Defense Operations

February 9, 2017
U.S. Air Force training in New Mexico uses robots to teach airmen how to operate better in tense situations.

They can extinguish shipboard fires and deliver explosive devices to kill suspected shooters, and now robots can help U.S. airmen practice for intense missions, such as hostage situations.

The U.S. Air Force’s 27th Special Operations Wing is using specialized robots programmed with practice scenarios to train explosive ordnance disposal technicians at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

February 8, 2017
By Maryann Lawlor
Aurora Flight Sciences recently tested a full-scale SideArm technology demonstration system that repeatedly captured a Lockheed Martin Fury UAS accelerated to representative flight speeds via an external catapult. Photo courtesy of DARPA.

A full-scale technology demonstration system that repeatedly captured a 400-pound Lockheed Martin Fury unmanned aerial system (UAS) accelerated to representative flight speeds via an external catapult. The test was part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) SideArm research, which focuses on creating a self-contained, portable apparatus that can horizontally launch and retrieve UASs that weigh up to 900 pounds.

February 1, 2017
By Carl Morris and James Christophersen
A new state-of-the-art Satellite Earth Terminal Station (SETS) in Landstuhl, Germany, provides improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning and power distribution as well as additional floor space to better accommodate increased systems and subsystems. Photo courtesy U.S. Army-PM DCATS

U.S. Army satellite ground stations are getting a much-needed total makeover—considering that several hail from the same era as the Vietnam War, the Kennedy presidency and the space race. 

Their high-tech moniker—Satellite Earth Terminal Stations, or SETS—belies the actual nature of these facilities. The structures appear to more closely resemble corrugated steel warehouses for auto parts than suitable environments for cutting-edge satellite communications (SATCOM) equipment. During the 1960s, digital SATCOM was hardly a twinkle in the eye of technologists. SATCOM speed, volume and complexity would increase by many orders of magnitude over the next five decades.

January 30, 2017
By Charlie Kawasaki
A U.S. Marine uses a tablet to communicate in real-time during the Infantry Officer’s Course.

The ability of warfighters to be mobile and nimble is not a luxury during combat operations. It is an absolute necessity. Staying ahead of the enemy or avoiding attack often means an entire command post must move, and quickly—a mammoth challenge if the command post relies on a wired communications network with cumbersome and costly cables and equipment.

February 1, 2017
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

All the U.S. military services have had to do more with less, but the Navy is facing a challenge that strikes at the heart of its raison d’être. Simply put, the Navy is underequipped. It does not have the number or types of ships it needs to adequately address its global role. Maintenance is backlogged, and because the supply of ready forces does not meet demand, deployments are longer. This downward curve in operating capability is reciprocal to the growth in its missions. The cost to re-establish the dominance of the Navy is significant, but it must be met—and in several areas. Further delay only adds to the expense and the risk to national security.

January 18, 2017
By Sandra Jontz
Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) equipment is pictured in preparation for the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 12.1 in November 2011.

A communications network management software solution deployed last year across the U.S. Army has proven to drastically reduce network downtime as soldiers operate in an increasingly complex command post environment.

Army and civilian communicators and network specialists, untrained on PacStar’s IQ-Core Software, configured and managed complex networking equipment up to 10 times faster than comparable manual methods and with nine times fewer errors, according to an independent research firm’s report released today.

January 1, 2017
By Sandra Jontz
Airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 152nd Air Operations Group participate in Virtual Flag, a computer war game held in February 2015. The computer hookup let war planners interact with other Air Force units around the United States and in Europe.

War gaming across the U.S. Defense Department has been wasting away over the past few years, atrophied because of rapid technological changes and constrained defense spending, department officials say.

January 1, 2017
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

Our next adversary likely will use far more sophisticated technologies against our command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities than the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have employed. U.S. armed forces will face significant radio jamming, cyber attacks, misinformation, elaborate deception operations and denial of access to radio frequency spectrum. My concern is that some of the military’s best technical capabilities could be unavailable or degraded. To counter this, a renewed effort to double down on mission-oriented training is needed.

December 20, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
A U.S. Navy buoyancy glider, similar to one that was seized December 15, 2016, by the Chinese navy. The vessel was returned to the U.S. Navy December 20.

Chinese naval forces returned a U.S. Navy underwater, unmanned research vessel on Tuesday, near the location where it was unlawfully seized late last week, according to a U.S. Defense Department statement.

December 16, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
USNS Bowditch

A Chinese military ship seized a U.S. underwater, unmanned research vessel, prompting the U.S. Defense Department to launch “appropriate government-to-government channels” with the Chinese government to immediately return the vessel. On Thursday, China unlawfully seized the unclassified ocean glider while sailing in the South China Sea, according to a Defense Department news release. 

The USNS Bowditch and the unmanned underwater vessel (UUV) are used to gather military oceanographic data such as salinity, water temperature and sound speed, the release states. 

