Barry Rosenberg

COMMENTARY

Military comms and networks near major breakthroughs

We have entered the new year with many of the same problems -- better situational awareness needed for dismounted soldiers and marines being one of those items at the top of the list -- but there are encouraging signs that many of the vexing issues related to communications and networks will experience breakthroughs in 2012.

This month's issue addresses some of those problems, and solutions, head on in a variety of articles, beginning with our interview with Army Program Executive Officer Soldier BG Camille Nichols. The PEO's Nett Warrior program has been a poster child  for futility; it's three program restructurings proving the difficulty of placing a tactical computing device In the hands of soldiers. The possibility of that program ever reaching Milestone C was a long shot, but it is scheduled to finally be a reality in the March timeframe.

And then there is Warfighter Integration Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, another program that few thought would survive only just a few years ago. As you'll read in our program update, this vital communications on-the-move program is scheduled for its most-important evaluation this spring when some 70 WIN-T-equipped vehicles will participate in Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 12.2.

Another Holy Grail in the realm of situational awareness will also be tested at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., during the NIE, and that's mission command-on-the-move. No commander worth his salt wants to command sequestered in a tactical operations center, but leaving the TOC always meant leaving all his situational awareness tools behind. That will all begin to change this year, as commanders will now be able take their battle applications with them right to the edge. None of those applications are integrated yet, but you'll read about what it will take to do so.

We also address this month another Holy Grail of the dismounted soldier -- the ability to bring smart phones and other mobile devices into tactical situations. We have written a lot about the subject during the last year, and our latest coverage addresses the security of data in motion as it applies specifically to mobile devices. As we point out, it is the ease of use of these devices that make them so dangerous. And that danger is coming from all quarters.

Finally, we wrap it all up in our special report on the future of military communications and networks. From smart phones to software-configurable radios to mobile ad hoc networks and satellite communications, the next few years could do more for situational awareness than we've seen since the first crank radio was carried onto the battlefield.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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