Future U.S. Air Force sensors will serve multiple roles as detectives, guards, messengers and avengers. New active and passive systems will network, exchange information, formulate opinions and even lead the fight against adversaries on the ground and in the air.
The U.S. Air Force is spearheading the joint community's pursuit to meet the need for speed-in a realm other than aircraft. A Web-based system developed by the service is providing the boost that commanders and intelligence specialists need to attain the goal of striking a target within seven minutes of a command to attack.
U.S. Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is relinquishing its separate identity and becoming an integral part of air combat operations. Sensor advances and the advent of network-centric warfare have both increased the discipline's importance and compressed the time required to carry out its mission taskings.
Although it is not as glamorous as smart weapons or miniaturized sensors, data storage is emerging as an increasingly important issue in the U.S. military. As the services continue to move toward a networked force, U.S. Defense Department leaders are beginning to pay close attention to how and where to store the data and images that sophisticated technologies are gathering in enormous quantities. After all, it not only has to be kept somewhere, but it also must be readily accessible to be valuable.
From clay tablets to magnetic tape, civilizations have found ways to store important information; however, the silicon revolution has led to an overabundance of data. While existing electronic media have kept pace with this demand, new technologies could offer massive storage coupled with fast retrieval.
The increasingly heavy flow of data within organizational networks is driving the search for better methods to store actively used information and archives. Advances in optical-disc technology are producing greater versatility in multimedia hardware and software. As a result, consumers will soon achieve increased systems interoperability through a more refined focus on equipment compatibility.
Advances in computer network security are empowering network-dependent organizations to address the sobering fact that a majority of threats to proprietary information today originate within the pool of authorized users. A new off-the-shelf software application that monitors the flow of data through a network enables organizations to counter internal threats to sensitive information by identifying the source of a violation. The U.S. Defense Department is exploring the software as a way to address its security concerns.
Future military command centers may take the form of distributed networks if ongoing research by scientists bears fruit. One new project already has been adapted by the Swedish armed forces and will be partially implemented in its new operational command post.
Prototype technology could someday help exhausted or stressed front-line officers make sound critical decisions by providing advice based on their own career experiences. The software program can create a database consisting of an individual's professional knowledge that can be expanded and modified throughout a person's career.
An experimental radio technology may provide a more efficient means of alleviating bandwidth congestion in wireless communications. Operating at lower power than most radio devices, time-modulated ultrawideband technology fuses communications, radar and tracking capabilities into one piece of hardware that can deliver improved performance while remaining compatible with most legacy and commercial off-the-shelf systems.