“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.

Uh, right?




  1. Personality says:

    So it is the minimap in all the Battlefield games. Sweet!

  2. msbpodcast says:

    I’m lot less worried about ignorant al queda towel-heads suddenly deploying mainframes to crack MD5 encryption keys to hack my communications than I am about their sneaking around planting IEDs and laying in wait for a boom while hugging their Kalashnikovs.

    This is an asymmetrical war where improvisation prior to detonation is the key to surprise, but it does limit the scope of the damage possible.

    Give Afghanistan to al queda and the Taliban.

    You can threaten them with losing it later.

    Right now, you got nothin’; just another bunch of pissed off Arabs with guns.

  3. O'Really says:

    As a communications Soldier in the US Army. Hacking into our FM/tacsat network is very hard to do. Those radios use frequency hop and cypher text to thwart SIGINT. It jumps freqs every 3 second and has A LOT of freqs plus our cypher text.

  4. msbpodcast says:

    Whoever has the most toys wins.

    You want to give al queda a major case of penis envy?

    Flood an area with hand-cranked OLPCs (One laptop per child,) which can implement an unsecured* communication mesh and give the town wifi.

    That gives you only a single point to defend and the rest is invisible and ethereal.

    Let kids play with them for a year while you keep them safe.

    The Taliban are going to be the nasty step-parent when they try to take their toys away, but what can they do? (And we can make them by the pallet full and air drop ‘em to keep them supplied.)

    You can’t put the genie back in the bottle…

    *) Unsecured means we can prevent the bad guys from using them.

    The only thing they can do is break them and look like overbearing bastards. (And its a lot easier to bring in another pallet-full.)

  5. Animby - just phoning it in says:

    Only slightly off topic: Ever talked to a soldier on the battlefield? They are so overloaded with equipment and armor it’s surprising they can move. And, while a phone doesn’t weigh much (but I’m betting these “special” phones way a lot more than my Nexus One) it’s still one more thing to carry. What’s that old saying about a camel and one more straw and a broken back???

  6. Nobody says:

    Can’t be worse than BOWMAN (Better Off With Map And Nokia)

    But given a choice of heavy awkward radio battery packs and an iPhone battery that lasts 6hours and can only be replaced by an Apple store ?

  7. msbpodcast says:

    In #5 Amimby said: What’s that old saying about a camel and one more straw and a broken back???

    Kevlar vests might weigh a lot and their back-packs are a bitch to carry (at least 55 lbs,) but consider three things:

    1) its a lot better at stopping bullets than what the rag-heads have,
    2) its a lot better to keep in touch with the command+control structure than to be lost out there unable to resupply or reinforce,
    3) Moore’s Law still applies to shrink the CnC equipment by half every year and a half. (If only the brass didn’t keep dreaming up shit.) Eventually the only thing, (apart from a gun and ammo,), a soldier will need will fit in a space behind his ear.

    I can imagine the first thing to do is to
    •get air superiority with drones, eyes in the sky and let bullets fly
    •the second thing to do is to air drop a bunch of cell towers around a combat zone,
    •the next thing is to drop into a combat zone a bunch of C+C mesh cells,
    •the text thing will be robotic carriers with heavy weapons and ammo and
    •the last thing to drop into a combat zone will be the soldiers but only if necessary.

    If you’re a rag-head, all you’ve ever fought is a human being with one set of forward-facing eyes

    Imagine their surprise at encountering a telepresence soldier with 360 situational awareness.

    Every t-soldier you encounter is actually 3 soldiers, one steers to target, one spots and shoots in front, one spots and shoots in back. Weapons can face and fire in both directions at once.

    You cant take on an enemy that you can’t kill. The actual soldiers just go home to their wives and kids after their shifts. The rag-heads just keep on being targets.

    How demoralizing is that?

  8. bobbo, its already TOO artificial says:

    Could this be an example of toy fixation? why isn’t whatever this is simply (?) integrated into the radio gear then already have?==ie, no additional weight?

    If we can get enough equipment out onto the battlefield, maybe the flesh and blood can stay home?

    Dropping radios into backward cultures and rural America has long been a psych-ops program. Laptops would just be 3.0 after tv’s.

  9. deowll says:

    Satellites can be taken out from the ground using industrial lasers.

