The U.S. Army’s Project Manager of Robotic Systems Joint Project Office, Warren, Michigan, is conducting market research to see what companies can provide a lightweight common robotic system (CRS) for dismounted soldiers.
This just might have to fall into the “eww” category. The U.S. Army has baked up a scheme to add pizza to its Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) menu. And in keeping with military tradition of making just about any project, program or technology part of an alphabet soup, has assigned it the acronym SSP—shelf stable pizza. We can’t make this up.
SSP—with a shelf life of three years, by the way—has “traditionally been challenging to develop but remains a consistently requested item by the warfighter,” reads a portion of a fact sheet from the U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), which has a combat feeding directorate.
Just as the U.S. Navy initially resisted the transition from sail to steam-powered ships and elements of the Army dismissed air power and fought against the shift from horses to tanks, some parts of the military continue to resist the expansion of uninhabited systems into traditional combat roles. As a result, the U.S. Defense Department is failing to invest in game-changing technology that could increase efficiencies and save lives, according to a just-released report from the Center for a New American Security.
The U.S. Army has released a draft request for proposals to procure additional Rifleman Radios, moving the system toward full rate production. The Rifleman Radio is part of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit program. Under the full and open competition approach, the Army will award contracts, and qualified vendors will compete for delivery orders as needed.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) will open spaces on its campus for local researchers from academia, industry and other government agencies to foster in-person interactions for deeper insight into the service’s technological challenges.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is only interested in mobile communication if it allows the agency to perform functions it could not perform otherwise, Mark Borkowski, component acquisition executive and assistant commissioner with the CBP Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition, told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday. "We're not interested in mobility for mobility's sake but because it allows us to do something we haven't done before," Borkowski said, while participating in a panel on mobility and interoperability.
The U.S. Army announced today that the Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) headquarters will be located at Fort Gordon, Georgia, consolidating and coordinating Army cyber and network operations under one commander for the first time in its history.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced that the U.S. Army has committed to a multivendor, multiaward acquisition process—set to be finalized by the end of this month—that will allow multiple companies to compete for the Joint Tactical Radio System Manpack and Handheld Rifleman Radio contracts. The new acquisition approach also will allow the Army to select multiple contractors to each make a percentage of the radios. Prior to this decision, the Army was pursuing a single-vendor process for each of its next-generation radio contracts.
The U.S. Army National Guard has integrated the Company Intelligence Support Team (COIST) workstation with its counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) training to improve operations in the field. The information pre-posted in the workstation enables intelligence teams to synthesize data more quickly into a complete intelligence brief that describes terrain and weather effects as well as enemy forces and tactics. COIST offers access to a One Station Remote Viewing Terminal, a Tactical Ground Reporting system, real-time aerial reconnaissance video feeds from a RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system (UAS) and other tools. Feeds from the UAS improve units’ ability to watch over convoys, which is important for early warning of IEDs.
The U.S. Army is replacing the swivel-chair approach to viewing situational awareness information in combat and tactical vehicles with a standardized family of build-your-own tactical computers. In addition to enabling tactical computers to interoperate, the family of systems reduces the basic configuration computer cost by as much as 36 percent while increasing performance by more than 350 percent.
The U.S. Army is conducting a full and open competition to acquire more quantities of the Rifleman Radio and also will soon open competition for purchasing additional Manpack radios. The draft request for proposals (RFP) seeking solutions from all industry partners for the Rifleman is now available, and an informational industry day will be followed by the release of the formal RFP.
10th Mountain Division U.S. Army Rangers and soldiers on the battlefield are now wearing commercial smartphones to communicate with each other and higher commands. Nett Warrior is a Samsung Galaxy Note II with its commercial memory wiped clean and Army-developed software loaded. It displays the locations of fellow soldiers, allows placement of location digital chem-light markers, and enables warfighters to communicate through texting. This information is then relayed to commanders over encrypted tactical radios.
