December 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

It is hard to believe that a full year has passed and this is my final column for SIGNAL. I have greatly enjoyed writing these pieces, and I thank AFCEA for this opportunity. I have enjoyed and been enlightened by your feedback—good and bad—and I very much appreciated many of the discussions that happened because of these columns. I would like to use this final column as a summary and a reminder of what I believe is coming with technology and with some social issues.

December 1, 2018
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

The past three decades have seen technologies rapidly transform the face of society. Robots, coupled with artificial intelligence, machine learning and other developing capabilities such as the Internet of Things (IoT), are among the latest technologies to offer the promise of labor-saving capabilities, improved efficiency in manufacturing, better precision in the medical field and enhanced capabilities in national security, to name just a few applications.

November 20, 2018

Close air support, or “CAS,” refers to air action that assists friendly forces on the ground. It may sound hard to believe, but the technology behind CAS hasn’t changed that much since World War II, when ground forces used smoke to show pilots their location.

The story of CAS revolves around two key players: the warfighter on the ground and the pilot flying a mission. The warfighter on the ground, often known as the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), is charged with directing the pilot to a specified mission target. Ed Priest, a member of the Viasat team, served as a JTAC in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years. He now works on supplying JTACs and pilots a better communications tool to coordinate mission strikes.

November 1, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Hypersonic vehicles, such as this concept craft from Lockheed Martin, are a significant part of the U.S. Defense Department’s modernization thrust.  Lockheed Martin

A U.S. military that has dropped its guard on advanced technology development must now steel itself to catch up to and overtake peer rivals that have capitalized on U.S. complacency to surge ahead in defense research and development. Taking back the initiative and restoring U.S. military supremacy will require rapid advances in space-based lasers, cyber countermeasures and hypersonic attack vehicles. And linking these systems will require communications capabilities that establish and maintain spectrum dominance.

October 31, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Airbus' SpaceDataHighway system, which the company refers to as the world’s first ‘optical fibre in the sky’ employs laser communications technology, a rising capability. Credit: Airbus

An alternative to radio frequency-based communications, laser communications, or optic-based technologies, are emerging as another tool for warfighters.
Stakeholders across the laser communications sector have formed an industry group, known as the Laser Communications Coalition. At the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and AFCEA International’s MILCOM conference in Los Angeles on October 30, some stakeholders shared their view of the technology and market outlook for their optic-based communications equipment or services.

November 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Daniel Leithinger, assistant professor at the ATLAS Institute and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, suggests that advanced computer interfaces can allow users to touch, grasp and deform data physically, transforming computer and human interaction.  MIT Media Lab

Researchers envision a day when shape-shifting materials, novel sensors and other interactive technologies replace the flat, insipid computer screen. Such advances will allow users to interact in a tactile manner, enhancing their understanding of information and data. Researchers on the cutting edge of human-computer interaction are working on physical representations of data or information. Computer scientists portend that computers can, and should, have an output of information that mirrors the adroitness and expressiveness of the human body.

November 1, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman

Congress has increased emphasis on more rapid prototyping, including prototyping up through operational capability and more rapid acquisition. This focus will redefine how the U.S. Defense Department works with other parts of the government as well as with industry and academia, notes Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. The answers may lie in maximizing the innovative nature of researchers by clearing away the underbrush impeding their progress.

November 1, 2018
By Maj. Ryan Kenny, USA

While the U.S. Defense Department struggles to connect tactical and strategic networks, industry has cracked the interoperability code. Commercial pressure to develop a digital ecosystem where any device delivers content across platforms and service providers has led to robust industry standards and intuitive application programming interfaces.

Increased interoperability and access, however, bring increased risk, which discourages the bridging of networks and enterprise services. Innovators must face these fears head-on. Strategic-tactical network integration requires a plan for analyzing risk, employing control measures, developing operating procedures and training across organizations.

October 26, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
John Jacob (l), senior vice president of sales and marketing for NextgenID, shares the winner’s table with JarMarcus King, chief operations officer, J&F Alliance Group, after their two firms’ technologies prevailed in the AFCEA innovation shark tank competition held October 25. Credit: Elizabeth Moon

Technology that allows easy renewal of CAC identification and a system to provide full virtual reality training on goggles prevailed in the premier AFCEA innovation shark tank of fiscal year 2019. Held October 25, the competition featured the first tie in an elimination round since the shark tanks began running earlier in 2018. Both technologies will advance to the final competition, which will be held in April 2019.

October 26, 2018
By Karyn Richardson
Planning ahead can take much of the stress out of data migration. Credit: Shutterstock

Implementing a new system can be an exciting time, but the nagging questions and doubts about the fate of data you’ve literally spent years collecting, organizing and storing can dampen this excitement.

This legacy data often comes from a variety of sources in different formats maintained by a succession of people.
 Somehow, all the data must converge in a uniform fashion, resulting in its utility in the new solution. Yes, it is hard work and no, it is not quick. Fortunately, this scrubbing and normalization does not have to be a chaotic process replete with multiple failures and rework.

October 23, 2018
Posted by George I. Seffers
Researchers used digital light processing to advance the art of 3D printing complex origami structures. (Credit: Christopher Moore)

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a one-step approach to fabricating complex origami structures whose lightweight, expandability and strength could offer a wide range of benefits, including biomedical devices and equipment used in space exploration. Until now, making such structures has involved multiple steps, more than one material and assembly from smaller parts.

