A call to cyber arms
Military looks to contractors for more than just armor
- By Doug Beizer
- Mar 06, 2008
Body armor protects soldiers, but other technologies
are needed to give troops the best
Devices and software that help with situational
awareness, intelligence and communications
provide that extra layer of protection
for soldiers on the battlefield.
Officials at the Army Capabilities Integration
Center at Fort Monroe, Va., are looking
for material and nonmaterial ways to protect
troops, and they want help from industry in
finding those solutions, said Maj. Gen. Barbara
Fast, the center's deputy director and chief of
"I ask you to help us think through this
because we don't have all the answers as to
how to do this," Fast told contractors at the
Association of the U.S. Army's Winter
Symposium last month in Fort Lauderdale,
Fla. "We do know an armor-only solution is
not going to be the solution. Our adversaries
are always going to find a way, a new slick
way to try and defeat it, so we have to think a
lot more comprehensively about how we protect
the soldier."FIRM COMMITMENT
Defense Department officials are committed to
developing new technologies, especially under the
Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, said several
industry representatives at the symposium.
Work being done by Future Skies Inc., of
Eatontown, N.J., to help manage battlefield
data illustrates the kind of challenges facing
the military and how industry can help
meet those challenges. The company has
several products that focus on interoperability
for battle command systems, said
Scott DeVona, executive vice president at
"We facilitate communications from command
posts down to the soldier in the
field, wearing flexible, handheld displays,"
he said. "We are a software
provider for that function."
The company's Talon product uses a
rules-based engine that automatically
filters, sorts and displays various data
based on a user's needs. It can visually
depict what units on the battlefield are entering
a threat zone or are already at risk. It also
provides a digital map overlay that links
activities within an area of operations with
the movement of troops.
Future Skies' software lets commanders
decide what information they want to see and
how they want to see it. Systems that speak
different languages, such as intelligence and
maneuver control systems, can be pulled into
Initiatives such as Command Post of the
Future created the need for software like
Future Skies, too. Commanders want to visualize
an entire battlefield and make their command
decisions based on information fed into
the post. That can be a lot of data ? often too
much data for one person to digest.
Using Future Skies software, for example, a
logistician can display important data in a
dashboard that looks like a series of fuel
gauges. Each gauge represents a different
supply, such as ammunition, water or clothes.
The data can stream in from any system,
DeVona said. Then the person who needs the
data can configure it in the form he or she wants.
"When you see 30,000 positions on a map,
you can't do anything with that, that is a data
inundation problem," DeVona said. "So you
can configure it to say, 'I only want to see the
guys below me,' or 'I only want to see when
they're in trouble,' " he said.
And they can define what trouble means. It
could be when a squad is within a mile of a
known improvised explosive device or within
two miles of a rocket-propelled grenade site,
for example.SENSOR-DRIVEN ENVIRONMENT
More sensors will feed into systems such as
Talon. Under the FCS program, vehicles are
now sensors in a networked battlefield.
Because most sensors need electricity to
work, the next generation of FCS-manned
ground vehicles will be hybrid electric, said
Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright, FCS program
manager. "Coming off the engine is about
420 kilowatts of power, which means now for
the first time you're looking at an all-electric
Developing sensors and equipment for the
new vehicles is an area ripe for growth, several
industry officials say.
"Round cables now become various big
flat cables that move power throughout this
vehicle," Cartwright said.
The vehicles are also equipped with fiber
optics to connect all the onboard sensors and
communications devices ? all of which run
The engine is mounted on the side of the vehicle
so it can be exchanged for a fuel cell if that
technology becomes available. The FCS program
also is addressing how to provide maintenance
for new vehicles that rely on electricity rather
than the hydraulics found in older vehicles.
In the past year, the FCS program also
made strides in developing unattended
ground sensors, said Gregg Martin,
Boeing Co.'s FCS vice president and program
An urban ground sensor is placed in
buildings after they are cleared. With
the sensors in place, troops are able to
monitor whether anyone has gone back into
the building. There are also tactical ground
sensors designed for use in the field.
"They can be used to look at traffic in an
area of interest," Martin said. "And all of that
information is digested and processed
through a gateway. So there are several nodes
out in a field, they talk to a gateway and
process the information."
FCS program officials are also making
sure the various radio waves being used in
combat situations do not interfere with one
"How do you not fry eggs on top of the
vehicles because you've got so much power up
there inside these antennas from satellite systems,
UHF, VHF and other waveforms?"
Cartwright asked. "We're working to reduce
the [interference] to give them the range and
capability they need."Doug Beizer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a staff
writer at Washington Technology.
Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.