Defense Operations

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers
The rapid fielding office within the Pentagon helped develop the Accelerated Nuclear DNA Equipment system, which can process five DNA samples in about 90 minutes.

With the war in Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. Defense Department’s rapid deployment office, which specializes in identifying, developing and quickly fielding game-changing technologies, now will take a more long-term approach. Slightly stretching out the process will offer more flexibility to procure the best possible systems, will present more opportunities for interagency and international cooperation and may cut costs.

July 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
U.S. Navy personnel use an experimental mockup of a submarine situational awareness system based on Google Earth. Navy officials aim to begin deploying the geospatial information system on Virginia-class submarines next year.

The U.S. Navy submarine force is moving to use a commercial geospatial information product to provide an integrated data picture to its crew members. The undersea fleet is striving to implement Google Earth as a common geospatial foundation across all systems aboard its submarines.

The new geospatial display system will allow sailors onboard submarines to view water depth, sonar contacts, distance from land, operational areas and forward-course tracks. Not only would all this information be displayed visually, but the same operational picture also would be visible to anyone at a console throughout the boat.

July 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
These illustrations show a Conformal Integrated Protective HEadgeaR (CIPHER) helmet prototype (l) and an INTEgRated Conformal Protective helmeT (INTERCPT) prototype.

U.S. Army engineers and scientists are working to eventually equip dismounted soldiers with wearable computers such as Google Glass. The up-and-coming wearables technology is being touted by officials as one of the next game-changers for warriors. So much of today’s computer technology was designed for a person sitting in a chair at a desk, whereas dismounted soldiers are in the field, walking around. Their fully loaded, capability offices need to be more mobile. “Given that same type of [office-centric] paradigm for presentation of material is not the best soldier experience,” says David Darkow, supervisor of mission information for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

July 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers
Army vehicles are required to carry jammers to counter improvised explosive devices. Researchers seek technological solutions to prevent the devices from interfering with friendly force communications and use spectrum more efficiently.

The complexities of the U.S. Army’s networks and spectrum allocation processes interfere with the need to reassign units to different tasks, creating major delays and presenting serious challenges. To solve the issue, researchers intend to deliver a wide range of technologies, including automated spectrum planning and allocation tools and smarter radios, that will use spectrum more efficiently, network more effectively and provide commanders the flexibility to reorganize as needed.

June 10, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Smartphones, tablets and mobile apps are the norm for today’s soldiers, but teleporting data may be typical for the troops of tomorrow. Scientists at the U.S. Army's Research Laboratory (ARL), Adelphi, Maryland, have successfully demonstrated information teleportation capabilities in the laboratory using entangled photons. The quantum computing breakthrough could lead to substantially improved cybersecurity, vastly superior data processing rates and dramatically enhanced situational awareness.

June 6, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. Navy already has its frogmen, so why not add a reptile to the military’s repertoire? Mimicking the biological properties that let geckos amazingly climb and cling to a number of surfaces, scientists and engineers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) devised “Geckskin,” gecko-inspired paddles that recently helped a 218-pound man—lugging a 50-pound load—scale and descend a 25-foot glass wall.

May 29, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
Improvements to the Army's high resolution, 3-D terrain mapping system help troops access the most up-to-date imagery.

U.S. Army researchers improved on the service’s 3-D terrain mapping system by reducing the system’s weight by 250 pounds and making the BuckEye operational from drones. Now they are developing a capability allowing the system to collect data from higher altitudes, covering a larger swath of land and considerably improving the technology’s efficacy, Michael A. Harper, director of the Warfighter Support Directorate at the U.S. Army Geospatial Center, says.

May 28, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Cyber warfare garnered attention and funding earmarks in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal 2015 Defense Department spending bill as lawmakers want to see federal civilian jobs pay more competitive salaries to keep up with the industry work force. The measure also calls for a study to determine if the services should change active duty officer and enlisted specialty cyber mission designators.

May 16, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Representatives from the U.S. Army and Air Force, along with 17 NATO nations and three partner nations, will participate in a joint reconnaissance trial at Orland Air Station in Norway May 19-28 to test and evaluate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) concepts and technologies. The Unified Vision 2014 (UV14) trial will be NATO’s largest-ever ISR trial and will be used as a major stepping stone to provide NATO warfighters with an enhanced set of ISR capabilities.

May 15, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Scientists with the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) are the first to succeed at creating a ceramic window for all types of military vehicles that is not only 50 percent harder than current materials, but lighter, more crack resistant and likely to be a cost-saving endeavor, researchers say.

“We are the first to demonstrate a ceramic material with that small of a grain size and measure its properties,” says James Wollmershauser, a scientist with the NRL’s materials science and technology division, of the development of the Enhanced High Pressure Sintering approach.

