Army Develops Android Based Framework For Tactical Operations

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The United States Army is developing an Android-based smartphone framework and suite of applications for tactical operations.

With the marriage between technology and military continuing to strengthen, more soldiers are getting phones for on-the-field operations. Already, the military has developed the Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P Handheld, which has an app that can be used to mark warning signals to future soldiers.

If we see an enemy up front, we could put it in the GPS system, said Spc. Hao Bui, a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, to the Army's official web site. Even though they (fellow Soldiers) can't see it, you can mark it for them.

The military hopes this kind of technology can be prevalent for every soldier in the field. During a bloggers roundtable last month, Lt. Gen. Michael Vane said he thought the idea of every soldier carrying around a smartphone for tactical operations made a lot of sense.

Though many people are already suggesting that that's a possibility. Even I have said there's a long-term vision here that would say if we can figure out the smart cost-beneficial way of doing this, this probably does make sense in the long run, Vane said.

Part of this initiative is creating the Mobile/Handheld Computing Environment, which is the Android-based smartphone framework and suite of applications for tactical operations. The government says the applications will be created to ensure information flows seamlessly across all echelons of the force. Its already being developed at Software Engineering Directorate in Huntsville, Ala.

Using the Mobile /Handheld CE Product Developers Kit, we're going to allow the third-party developers to actually develop capabilities that aren't stovepiped, said Lt. Col. Mark Daniels, product manager for JBC-P. That's going to allow us to be interoperable across the entire family of systems of JBC-P, which would include the platforms, the aviation, the logistics community, the tanks, the Bradleys, the handhelds.

The Mobile /Handheld CE development kit will be released in July of this year. The Army is whether or not a commercial made phone or government off the shelf model is more appropriate. Regardless, the Army says, the software development kit will be designed for a variety of Android based systems.

The military already has test subjects lined up. The Army says soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1St Armored Division will try them out the Network Integration Rehearsal at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., The Army expects the program to launch officially in 2013.

Part of this initiative comes from the fact that America's military enemies are already using cell phones successfully Vane said.

One of the most significant feedbacks you get from Soldiers in theater is they look at their Afghan army compatriots or the Taliban guy, who has a cell phone, and then the Army guy looks at his MBITR or his 117G radio and we want to deny that capability to our own Soldiers even through the enemy is using them? Vane said to the bloggers roundtable.

There are other possibilities and advantages smartphones can provide in the battlefield, aside from tactical. Army vice chief of staff, General Peter Chiarelli, pointed at injuries as one specific area where smartphones would be helpful.

I saw the ability when a soldier is wounded to take a picture of the wound and to pass that to the doctors, so that medics can make sure that they are treating the soldier in the appropriate way, given the wound that he has received. So there are many, many applications of this, Chiarelli said.

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