Maintaining air supremacy soon may be easier for U.S. fighter pilots equipped with the latest helmet technology. Head-tracking display screens are being designed to allow target designation with little more than a pilot's nod. The introduction at the end of the 1980s of the Soviet AA-11 Archer air-to-air missile revealed a serious deficiency in U.S. capabilities. That deficiency took on increasingly ominous significance as Russian-built aircraft and air-launched weapons, integrated with helmet-mounted sights and capable of being launched at up to 90 degrees off boresight of a target, proliferated widely to governments hostile to the United States. The problem is now being addressed in a joint U.S. Navy-U.S. Air Force effort, which combines the AIM-9X missile, an advanced short-range dogfight weapon with a targeting device that can aim sensors and weapons wherever a pilot looks.
Two new types of flat screen displays are now being used in rugged military and commercial applications. The first type, which was designed for use on U.S. Army field generators, is an intelligent display screen that employs an innovative "transflective" design. This allows information to be easily read in both bright sunlight and darkness while requiring unusually low power inputs to operate.
New very high frequency radios are sharing the airwaves with sensor systems in battlefield networking. Both communications and radar units have become portable enough that they now are mobile nodes in an interlocking information web.
A simulation tool that creates a virtual satellite allows ground personnel to rehearse satellite communications and operations disciplines without tying up valuable orbiters. The new system enables warfighters to train on, assess and certify orbital communications links without interrupting ongoing satellite operations.
Semiconductor designers are increasing their dependence on computer-aided design and testing to advance microcircuitry beyond the current state of the art. Demand for more and more complex chips has necessitated taking design out of the hands of engineers and into the realm of cyberspace.
If throughout your entire professional life you had gone by a nickname associated with one of the towering giants of American literature, what would you do when you finally retired from the corporate world?
Researchers are demonstrating that good things, in the form of useful amounts of power, can come in small packages. At the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, researchers have been able to produce power with a generator approximately the size of a dime. The device, called a microgenerator, is one aspect of a project to create a microengine that weighs less and lasts longer than batteries used by soldiers in the field today.
Members of the joint community are moving forward on proving that voice over Internet protocol can be a force multiplier. Although voice over Internet protocol is still in relative infancy, the Joint Communications Support Element, U.S. Joint Forces Command, has demonstrated through a series of exercises that this approach can increase both technological advances and bandwidth efficiency provided to the joint warfighter. It also decreases airlift requirements, reduces the number of needed personnel and cuts the cost of communications systems by moving from circuit-based to Internet-based networks.
A key U.S. ally is digitizing its command and control architecture to increase the operational speed and agility of its ground forces. Built around a wireless backbone supported by software programmable radios, this system will reduce sensor-to-shooter cycles by streaming real-time data to commanders. Designed for both high- and low-intensity conflict, it will link all echelons from infantry squads up to the division level in a single network.
The U.S. military must ramp up force transformation without missing a beat in its campaign to win the war on terror, and succeeding in those two endeavors will require close coordination across many disciplines. A variety of issues ranging from advanced system acquisition to personnel training and education must be addressed in the midst of operational activities at home and abroad.