Tech lessons learned

One year after the war in Iraq started, the military services are compiling their lessons learned to determine which technologies worked and which didn't.

What worked:

Blue Force Tracking. Friendly ground fire was blamed for 35 fatalities during the first gulf war, but for only two in the 2003 war.

Unmanned aerial vehicles. Bandwidth-hungry unmanned aerial vehicles were scarce on the battlefield, but those that were in action relayed real-time video so troops could see what they would encounter on the road ahead. Future vehicles will also offer information on enemies' weapons capabilities, further removing troops from harm's way.

Theater Battle Management Core Systems. This Air Force program produced airspace control task orders every day and made them accessible to military personnel via commercial Web browsers.

Satellite communications. The Defense Department relied heavily on commercial satellites, a strategy that lawmakers disapprove of. But Marine combat users said satellite-based tools were the only consistently reliable means of communication.

Phraselator. The Phraselator, developed through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, translates more than 50 languages. Although only a relatively small number of the devices were used in Iraq and Afghanistan, they proved invaluable at checkpoints and in the interrogation of prisoners of war.

What didn't:

Bandwidth allocation. DOD officials admit they need a better way to get bandwidth to the troops who need it.

Data analysis on the fly. Battlefield commanders said they often received raw data and images that they were expected to interpret. Military and civilian defense leaders have called for reducing reaction time by providing more machine-to-machine information and data analysis.

Soldier intercom radios. Soldiers have no

confidence in the intercom radios, according to Army officials. Soldiers bought handsets and longer antennas to increase the radios' range.

Ruggedized laptop computers. According to Army officials, the systems had a 30 percent failure rate in the desert. Apparently, they weren't rugged enough.

Communications interoperability. Communication among U.S. military services was relatively reliable, but talking to allied or coalition troops proved to be more difficult.


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