    These toys were all made in China or from parts made in China.

    I doubt if the US could make a working Apple II from scratch in less that four years if all the components had to be made state side.

  10. 1873 Colt says:

    Some here would be happier if our troops used muskets, bayonets, and candles to read by.

    I regret that military electronics have to be made in China. I also doubt that the US could put together any type of aircraft without Chinese electronics.

    Solution? How about a huge tariff on all Chinese goods? Including the computer screen I am looking at right now?

    Perhaps hugely competitive pricing would encourage US manufacturing again. But I doubt it. That’s why I own gold survival food and equipment, and firearms.

    A survival nut? Sure. Like the people in Japan would be happy to be right now.

    I have not, unfortunately, figured out a solution to chemical or nuclear attack, however.

  11. Nobody says:

    #7 – or more likely
    Unit gets deployed, get stuck overnight batteries run down. Surveilance drone spots a few heat signatures, base checks position of all smartphones none report for this location so airstrike ordered.
    Or unit was an ally who have a different system.

  12. ECA says:

    Beep, Bop, BOOP, thru the forest…

    BAM BAM BAM…
    Whats this? a HEADSET??
    Lets see what it shows..

    Hmm, what are all these dots?
    A remote with buttons? COOL..
    what does this do??

    OK, get the crew, WE GOING HUNTING..

  13. Floyd says:

    #10: 1873Colt: you can eat gold? Not too practical.

    One other problem with firearms at home: they are very attractive to small kids that don’t know they’re for real, and are also very attractive to thieves/burglars/gangbangers when you’re not at home (this really happened to a friend of mine 20 years ago).

    Or were you planning to stay home 24/7 with your arsenal?

  14. Sister Mary Hand Grenade of Quiet Reflection says:

    Hell no, I can’t hear you now! Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot!!

  15. So what says:

    13 floyd, if they can the safe out of the concrete its embedded in, and get all 1200 pounds out of the basement, they can have it.

  16. The Watcher says:

    I just hope these things are more reliable than my DroidX…. Win98 was less likely to pop….

    Floyd: Don’t forget that when seconds count, the Police are only minutes away….

  17. ROB WEST says:

    When watched “Prison Break” I always wondered what type coverage they had,”unlimited text and data”, not to mention who charged their phones?

  18. dadeo says:

    Now we can see the real power of a flash mob in action.

  19. JimD says:

    But will AT&T or Verizon CUT THEM OFF IF A PAYMENT IS LATE ???

  20. foobar says:

    “How about a huge tariff on all Chinese goods?”

    Wow, when the going gets tough, right-wingers swing to the left faster than a Judy Garland parade.

  21. Glenn E. says:

    This is another example of a PR and recruitment gimmick. Promising poorer kids that they’ll get their own smartphone, when they enlist. And other, more well off types, that they won’t be technologically cut-off from the modern world, when they’re in a war zone. Of course, these so-called Smartphones won’t be able to call outside of the military’s own wireless network. So soldiers won’t be calling home, unless Command allows them to. And monitors and censors every thing they say.

    I’m sure they’ll work in a few features, like GPS and field communications. Just to make it seem a practical tool. But it’s really more about PR for the newer recruits, who might be missing their tech fix. Because everything else, not approved for field use, the military confiscates. And these snartphones probably WON’T have built-in cameras.

  22. Glenn E. says:

    Your tax dollars at work. helping the CTIA members become exploiters of war. War profiteers. As if they aren’t already making enough billions from public sales. Now some half-assed “smartphone” will be bought by the US Army, and probably triple the civilian price. Assuming the public would even want it!

    I wonder which politicians the CTIA had to wine and dine, to get this on the military’s budget? Or did they just go directly to some overpaid Generals? And offer them a vice-Pres position, following their military careers?

  23. Milidroid says:

    Wow the ignorance in this comment thread is amazing. Most are applying a civilian mindset or how they use their smartphone to how it will be used on the battlefield.

    Don’t you think that the weaknesses are pretty apparent and solutions will need to be in place prior to fielding?

    For example the complaint of carrying an extra piece of equipment, well for one if the device has a built in GPS, right off the bat you are making a substitution and getting something that more than likely weighs less and provides more capability.