Innovative Commercial Communications Technologies Provide a Critical Force Multiplier for U.S. Military
Innovative Commercial Communications Technologies Provide a Critical Force Multiplier for U.S. Military. The typical major military acquisition program, termed ACAT I, generally takes a decade or even two to evolve from technology demonstration to full rate production. Commercial providers generally have product cycles measured in months or, at most, a few years. It took Boeing three years to design and build its first 737 and six to design and build the 777. The cycle time for modern IT systems is eighteen months or less. When it comes to Apps and software modifications, the time between idea and finished product is often measured in hours if not a few days. In addition, commercial producers can take advantage of scale of production and special production methods to reduce unit costs.
The U.S. military now realizes that if it is to maintain its technological preeminence it will have to rely increasingly on derivatives of commercial products. While this has been the case for some time with respect to major components and systems such as aircraft engines, it is increasing the case even for major platforms. The Air Force’s new aerial refueling tanker is a derivative of the 767 commercial aircraft. The Navy’s new P-8 patrol aircraft is based on the 737-800.
Nowhere is the power of commercial technologies to enable military operations more evident than in the area of IT and communications networks. The Army’s series of Network Integration Evaluations (NIE) have clearly demonstrated the power that comes from leveraging innovative commercial IT systems and technologies. Commercial capabilities can provide equal or better performance in comparison to specially-designed military IT and communications systems, often at lower cost. Past NIEs have demonstrated in the field the utility of commercial smartphones, tablets and computers. The Army is on the verge of being able to pass voice, data and imagery rapidly and while on the move. This is a capability that no other military in the world possesses.
An example of the kind of innovative communications and networking capabilities that could empower the U.S. military are those provided by Powerwave technologies. Powerwave is a global provider of wireless infrastructure solutions for a wide range of government and commercial clients. Its Rapidflex Mobile Deployment Unit is a highly mobile and rapidly deployable communications node that can operate alongside fast-moving combat units. Powerwave also specializes in advanced distributed antenna systems and lightweight, low-cost base stations that are particularly well-suited to deployment on military vehicles and at tactical operations centers. These systems allow military users to create and maintain high-capacity, reconfigurable communications networks over large areas.
These same capabilities are extremely useful to support civil agencies and the National Guard in domestic emergencies. Hurricane Sandy underscored the fragility of both government and commercial communications systems. Innovative communications technology companies such as Powerwave have developed solutions to the problem of rapid deployment of expedient communications networks.