Category Archives: US Army

Facing limits of remote hacking, Army cybers up the battlefield

Enlarge / FORT IRWIN, California – Spc. Nathaniel Ortiz, Expeditionary CEMA (Cyber Electromagnetic Activities) Team (ECT), 781st Military Intelligence Battalion, "conducts cyberspace operations" at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., May 9, 2017. (credit: Bill Roche, U.S. Army Cyber Command)

The US military and intelligence communities have spent much of the last two decades fighting wars in which the US significantly over-matched its opponents technologically—on the battlefield and off. In addition to its massive pure military advantage, the US also had more sophisticated electronic warfare and cyber capabilities than its adversaries. But those advantages haven't always translated into dominance over the enemy. And the US military is facing a future in which American forces in the field will face adversaries that can go toe to toe with the US in the electromagnetic domain—with disastrous physical results.

That's in part why the Army Cyber Command recently experimented with putting "cyber soldiers" in the field as part of an exercise at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. In addition to fielding troops to provide defensive and offensive cyber capabilities for units coming into NTC for training, the Army has also been arming its opposition force (the trainers) with cyber capabilities to demonstrate their impact.

That impact was demonstrated clearly in May, when an armored unit staging a simulated assault at NTC was stopped dead in its tracks by jamming of communications. As the unit's commanders attempted to figure out what was wrong, a simulated artillery barrage essentially took the unit out of action.

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Heads up: Augmented reality prepares for the battlefield

(credit: US Army)

At last week's Pentagon Lab Day in Washington, DC, the Army's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and Army Research Lab demonstrated a prototype of technology straight out of first-person shooter games—an "augmented reality" heads-up display that could help soldiers tap into sensors and other data.

Called Tactical Augmented Reality (TAR), the technology is the latest evolution of the Army's effort to network soldiers together and give them "situational awareness" on the battlefield—where they are, where their friends are, where the adversary is, and everything else they need to know for their mission, tied into tactical communications. Over the past few years, CERDEC, ARL, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have been working on the core technologies to make augmented reality work on the battlefield, including the development of a platform called the Heads Up Navigation, Tracking and Reporting (HUNTR) system.

While HUNTR is relatively recent, it is built on nearly three decades of efforts by the Army to digitally enhance the foot soldier. Up until recently, those efforts ran up hard against the limitations of wearable computing. Even as the technology finally matures, it's probably years away from seeing service in the field.

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