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Army Smartphones on Way to Afghanistan

by John Reed on December 16, 2011

So, the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment is bringing what was supposed to be  the military’s version of a smartphone to Afghanistan. Yup, the software-based JTRS AN/PRC-154 Rifleman Radio and the Android-based GD300 smartphone-style device are about to make their combat debut, according to our own Matt Cox.

Here’s a teaser from his story that we’ll running soon over at Military​.com:

The concept of teaming a smartphone with JTRS radio came out of the Army’s long-gestating Land Warrior and Nett Warrior programs. Stryker units have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan with Land Warrior’s computerized command and control ensemble.

Land Warrior’s components gave soldiers the ability to communicate by text and voice and track the positions of other Land-Warrior equipped soldiers as icons on a digital map. But the gear weighed more than 10 pounds and required constant maintenance to keep the complex system running.

Click here for more on the Army’s recent choice to adopt an actual smartphone-like device to do what it been trying to get nearly 20 pounds worth of gear to do.

 

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

AGL Bob November 29, 1999 at 7:00 pm

I wonder if the through-put of the JTRS system is adequate to support the Android platform well enough to work properly.

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pedestrian December 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I am concerned about cross platform issues between military MS Windows environment. I believe a Microsoft OS is much better considering cross platform issues. However, the military is seeking to operate the EUD via JTRS using Android compatible OS.

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John Bourne December 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm

NO!!! Apple all the way, dude! Navigation, maps and Safari, etc… all work better and faster on Apple devices.

-John

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blight December 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Off the shelf catches up with daydream capability of the '90s.

This is what you get when you daydream way too far ahead and burn money on capability you can't deliver in a feasible amount of time. If you want to play with basic research, you fund basic research directly, not wait for it to be funded by aiming two decades into the future and having to fund foundation research which leads to ballooning R&D over-runs. That said, not sure if the final system is close to the Dream Land Warrior either…

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pedestrian December 18, 2011 at 5:32 pm

It is a wierd era with more spin ons than spin offs, commercial devices these days much more advanced than military technology.

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notarealname December 16, 2011 at 8:12 pm

"We have three hostile units and two bogeys incoming….oh look angry birds"

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Musson1 December 19, 2011 at 9:09 am

Oh crap! The Iranians are jamming my angry birds again!

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Ems December 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm

that's neat in terms of deployment efficiency, however, it does not retain all the capabilities of Land Worrier, such helmet mounted display..and the processors is smaller and less power-hungry because it is an ARM core, so that means x86 programs written for LandWarrier can not be just run on it, so it is less a wearable computer (as landwarrior was intended) and more a smartphone with a cool app.

(btw. there is cool new rugged tablet product from Panasonic, that also used ARM , runs Android, but is mil-spec. only $1200 bucks. .http://www.panasonic.com/business/toughpad/us/best-android-rugged-tablet-overview.asp)

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blight December 17, 2011 at 7:55 am

The other possibility is taking a netbook motherboard and perhaps hiding it in a sleeve, perhaps over the chest or on the user's back and running a cable to a helmet-mounted HUD.

But we're aiming for stuff that can be deployed today or close to today, not intended-for-today-ten-years-ago-but-still-in-limbo.

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pedestrian December 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm

That is why I believe Land Warrior (Ground Soldier System) should still be kept alive, but only for high ranks due to its high cost, while End User Device being introduced as part of the high low mix, for lower ranks. It is like a mix of F-15 Eagle and F-16 Falcon for a harmony of high low mix for cost effeciency.

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blight December 18, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Define "high ranks"? Platoon, company and battalion commanders?

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Dan Gao December 19, 2011 at 10:39 am

pedestrian, this system can do almost all of what LW could do. In a way, you could look at it as the new "brain" of our ground soldier system. The only thing I would want to bring back from LW is the monocle display and some kind of rifle video sight.

And I agree with blight here, at this point is really important that we actually start handing these systems out to troops NOW isntead of "in 2015" or "in the future". It's time to make that future reality, even if it's we have to make a few trade offs.