The U.S. Army is creating a software tool that will enable soldiers to coordinate and synchronize electronic warfare operations across the electromagnetic battlefield. The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool (EWPMT) will feature 22 distinct functions, including deconflicting offensive, defensive and friendly signals as well as integrating intelligence and terrain data. As part of the Army’s long-term plan for the Integrated Electronic Warfare System (IEWS), electronic warfare officers could use the software for pre-mission planning and to identify threats.
The initial steps have been taken to transition soldiers from Army Knowledge Online to next-generation enterprise services. Secretary of the Army John McHugh authorized the move, which will support enterprise systems for collaboration, content management and unified online capabilities. Army military retirees and family members will continue to have access to Defense Department online self-service sites such as Tricare and MyPay through DOD Self-Service Logon.
U.S. soldiers are expanding the use of the Capability Portfolio Analysis Tool (CPAT) across the Army’s modernization program after its success in shifting the paradigm for conducting analysis. CPAT offers an advanced combination of modeling, simulation and optimization decision support software. Currently, the Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS) is its primary user, employing it to analyze potential scenarios as technology advances and changes occur in the global environment and the federal budget as well as other factors that could influence future purchases.
The U.S. Army is expanding its Range Radar Replacement Program (RRRP) with a high/medium power close-in radar system. The new mobile system will provide fine detail when tracking munitions and other targets at a range of at least 37 miles. The close-in radar system joins the fly-out radar system, the first range instrumentation radar system developed as part of the RRRP. The program aims to help the Army modernize test ranges through cost-effective, digital technologies.
The new radar system is a contract modification with General Dynamics C4 Systems valued at $16 million.
U.S. Army Research Laboratory officials have announced the winners of the 2013 Federal Virtual Challenge at the Defense Users’ GameTech Conference in Orlando, Florida.
The challenge featured two distinct focus areas for entries. The first required training critical thinking and adaptability skills in an immersive environment and measuring learners’ progress. The second focused on improving user interfaces in virtual environments, specifically for individual and group navigation.
The U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, is training with Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 capabilities for its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. The nodes will provide the division’s on-the-move network, delivering situational awareness information and enabling mission command. In addition to connecting ground soldiers, the network allows company commanders in vehicles to receive orders in real time from higher headquarters.
On the road to the future “expeditionary Army of 2020,” Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, chief information officer/G-6, says the path through a changed environment will include buying only what is needed to deal with network and information technology refresh programs in the short term. In discussing how the Army will spend its money in the year to come, Gen. Lawrence said that her staff has done the basic engineering work and initial purchasing decisions for the network modernization of 10 installations. She discussed the topic during the keynote address at the 2013 Army IT Day, sponsored by AFCEA NOVA.
Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University have discovered methods to control folding pathways and enable sequential folding on a millimeter scale using a low-intensity laser beam. Lasers at a low intensity worked as a trigger for tagging applications. Developers are fabricating sheets of millimeter-size structures that serve as battery-free wireless actuators that fold when exposed to a laser operating at eye-safe infrared wavelengths. The metallic structures may respond even to high-powered LED lighting.
The U.S. Army’s Project Manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS) is partnering with academic institutions to build on lessons learned in combat. Officials aim to advance the operational understanding of UAS technologies and explore a range of rapidly expanding uses for them, including within U.S. airspace. For example, unmanned aerial vehicles could be used in disaster response and humanitarian relief efforts as well as environmental and law enforcement initiatives. For some projects, the agreements will enable students to visit U.S.
When the U.S. military began its now popularly termed “Asia pivot” a few years ago, the new outward focus on the Pacific region as a national military priority warranted some internal Defense Department focus on how to achieve the mission—to include bumping up the position for the U.S. Army Pacific commander from a three-star general to a four-star. Accordingly, the new position would need a four-star mission command center.
The U.S. Army is extending advanced communications to disadvantaged users, fielding a series of capabilities to various groups in an effort to give soldiers at the pointy end of the spear the connectivity they need. With the rollout, forward-deployed troops should be able to access classified networks via wireless 4G long-term evolution connections. National Guard units also are acquiring the tools to aid their troops in disaster response scenarios.