May 14, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Terry Halvorsen, currently the U.S. Navy’s chief information officer (CIO), will take over as the Defense Department’s acting CIO in a week, a position vacated somewhat abruptly by Teri Takai when she announced at the end of April that she would be leaving the post by May 2.

For the past few weeks, the office’s senior deputy, David DeVries, had been serving as the acting CIO. This week, Robert Work, newly appointed deputy secretary of defense, announced that Halvorsen will assume the office’s role as acting CIO effective May 21.

May 6, 2014
By Rita Boland

As of last week, the U.S. Air Force began continuously broadcasting L2C and L5 civilian GPS signals. Though the changes make little immediate difference to the general population, the makers of GPS devices will use them to develop next-generation devices.

May 8, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The House Armed Services Committee unanimously approved in the early morning hours Thursday its version of the fiscal 2015 defense spending bill, authorizing nearly $601 billion overall.

The powerful committee’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) consists of $521.3 for spending on national defense, and an additional $79.4 billion placeholder for overseas contingency operations—a number that could fluctuate as war-funding requirements still have yet to be finalized.

May 1, 2014
By Lt. Col. Jan Norris, USA, 
and Whitney Katz
The full Joint Airborne Command and Control/Command Post (JACC/CP) system, which consists of four pallets with seats and work stations for as many as 16 users, sits in the cargo hold of a C-17 with soldiers deploying to a distant operation. Unlike the C-130, both ground troops (paratroopers) and battle staff can occupy the aircraft simultaneously with the JACC/CP.

The ability to communicate en route directly with ground elements during an airborne theater insertion has taken a giant leap forward with a communications system boarding a C-17 Globemaster III. A long-distance deployment across the vast Asia-Pacific region has opened the door to en route command and control over secure or unsecure links.

June 1, 2014
By Rita Boland
Virginia National Guard soldiers from the Fairfax-based Data Processing Unit respond to a simulated cyber attack during a cyberdefense exercise.

Cybersecurity remains a priority for the U.S. Defense Department, with officials protecting resources for it in the face of overall budget constraints. Guidance from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 directs a mission analysis of cybercapabilities not only in the active military, but also across partners, to help forces maintain their edge in protecting the nation.

July 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers
Proving the value of ground robots on the battlefield, the TALON paved the way for a wide range of other unmanned platforms.

The organization largely responsible for introducing robots on the battlefield now plans to field a miniaturized ground robot, a small unmanned aircraft, a Special Forces robotic exoskeleton and a host of other advanced technologies in an effort to combat terrorism around the world. The office identifies and develops cutting-edge counter terrorism technologies for the Defense Department, other federal agencies, state and local law enforcement and international partners.

June 1, 2014
By Rita Boland
Seaman Alex Snyder, USN, right, explains the functions of the helm on the navigation bridge of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington to Maj. Gen. Chen Weizhan, deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army, Hong Kong Garrison, center, and Col. Li Jiandang, Hong Kong Garrison liaison officer during a distinguished visitor embark.

China and Russia represent two of the most robust, comprehensive concerns to worldwide stability. Almost every major geostrategic threat—cyber attack, nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, capable military forces, political influence, economic power, sources of and high demand for energy—is resident in those two countries that often find themselves at odds with the United States and its allies. Decisions by their leaders on how to engage with the rest of the world, and how the two sovereign states decide to relate to each other, will have major effects on geopolitics.

June 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers
Smoke drifts into the sky from buildings and houses hit by shelling in Homs, Syria. Many Jihadi fighters leaving Syria will funnel through the Balkans and may pose a threat to other parts of the world.

In the coming months, extremists fighting in the Syrian civil war likely will begin returning to Europe, funneling through the Balkans where they can find cheap weapons, like-minded allies and temporary accomplices in the form of organized criminal groups. Conditions are ripe, according to experts, for those individuals to spread across Europe, launching terrorist attacks on major cities.

June 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
Russian Topol-M ballistic missile. Russia and China have the capability to fit ballistic missiles with maneuverable reentry vehicle warheads capable of shifting course in flight. Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin, via Wikicommons.

The U.S. missile defense program now trails emerging ballistic missile threats from rival nations that are outspending the United States in quests to move ahead and stay ahead, defense analysts caution. Emerging technologies such as maneuverable re-entry vehicles, a type of ballistic missile warhead capable of shifting course in flight, essentially render existing U.S. antiballistic missile defense capabilities ineffective.

June 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
Col. Karlton D. Johnson, USAF, is the U.S. Forces Korea J-6 and senior communicator for U.S. forces in Korea.

A new facility for cybersecurity is allowing U.S. Forces Korea to coordinate efforts with other U.S. commands as well as Republic of Korea civilian government and military forces. The Joint Cyber Center serves as the focal point for increasing international cooperation between U.S. and Korean forces in their defensive measures against increasing cyber aggression from North Korea. It blends activities from the local J-2, J-3 and J-6 along with input from other forces worldwide.

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