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pedestrian December 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm

It is not about what it can and cannot do. It is about user interface concepts and computing power. The advantage of GSS/GSE over EUD includes high end input and output, potential capabilities for more battery life, storage capacity and CPU clock speed due to larger size. The disadvantage of hand held size touch panel is accuracy of input, and limited space for virtual keyboard. I am not sure about all components of GSS/GSE used today, but Land Warrior system is more advanced in connectivity via input and output, such as head mount display, and arm attached keyboard. If you compare a keyboard with a touch panel virtual keyboard, the keyboard is a more effective option to input message faster. Comparing head mounted display and touch panel screen, head mounted display is better, because the user is less distracted to move the eyes to the display on the arm. This is why GSS/GSE is a high end device while EUD is the lower end. Meanwhile, the samller the device, lesser the room for battery space. In other words, limited power, which may be a likely disadvantage of EUD over GSS/GSE. Yes, and the plug and play features of Land Warrior including video feed from the rifile scope is also powerful. Meanwhile, USB and plug and play features will also be interesting for EUD.

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blight December 20, 2011 at 1:06 am

Strangely enough, Wikipedia swears that Land Warrior is using StrongARM (ARM architecture); and not x86.

"These initial prototype units, designated Land Warrior v0.6, were built around a PC/104 computer platform running Microsoft Windows. The system used the CAN-bus protocol on the wired PAN (personal area network). The communications subsystem was built using Windows CE running on a StrongARM platform, and the wireless network protocol was IEEE 802.11. During the Fort Polk exercise, preliminary interoperability with traditional military radio networks was also demonstrated for LW v0.6, using a two-way, SINCGARS-compatible gateway radio."

It sounds more off-the-shelf than even I thought. What's unusual is that one system sounds like it is Windows CE, and another sounds like it is Linux. Recipe for ungood.

Lance December 17, 2011 at 2:20 am

Cool

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RCDC December 17, 2011 at 3:56 am

Even smartphone needs antenna. Unless it has a long range frequency capacity.

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FormerDirtDart December 17, 2011 at 9:27 am

it is not a smartphone, it is a mobile computer/GPS, it has no phone capabilities. In order for it to preform any communication/data transfer function, it must be connected, by a hard wire connection, to a radio system. In this application it will be the JTRS rifleman-radio.

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pedestrian December 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm

It will communicate via Rifleman Radio/JTRS, just like certain devices communicate via blue tooth for communication gadgets. In other words, just image a hub, or a router relaying communication through the Internet via LAN. It is an indirect communication approach.

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dddd December 17, 2011 at 4:29 am

Let's hope they can secure it correctly.

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FormerDirtDart December 17, 2011 at 9:31 am

It has no cellular phone capabilities. It is a mobile computer/GPS. In order to perform any communication function it must be connected via hard wire to a communication system, in this application it is the JTRS rifleman-radio, which is a secure radio.

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dddd December 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Thanks.

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Brian Black December 17, 2011 at 4:39 pm

” OMG!!! :-o AQ wankstas vexng my crew @:-v hevE incomng. fkn hardcore innit. fkn amped :-E puttin it down A&B d C of D. nEd sum gud fires 2 pwn dEz h8ers whIl we bounce @= U git me brv? Laters |B-) “

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DiscoTex December 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Pip-Boy 3000

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blight December 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Or the wristcomp from C&C Renegade. But yes, Pip-boy for the win (not to be mistaken with the marketing mascot known as Vault Boy)

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traindodger December 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Smartphones these days are really, REALLY powerful devices. About five or six iPhones equal the benchmark performance of one of those Cray-1 supercomputers from back in the day. The ones with the bench seating. A bit of an oversimplification, as a Cray-1 can move sheer, raw amounts of data much faster than a smartphone can, thanks to its architecture.

Sometimes, I find it mind-boggling just how much grunt these little ARM chips have in them. Just hook a pair of display glasses to one, and you could basically pull off augmented reality.

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Wolfsgentlepaws December 18, 2011 at 9:38 am

If it transmits signals, then it can be tracked by enemies with certain equipment.
Also, if texting while driving is considered distracting, how distracted will operators of this equipment become?
Lastly, are the signals vulnerable to being jammed?

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pedestrian December 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm

If you are not familiar with frequency hop communication, the mechanism of EUD communication, the capabilities of EUD, you do not belong here.

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blight December 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Frequency hopping became important the moment it was possible to triangulate RF signals for target identification. Frequency hopping is used in cell phones to compensate for a noisy signal environment, and ironically makes them pre-disposed to being IED triggers.

Yes, you can jam huge frequency spectrums if you have the equipment and the power to push out your signal as broadly and as far away as possible. You are asking for a HARM missile if you get big enough.

