Bringing the network to warfighters will be futile without a source of energy to feed the numerous devices they will rely on for survival and lethality. Today's fast-paced high-technology battlespace is screaming for long-lasting, lightweight batteries, and the U.S. Army is answering the call by exploring battery chemistries and smart batteries as well as working with equipment designers. In some areas, the service has made great advances; in others, it is still waiting for the technological improvements that industry promised years ago.
Warfighters soon may turn to the sun to recharge their battlefield electronics. The U.S government is developing highly efficient solar cells that will be built into batteries and tactical equipment such as night vision goggles, personal navigation devices and radios. The effort seeks to cut the number of spare batteries carried by soldiers to save weight and reduce logistics requirements.
People and materiel soon may be moving across the ocean much more quickly and outrunning torpedoes in the process. A developmental technology will use supercavitation to move underwater vessels at high speeds. In addition to the rapid rate, the project aims to sustain that pace over long periods of time and to maintain control and steering of the watercraft.
A new class of mechanical devices with embedded electronics will allow personnel to access maintenance panels and equipment in aircraft and other platforms rapidly and without the use of tools. The technology permits the remote closing, locking and unlocking of fasteners via wireless handheld devices. The fasteners also are equipped with sensors to report their status and that of the structures immediately surrounding them, offering the potential for smart logistics and vehicle diagnostic systems.
In a Naval Institute Press publication, Inside the Iron Works: How Grumman's Glory Days Faded, George Skurla, the former chief executive officer of Grumman Aerospace, and William H. Gregory describe the failures and downfall, 30 years ago, of one of our leading naval aviation manufacturers. After reading this obituary it is easy to draw parallels to the specter that has befallen many current defense companies and acquisition guardians. We all recognize that there are many other factors responsible—congressional political influence, policy dictums, service secretaries and chiefs of service. But doesn't anyone realize that the U.S. Defense Department is suffocating under unaffordable cost overruns, catastrophic failures in engineering design, poor manufacturing quality and incompetent technical government oversight?
New emerging ways to protect electronic data include methods to verify the identity of those who have rights to view specific material as well as to provide access to information through the Internet instead of through hard or soft copies. These approaches reduce the chances of personnel stealing or misplacing copies of confidential records, because data remains in one location. This capability is particularly important as the U.S. military shifts to a network-centric environment and officials look for ways to provide the right information access to the right people while prohibiting that information from the enemy.
U.S. Marines providing on-site command, control, communications, computers and intelligence support have a new tool—a tactical network in a box—that allows them to learn to use the most recent software in a virtual environment.