“No – you can’t have a white one!”
U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division recently took part in a field exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in which they experimented with a tool not normally used by the armed forces – a smartphone. And no, they weren’t playing Farmville. Instead, they were using custom phones running custom apps, to coordinate the swarming of a mock village and the capture of a high-value target. Judging by how the exercise went, smartphones could soon be showing up on battlefields everywhere.
The phones were ruggedized Android-based prototypes developed specifically for the project. They were plugged into the soldiers’ tactical radios, combining the capabilities of both technologies. Running on the phones were two apps – Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P Handheld, and Tactical Ground Reporting, or TIGR Mobile.
JBC-P displays a map of the battlefield, using GPS to indicate the locations of friendly forces, enemies, and landscape hazards in real time. TIGR allows soldiers to send photos back and forth, and swap historical information relevant to the operation…
Given that troops presumably wouldn’t want to be thwarted by coverage limitations, the phones communicated using the WIN-T secure terrestrial network provided by the soldiers’ HMS Manpack and Rifleman radios. The network allowed troops to share information with one another in the field, and with the battalion tactical operations center. WIN-T also links up to a secure satellite connection, to keep the higher-ups at headquarters in the loop.
We can all be confident that no one else in the world can match our tech know-how – and hack into battlefield cellphones and use the information against our troops.