Army powers up for future

Contractors recharge Army systems bound for the battlefield

The military is looking for new
and improved technologies for
warfighters in these areas:

  • Communications.
  • Command and control.
  • Power.
  • Night vision and other sensor
    technologies.
  • Software engineering and product
    development.

The same AA batteries that power
your TV's remote control are also
used to power thermal sights on
military weapons.

Although the low-tech batteries usually
work fine, that's not always the case.
For example, thermal sights are used on
50-caliber, vehicle-mounted weapons. In
the field, warfighters need the sights to
work for a full day or more, which is
beyond the life of traditional AAs.

To fill the gap, Ace Electronics Inc., of
Metuchen, N.J., developed a kit that lets
warfighters use the much longer-lasting
BA 5590 lithium battery.

The batteries weigh more than 2
pounds and are about 5 inches high and
4 inches wide, making them too big to be
carried, but perfect for vehicle situations.
The product illustrates the pressure
industry is under to develop products
that solve problems for combat soldiers,
and quickly field those products.

"I think it is a trend," said Ashley
Morris, business development manager
at Ace. "People are finding more and
more creative ways to leverage the military
batteries, anything that's going to be
longer life."

RAPID DEVELOPMENT

Military leaders echoed that thought at
the recent Army Team C4ISR 2008 Joint
Symposium in Atlantic City, N.J.
Army leaders and their industry partners
have a new focus on developing
technology and fielding it to combat
troops faster than ever before. Although
they recognize that changing the Army's
culture will be difficult, there are signs
that things are changing.

For example, in just eight months, STG
Inc., of Reston, Va., designed and built a
new Humvee that carries servers and
power racks into combat.

The DCGS-A Enabled ACT-E is a
shelter-mounted Humvee with communications
and power-generation equipment
for military intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance operations,
said Jeffery Billings, an STG production
manager. The vehicle carries 12 Dell
servers and the power rack.

Maj. Gen. Dennis Via, commanding
general of the Communications-
Electronics Life Cycle Management
Command, said the Army is focused on
developing new capabilities for combat
troops and commanders.

As the Army's Fort Monmouth base in New Jersey prepares to close in 2009
because of the base realignment and closure
process, Via said the change is an
opportunity to make his command run
more efficiently. Plans are under way to
consolidate and host Fort Monmouth's
data and applications and then to run a
cloud-computing model.

If all goes according to plan, when
Fort Monmouth employees show up at
their new offices at the Aberdeen
Proving Ground in Maryland, they
should be able to plug in their computers,
log on and access all their
applications and data, just as
they did in New Jersey.

"Over the past decade, the
Army has moved from the
exploration of net-centric concepts,
to developing those concepts
in training, demonstrations
and exercises," Via said.
"Today, developing technologies
and C4ISR capabilities
remains the Army's top priority,
but now, like never before, we
have a much better grasp of the
specific areas in which we need
to develop these technologies
and how we fit them into the overall
pictures."

For example, a software-based radio
being developed by General Dynamics
C4 Systems is designed to be flexible so it
can adapt to ever-changing conditions.
Traditional radios are not flexible. A
UHF radio will always be a UHF radio.
With a software-defined radio, the
device can be reset to run whatever
waveform a warfighter needs, said Bobby
Boyle, a sales manager at General
Dynamics Assured Communications
Systems.

In addition to being flexible, the new
radios should save money because they
won't become obsolete, Boyle said.

"Let's say you don't have enough
Single-Channel Ground [and Airborne]
Radio System radios today," Boyle said. "You could load the Sincgars algorithms
into these radios and then they will all be
Sincgars radios. And if the mission
changes tomorrow to satellite, you can
just change the channel, pull up the
satellite algorithm and you would be
able to run it."

BETTER COMMAND TOOLS

In addition to improving soldiers' equipment,
Defense Department officials also
want better tools for commanders.
For example, a dual-display system is
being used to manage battlefield operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Raytheon's Persistent Surveillance and
Dissemination System of Systems
(PSDS2) provides data and video from
multiple sensors for real-time combat
monitoring. One display provides situational
awareness using a map interface,
and the other display gives commanders
a workflow analysis tool.

"There's a third component PSDS2
does and does very well, and that's video
dissemination," said Tom Stalzer, a program
engineer for the PSDS2 system at
Raytheon. "Everything we pull in from
every sensor feed we also then make
available to users over the network. They
just log in and get whatever interests
them at the time, both real and archived
data."

The system is designed to help commanders
respond to unanticipated
events, such as a helicopter crash. In that
scenario, the leader of an operations center
can use the system to see if a Predator
unmanned aerial vehicle is close to the
crash site, and he can send it to get video
of the wreckage.

The system can then plot a course for
troops to get to the crash site and a route
for them to evacuate. If multiple routes
are available, it can show commanders
which route has available air support.

"If there is air support, that's the route
we're going to pick," Stalzer said.

The system also ties into the Army
Field Artillery Program. So if rescuers
encounter mortar fire, commanders
can access radar systems
used to pinpoint where
the enemy is located. Then
ground or air forces can be dispatched
to stop the fire.

"Everything is persistent, so
you can use it for after-action
reports," Stalzer said. "And
then the intelligence guys can
do forensic analysis and see
what we did wrong and what
can we do better."

The system is run by both
contractors and people in uniform.
It continues to be modified
to make it easier to use, Stalzer said.

THE TIME IS NOW

The push for new and improved systems
is here to stay, said Army Brig. Gen.
Mark Bowman.

Bowman, director of Central
Command, said he recently attended a
meeting about command and control on
the move, and someone said it will be
taken care of when the Warfighter
Information Network-Tactical is online
in 2010.

Waiting until 2010 for that capability
is too long, Bowman said.

The year "2010 is a lifetime away for
me," he said. "And unfortunately, that's a
fact for people on the battlefield ? we
need it and we need it now."

Doug Beizer (dbeizer@1105govinfo.com) is a
staff writer at Washington Technology.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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