consolidation of industry. This evolution is characterized by moves away from nationally based, fragmented approaches and toward mergers, consortiums and joint ventures in an era of fewer major global prime contractors.
The U.S. Defense Department is coordinating a multidimensional effort to seek out technologies that would bring order to the oftentimes chaotic environment of a coalition operation. Among the top priorities is identifying information security approaches that ensure continued communications when the composition of the coalition changes or the ad hoc area network is attacked.
The adoption of network-based operations combined with commercial information technology and telecommunications products is enhancing the interoperability of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Partnership for Peace nations' military forces. These developments also are allowing many smaller and former Eastern Bloc countries to rapidly evolve their militaries into modern information-based organizations.
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.