Fiscal year 2015 marks the official kickoff of a U.S. Army program to develop a foliage-penetrating radar that will simultaneously locate still objects and track moving objects from a fast-moving fixed-wing aircraft. The next-generation system is designed specifically for jungle environments such as the Asia-Pacific region, South America and Africa, and by combining multiple capabilities onto one platform, it will allow the service to cut down the number of sensors currently needed.
Awareness on the battlefield coupled with lighter loads for increased warfighter mobility are key enablers of the future fight. Brig. Gen. (P) Paul A. Ostrowski, USA, the program executive officer, Program Executive Office (PEO) Soldier, is focusing his organization on addressing those needs.
A new mobile operations fusion kit that provides easy, rapid and on-the-go interoperability for mobile field operations and communications piqued the interest recently of the U.S. Marine Corps’ research and development community. It was impressed by the technology that proved successful in interoperability testing in June. Known as Operations Fusion Kit 2.0, the unit is a multimedia communications system bundled into a compact, lightweight, waterproof, ruggedized Pelican carrying case that enables secure voice, full-motion video and information sharing on a global, real-time basis.
The U.S. military’s increased reliance on global positioning satellite (GPS) technologies has triggered adversarial forces to improve upon technology to disrupt the warfighters’ usage in the age-old war games of one-upmanship.
U.S. Army engineers developed technology prototypes aimed at weaning U.S. forces from reliance on GPS systems. The Warfighter Integrated Navigation System (WINS), while intended to serve as a backup to GPS usage, not as a replacement, can operate independently and free of a satellite link and still give warfighters precise positioning and timing data.
The U.S. Army is preparing—for the first time—to develop and field micro robotic systems under programs of record, indicating confidence that the technology has matured and years of research are paying off. The small systems will provide individual soldiers and squads with critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data in jungles, buildings and caves that larger systems can’t reach. Ideally, they will become valued combat team members.
A small form factor device that will allow communications from low-level unclassified networks up to high-level secret classified networks has completed the development stage and is in the process of transferring to its new program. Created at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), the Tactical Army Cross Domain Information Sharing (TACDIS) tool is an easy-to-connect cable that will enhance situational awareness at the top to protect troops at the tactical edge.
The U.S. Air Force’s newest secure satellite communications terminal draws from existing U.S. Army and Navy systems already in operation. The new production for the Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals, or FAB-T, evolved from technologies established in the Army’s Secure Mobile Antijam Reliable Tactical Terminal (SMART-T) and the Navy’s Multiband Terminal (NMT).
The U.S. Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center has created a system to streamline testing, rid unneeded and redundant analysis and even eliminate duplicative spending. The new system addresses the challenge of how technological advances to some Army tactical equipment have outpaced improvements program managers can use to test changes to equipment before fielding.
Virtual training for U.S. Army soldiers advanced in both capability and fidelity recently with the release of Virtual Battle Space 3. Designed for units at the company level or below, its flexibility makes it applicable to the range of Army missions, reducing costs and logistics needs for users.
The U.S. Army’s current tactical network delivers a wide range of capabilities for warfighters, including unprecedented communications on the move. But the complexity can overwhelm commanders who have countless critical tasks to complete and soldiers’ lives in their hands. Future tactical networks will automate many processes and may be smart enough to advise commanders, similar to JARVIS, Iron Man’s computerized assistant.
U.S. Army officials envision a future in which ground and air platforms share data and where soldiers at a remote forward-operating base easily can access information from any sensor in the area, including national satellites or reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead. To achieve this big data vision, the service has initiated three pilot projects designed to provide Google-style access in a tactical environment to the lowest echelon without overwhelming soldiers with unnecessary data.
One by one, U.S. Army engineers are updating legacy cryptographic equipment in an effort to catch up, and then keep pace, with 21st century technological advances already made to the service’s tactical networks.