Regarding distractions to users, what makes you think people are just going to go wandering around the countryside staring at an LCD? The backlight alone makes this dangeorus to abuse at night while on the move, though I imagine they have low dynamic range LCDs to provide very low light

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Dan Gao December 19, 2011 at 10:26 am

People keep acting like these device will result in soldiers sitting around texting during battle, and therefore we shouldn't use them. That's not the right way to look at this. First of all, that is a training and discipline issue, not a technology issue. You could say the same thing about an FBCB2 in a vehicle. The benefits far outweigh the risks. These devices willl finally give soldiers the abilities promised for Land Warrior. They can communicate silently via text messaging, use blue force tracking while dismounted, mark locations on the digital map, etc. This will be a huge force multiplier.

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voodooeconomics December 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Could a Taliban wearing a 25AD model year sandals and eating a piece of goat meat be able to hack this thing. Yes he can….

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blight December 18, 2011 at 10:06 pm

They'll likely have help from more educated foreigners from the Middle East or Pakistan, where appropriate. However, I wouldn't count out the locals on anything. I mean, the VC played merry hell with the French and then the Americans with guys wearing sandals made out of old tires with old French/Japanese/American weapons before Chinese/Soviet aid kicked into high gear (and Tet decimated the VC, replacing them with the NVA).

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tiger December 19, 2011 at 9:25 am

Still our troops are turning into knights in Kevlar; now with arm gizmos. The KISS principle is always the better way to do things. It reminds of Charley Sheen in "Platoon" as a new guy loaded down with gear for a patrol.

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Victor March 25, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I do trust all the ideas you have introduced on your post.They are very ccovinning and will definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for starters.May just you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time?Thank you for the post.

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Dan Gao December 19, 2011 at 10:21 am

Awesome news. Now hurry up and start issuing these things on a widespread scale. This wearable computer technology for soldiers is looong overdue. I'm glad the Army is finally using smartphones due to their advantages in cost and weight, but I have to say that I'm disappointed that they didn't keep the helmet mounted display.
I would have thought that flipping down a little screen would be easier to use to view data while on the move rather than taking both eyes off what you are doing. That and the cool factor, the HMD was always the most visible aspect of future soldier systems.
Couldn't they theoretically plug in an HMD to this new smartphone-like device?

Anyways, it's all good news. Does anyone know if this deployment is part of the revised Nett Warrior program or if it's a separate smartphone program?

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blight December 19, 2011 at 11:41 am

The military needs to switch how it invests in technology. Support basic technologies that enable the commercial sector to do great things, then buy off-the-shelf. Building something like LW in the '90s was an intimidating task, as was FCS. Both involved a lot of groundwork to build, and that was a lot of money for zero product.

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blight December 19, 2011 at 11:44 am

Someone tell me what we needed Land Warrior to do again? Shoot around corners? Camera with output to wrist screen is clunky (though I guess you could use two wrist computers and have output based on if you're shooting around corners to the left or to the right.

A GPS with a Blue Force Tracker. Always necessary to prevent fratricide, though dangerous if these units are picked off of dead Americans by the enemy.

The usual important two-way communications system on military-standard systems to avoid another costly compatibility hack or hardware replacement. The ability to remotely transmit camera telemetry from operators.

That pretty much covers the basics?

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Cthel December 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

But is the smartphone EMP hardened? That's always been the reason that military computing hardware has lagged so far behind commercially available hardware; it takes several years to design a hardened version of a chip, and then you have to manufacture it as well.

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JLP February 22, 2012 at 8:44 am

I would like to use the image in this article. Do you know who I should contact to ask permission?

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gladys February 27, 2012 at 9:19 am

but still they are those remote areas where there is no phone signals ,no net work connections am missing my fiance but no connections

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GC March 11, 2012 at 12:04 am

I read about androis and OS in security operations and government , the article says that this OS are not secure , this gadgets could by hacked ? in the middle of some important operation? Do you think that you coul be use other OS different , more strong, secure like Linux ?
In the other way smatphones have a lot of problems for security in goverment and other
works . Android and Iphone are bad for this . I can see this opinion in internet I’m not specialist , but it’s logic when you heard about pictures stealed from celebrities and things like that . Furthermore , do you remember a nokia phone that have linux , the revisions said that this phone coul open 8 or 10 windows at the same time , itś fast and I hope more secure. Android is bassed in linux but is not linux.

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Dale April 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm

too many electronic toys on the battlefield all ready. one emp blast and all that crap is done for.

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Medic10Zulu June 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

That is kinda cool but I want to know if I can take alot of punishment but I am sure it can

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