Smartphones could be latest battle accessory

FARNBOROUGH, England Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:13am EDT

U.S. Army soldiers with the 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, are covered in dust as a Chinook helicopter lands outside their base during a firefight at Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar, July 19, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong

U.S. Army soldiers with the 1-320 Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, are covered in dust as a Chinook helicopter lands outside their base during a firefight at Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar, July 19, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Bob Strong

FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - Smartphones could become the next weapon in the United States' battlefield arsenal, as defense companies seek to cash in on the rapidly growing use of sophisticated mobile applications.

Raytheon, which makes the Patriot missile defense system, is developing software which could enable a soldier to find enemies in his or her surrounding terrain using a mobile phone running Google's Android operating system.

The software could potentially be powerful enough to pick up aerial images from an unmanned aircraft or satellite and then focus in on details such as license plates on cars or a person's facial features.

"We're trying to take advantage of smartphone technology to tailor for what soldiers may need in the field," Mark Bigham, vice president for defense and civil mission solutions at Raytheon, told Reuters.

So far Raytheon have added their software to handsets made by Motorola and HTC Corp. Google has been instrumental in helping the company access and understand its Android platform, which is in aggressive competition with Apple's iOS platform for the iPhone.

"Google has helped us push the limits of the phone," Bigham said, adding that the U.S. internet giant would stand to financially benefit once the Raytheon Android Tactical System (RATS) is rolled out to the defense market.

The U.S. Army is a potential customer for the software and some members of U.S. Special Forces teams have tested the product and advised Raytheon, Bigham said, adding that the Indian military was also a possible huge market for Raytheon.

Each handset, which has a color touchscreen, would cost about $500, in line with prices for unlocked consumer smartphones, but Raytheon would be responsible for providing the encryption software and communications system necessary for the application to work in remote areas where signals do not exist.

"What you have to do is provide your own communications networks ... communication coverage is absolutely an issue but there are very cost effective solutions that you can use which give you a pretty big foot print," Bigham said.

The software would also allow soldiers to interact as 'buddies' and enable them to track each others' movements on the battlefield, as well as help them identify potential enemies in a way similar to social networking sites such as Facebook.

If the phones do take off, then potentially thousands of handsets could be in circulation on the battlefield, and the risk that they would get into the wrong hands would be high.

But Bigham said identity recognition software would be installed on the phones, allowing only select users to unlock them. GPS would also allow forces to track the phone.

(Reporting by Golnar Motevalli; Editing by Ben Berkowitz)

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Comments (3)
sky_ozone wrote:
i will put it rather in this way. IF US military/CIA/FBI will start using iOS and Android for their use. Other govts. might restrict the use of those OS in their respective countries.

Jul 21, 2010 7:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
abbjr wrote:
Iraqi soldiers were using cell phones to detonate IED’s much to the detriment of US troops. Remedy: blow up all the cell phone towers, and we did. Problem solved. Do you not think combatant countries would do the same thing if the US began using Smartphones against them in this capacity?!

Jul 21, 2010 6:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Alex1953 wrote:
You don’t get it. You don’t need cell towers when you have UAVs.

Jul 23, 2010 9:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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