October 22, 2018
Posted by Kimberly Underwood
The U.S. Government has granted Aquabotix an explosives license to use with unmanned aquatic vehicles. Photo credit: Aquabotix Ltd.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, known as the ATF, granted a Federal Explosives License to Aquabotix Ltd. The explosives license will allow the unmanned aquatic vehicle company to develop, manufacture, store and sell unmanned vehicles with explosive capabilities, according to a company statement. 

October 12, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
At the recent Starburst Aerospace Accelerator event held at MITRE Corp., innovators presented emerging technologies for aerospace and military applications. One startup company, San Francisco-based Elroy Air, is developing an autonomous aerial cargo aircraft system that can carry 200-500 lbs of payload by air over a range of 300 miles.

Innovative pioneers looking to bring their ideas and concepts to reality are pushing the edge of aerospace capabilities. In some cases, the technologies are the result of university research, while others come from markets outside of defense. The entrepreneurs purport that their technologies will be, if not groundbreaking, useful and more efficient. The entrepreneurs presented their nascent products and discoveries at a pitch meeting hosted by The MITRE Corporation in McLean, Virginia on October 11 as part of Starburst Aerospace Accelerator’s annual East Coast Selection Committee event.

October 11, 2018
By Ken Peterman
Hybrid adaptive networks combines the power of U.S. military and commercial satellite communications, maximizing warfighter capabilities and resilience. Credit: sumanley/Pixabay

Historically, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has been the driver of technological innovation, inventing remarkable capabilities to empower warfighter mission effectiveness and improve warfighter safety. Yet over the past 25 years, a transformational shift has taken place in several key technology sectors, and technology leadership in these sectors is no longer being driven by the military, but rather by the private sector. 

October 9, 2018
Kimberly Underwood
James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy, speaks at the recent Modern Day Marine event in Quantico, Virginia.

The move away from technologies meant for a static battlefield environment continues for the U.S. Marine Corps, as the service fields technologies needed for operating in austere environments.

Leaders want ruggedized and resilient technologies that are low in size, weight and power for soldiers on the move. The technology gaps to fill come across all aspects of command, control, communications and computing, or C4. Marine Corps leaders identified the service’s top technological needs during the Modern Day Marine event September 25-27 at the Marine Corps Quantico base.

September 27, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Appearing at the Modern Day Marine industry-related exhibits, Boeing’s compact laser weapon system is shown mounted on OshKosh Defense’s joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV). Credit: Kimberly Underwood

This summer, the U.S. Marine Corps accepted delivery of five compact laser weapon systems, and is now considering many aspects of the weapon’s functionality. The service is looking for reliable, cost effective protection against the growing threat of unmanned aerial vehicles.

October 1, 2018
By George I. Seffers
DARPA officials envision a future battlefield made up of a collection of smaller systems in all warfighting domains communicating with one another and tailored to each mission.

The director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Steven Walker, pictures the future battlefield as a mosaic of lower-cost, less complex systems linked together in a vast number of ways to create desired, interwoven effects tailored to any scenario. The agency, known as DARPA, is standing up a new program office and investing in an array of technologies, from artificial intelligence to robotics to systems for hypersonic flight and space, to make that picture a reality.

October 1, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
The Inmarsat-5 satellite provides flexible global coverage from geosynchronous orbit. Inmarsat is one of the commercial systems the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) uses to provide global connectivity to U.S. forces overseas.

The Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, is applying both traditional and innovative infrastructure protection methods to its worldwide networking for U.S. defense installations. In some cases, conventional methods can hold services together. But in others, especially with cross-border telecommunications, DISA must secure its commercial connectivity without the benefit of the authorities inherent in a host country agency.

New ways of commercial networking widen the threat picture. Variety is the spice of vulnerability as networks evolve with innovative approaches. Having the right information for a network architecture is vital to moving information across global ranges, according to DISA officials.

October 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s work in space-related research continues to push the envelope of science. Lab researchers designed and built NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, launched in August from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to fly through the sun’s corona, work that also helps inform hypersonic research.

In a world where the U.S. Defense Department is facing asymmetric threats, department leaders are counting on long-term research and development to provide primary solutions to protect the nation. For the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which has helped create technologies that have changed the course of history, the pressure is on to find the next significant contribution, says the laboratory’s director, Ralph Semmel. “When you look back in history, we had nine of those [groundbreaking technologies], so we are holding ourselves to a very high bar,” Semmel says. “But the key is that we don’t know which technology is actually going to turn into a defining innovation.”

October 1, 2018
By Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch
Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Austin Vosburg, USN, performs routine maintenance on the USS Zephyr’s commercial broadband satellite program equipment. The maritime family of SATCOM terminals provides high data rate communications to small and large ships.

The impact of world events on military operators in the field have made missions exponentially more demanding, and in tandem, the very simple concept of connectivity has transformed into a complex and challenging task. As new events occur around the globe, military and government users in remote and often hostile environments require instant and reliable connectivity empowered by robust intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor data. Resilient and secure satellite communications capabilities warfighters rely on also must be accessible at a moment’s notice.