A new airborne tactical reconnaissance system soon will provide the United Kingdom's warfighters with an around-the-clock, all-weather surveillance capability that can be tailored to meet a variety of missions. Based on an operational unmanned aerial vehicle but with more sensors and longer endurance than existing British tactical platforms, its real-time data feeds will offer commanders greater situational awareness and operational flexibility.
Accredited, tested solutions could allow military decision makers and intelligence analysts to access information and make decisions simultaneously using information that resides in multiple security classifications. However, although the U.S. Defense Department is moving forward to address information-sharing challenges, it has encountered difficulties in proving and certifying these technologies in a testbed environment.
In what has proved to be a timely and prescient move, the Guam Army National Guard recently upgraded its communication system both to handle expanded mission demands and to be resistant to constant battering by typhoons. The Guard now has an Internet protocol (IP)-based system built around commercial technology and designed to survive storm elements that used to crash the Guard's old system regularly.
Calling a help desk when the computer refuses to boot up or when e-mail is blocked can be a frustrating experience. But with the help of industry, U.S. Air Force communications personnel in the Asia-Pacific region have taken steps to alleviate some of the aggravation. By employing commercial best practices and standardizing processes, the directorate in charge of ensuring that warfighters can connect is now more efficiently and effectively employing its resources. As a result, it expects to reduce the time needed to resolve technical issues by 20 percent.
U.S. warfighters soon may power their battlefield electronics with a lightweight water-based fuel cell system. Consisting of thin metal alloy plates soaking in salt water, the technology allows soldiers to replace heavy disposable batteries with lightweight rechargeable ones. Because the devices have no moving parts and are made of readily available materials, they may provide troops with a simple and robust reserve or primary power supply.
An advanced microelectronics technology may allow future communications equipment to receive and process multiple high frequency waveforms easily. Relying on superconducting processors in a sealed refrigerated container, the system translates analog radio signals directly to digital information, preventing the data and efficiency losses found in semiconductor-based applications. Unconstrained by performance-limiting issues such as thermal interference, the frigid superconducting chips permit prototype devices to receive, sample and transmit gigahertz-range signals across much of the military's spectrum.
Transformation will be essential to NATO's new missions in the post-Cold-War global war on terror, according to the alliance's leadership. And, as in the United States, government and industry will need to partner to achieve the individual goals that must be reached for that transformation to succeed.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) information technology environment is rapidly evolving and maturing, all to the benefit of the warfighter. Most of these changes are directly related to contributions from both the services and the joint command, control, communications and computers community. Today, we are applying technologies in a way that allows us to enjoy the advantages of the network-centric operational environment concept envisioned for tomorrow. This dynamic pace of change among applications, supporting infrastructure and mode of communication presents us with both opportunities and challenges.
The recent disasters caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast of the United States laid bare many long-overlooked facts. Among them is the importance of local communications interoperability. From individuals at home to emergency responders operating on a national scale, communications connectivity is vital during a crisis. The communications shortcomings experienced during that series of disasters contributed to the difficulties faced by the populace.
As the military looks to commercial technology to help satisfy its communications needs, U.S. Army reservists working in the private sector are bringing a welcomed source of knowledge to the table. Grecian Firebolt 2005, one of the nation's largest annual training exercises for Army Reserve communicators, highlighted the ever-closing gap between military know-how and innovative commercial solutions.