The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is expediting delivery of modernized cryptographic products to bases around the world, swapping out legacy systems and bundling technology so fewer devices are needed to perform the same tasks, according to a command news release.
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.
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.
Officials across the U.S. Defense Department are pushing to identify and develop the disruptive technologies that will offer orders-of-magnitude advantages on the battlefield. But while bringing such capabilities to fruition is difficult, even determining what qualifies as disruptive represents a challenge. As personnel wrestle with definitions, they are forging ahead with their creative ideas.
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.
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.
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.
Warfighters on foot equipped with night vision systems now can give their commanders a real-time glimpse of what they’re seeing in the field. A new system that combines a portable radio with night vision goggles allows the optical imagery to be captured and sent across the same radio channels used for voice and data communications.
Each piece of hardware—the portable radio and the night vision system—is in service with the armed forces of several countries around the world. Engineers basically combined the two functions to produce a single system that allows commanders to remotely view a night scene from the warfighter’s eye view accompanied with geolocation information.
As the U.S. Army’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) continues to build on its positives and address its challenges, progress is being made in acquiring more capability from small business through efforts at the event. An official with the service branch says the Army is aware of challenges faced by these smaller companies. With the recently established formal request for proposal (RFP) process in place, industry partners including small businesses can compete for contract awards to provide qualifying vendors with funding to participate in the evaluations.
It’s impossible these days to attend a U.S. Defense Department information technology presentation without repeated mentions of the Joint Information Environment (JIE). But industry representatives often ask, “What does JIE mean to me?” I did some digging into the environment—leveraging the expertise of the AFCEA Technology Committee, discussions with several senior defense information technology leaders and insights from colleagues at my firm who participated in JIE Increment 1 in Europe.
Software developed by university researchers accurately predicts cloud computing issues before they occur, enhancing reliability; cutting costs; potentially improving cybersecurity; and saving lives on the battlefield.
Infrastructure-as-a-service clouds are prone to performance anomalies because of their complex nature. But researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have developed software that monitors a wide array of system-level data in the cloud infrastructure—including memory used, network traffic and computer power usage—to define normal behavior for all virtual machines in the cloud; to detect deviations; and to predict anomalies that could create problems for users.
The retrograde of equipment from Afghanistan requires a monumental effort after almost 13 years of war and an influx of billions of dollars’ worth of materiel to the country. To return the necessary pieces along with personnel from the landlocked location, logisticians around the military are developing creative solutions that offer redundancy. Plans are progressing more smoothly than in Iraq, as experts apply lessons learned and a hub-and-spoke model that allows for a controlled collapsing of installations.
The U.S. Army is adjusting its Network Integration Evaluations to facilitate acquisitions more rapidly. Calls from industry and soldiers themselves have precipitated the moves. As companies face reduced funding streams, and technology advances in increasingly shorter intervals, implementing briefer time frames between testing and deployment is imperative to remaining viable on and off the field.
Current fiscal and world conditions are taking their toll on the ability of the U.S. Army’s signals community to keep soldiers equipped with the latest developments. However, leadership embraces the challenges as impetus to improve, ensuring that troops are prepared as they transition from an operational to a contingency force. Necessity is inspiring creativity to developing solutions, with the government reaching out to industry for more help. As the service branch’s chief information officer/G-6, Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, said, “You can’t wring your hands if you’re rolling up your sleeves.”
The U.S. military’s readiness to fight and its ability to purchase major weapon systems for the future are both threatened by strict budget caps established under sequestration, the Joint Chiefs warned during a November 7 hearing with the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. Major weapon systems, including aircraft carriers, unmanned aerial vehicles, the ballistic missile submarine replacement program known as SSBN-X and the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, all could be negatively impacted, the chiefs say.
The new head of the U.S. Army Cyber Command cites the importance of looking carefully at what cyberwarriors do to determine how best to manage the men and women tasked with protecting the service’s information technology networks. This focus on personnel addresses challenges ranging from retaining talent to ensuring that cyber operations have the best resources—human and technological—for their mission.