November 17, 2016
By George I. Seffers
A panel of U.S. military communications officers discuss their technology wish lists at AFCEA Technet Asia-Pacific. Photo by Bob Goodwin

A panel of U.S. military communications officers stationed in the Asia-Pacific region told the defense technology industry what they most need to accomplish the mission. The list included capabilities ranging from next-generation authentication tools to airborne command and control network modeling.

Rear Adm. Kathleen Creighton, director of command, control, communications and cyber, U.S. Pacific Command, named advanced identity management. “The technology is there. It’s probably more of an acquisition [issue] on the government side, but I think that’s a critical one,” she said during a panel discussion on the final day of AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific in Honolulu.

November 29, 2016

The Kill Chain Integration Branch at Hanscom Air Force Base has begun an experimentation campaign, known as Data-to-Decisions, to look at ways to provide warfighters data in the fastest and most efficient way possible. The campaign is in its early stages but, according to officials, already showing the potential for favorable results.

November 17, 2016
By George I. Seffers
Terry Halvorsen, U.S. Defense Department chief information officer, speaks about using cloud technology. Photo by Bob Goodwin

Taking advantage of the hybrid cloud environment is the smart thing to do, said Terry Halvorsen, U.S. Defense Department chief information officer.

“We would be completely stupid if we didn’t take advantage of hybrid cloud environment,” Halvorsen said while addressing audience at the AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific conference in Honolulu.

He went on to say the department will have a cloud solution providing a set of basic enterprise services, such as email, chat, video and file share. “They will be modeled after commercial, and it will be probably in partnership with a commercial provider,” he said.

November 15, 2016
By George I. Seffers
Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, USN, deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, summarizes the state actor threats to the United States during AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific in Honolulu. Photo by Bob Goodwin

The good news, according to Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, USN, deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, is there is little likelihood the United States will go to war with China, Russia, North Korea or Iran, the country’s top four nation-state adversaries. Furthermore, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will not be able to hold onto its territories. On the other hand, North Korea is utterly unpredictable and ISIL will probably rebuild somewhere else.

November 9, 2016
By Ralph Wade

An impression exists among senior government officials that moving command, control, communication, computers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems into the cloud is overhyped. They question whether this will improve operational effectiveness. I admit I once shared these reservations, but recently evolved on the subject and now see a compelling rationale for moving C4ISR into the cloud. 

November 3, 2016
By Julianne Simpson
An Atlas V launch vehicle carrying the Navy's fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) communications satellite lifts off from Space Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of United Launch Alliance/Released)

The U.S. Navy's newest communications satellite has reached its operational orbit and successfully deployed its arrays and antennas, months after a post-launch difficulty delayed its voyage to geosynchronous orbit earlier this year, a Navy spokesperson says.

The fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS-5) satellite experienced problems this summer, the result of a failure of the orbit-raising propulsion system during a transfer maneuver, says Steven A. Davis, a spokeman with Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

November 3, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
Maj. Gen. Dwyer Dennis, USAF, addresses attendees on the final day of MILCOM 2016 in Baltimore.

The U.S. Air Force is placing a heavy emphasis on a command and control construct (C2), hardening against cyberthreats the service’s enterprise networks that control everything from state-of-the-art fighter jets to weapons systems, said Maj. Gen. Dwyer Dennis, USAF

Competing priorities of speed, security and cost will drive future cyber-based programs as the Air Force focuses on the C2 of networks and the erupting amount of data. “It’s all about the data,” said Gen. Dennis, program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

November 2, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
 Maj. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, commanding general of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, speaks at MILCOM 2016. Photo by Mike Carpenter

Cybersecurity and controlling the electromagnetic spectrum, along with several years of continuous combat, are among the challenges for military communications, according to speakers at the second day of MILCOM 2016, taking place in Baltimore and co-hosted by AFCEA International and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE.

November 2, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
Panelists discuss readiness and training of U.S. military forces at MILCOM 2016. Photo by Mike Carpenter

Fifteen years of continuous combat on multiple global battlefields has made U.S. military troop readiness one of the most critical challenges facing the services and Defense Department, according to experts speaking at MILCOM 2016.

In spite of advances in communications, networking and other computer technologies, efforts to sustain troops and equipment have taken a toll on training in particular, making operational priorities and capability needs a highly relevant topic toward shaping the force of the future, said Maj. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, commanding general of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM).

November 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
 Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, USA, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, speaks at MILCOM 2016. Photo by Mike Carpenter

Military communications need to keep up with the needs of the modern warfighter while still protecting against cyberthreats. That was the message during the first day of of MILCOM 2016, a three-day international conference for military communications. This year's theme, Securing Communications at the Speed of Cyber, digs into the competing priorities of speed, security and cost amid emerging challenges.

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