Army views space as ultimate 'high ground'

Looking almost three decades into the future, the Army has started planning the technology that will drive its forces in 2025, or what it calls the "Army After Next" (AAN).

Army leaders believe space-based communications, sensors and intelligence will play a significant role in the high-tech and highly mobile force.

"Space is the high ground," said Brig. Gen. T. Buckley Jr., deputy chief of staff for doctrine at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command.

Buckley, who outlined the AAN at a Pentagon press briefing today, said the Army believes space-based systems hold the key to "firepower, [command, control, communications and intelligence] and information dominance" for the Army of the future. The service is developing a digitized corps under the Force XXI project, and Buckley described AAN as the way the service plans to spread the technology and lessons learned throughout the Army.

While the U.S. military develops, owns and operates its space-based systems, Buckley predicted that AAN will rely more on commercially developed systems, such as the Iridium satellite constellation backed by Motorola Inc., which will provide phone service from anywhere on the globe without the need for a public switched network or cellular telephone carriers. "We'll probably just need part of a [satellite] transponder" from a commercial entity, Buckley said.He also envisioned the Army using commercial sensing satellites, which are under development by companies such as Orbital Sciences Inc., Space Imaging Inc. and Earth Watch Inc.

The proliferation of advanced commercial sensing and communications satellite systems presents the Army not only with an opportunity but problems as well, Buckley said. Potential adversaries will have access to these same systems, Buckley said, making information assurance and information operations another key component of AAN.

The Army knows it cannot predict all the technologies that it will have at its disposal for AAN in 2025, but the service believes focusing on development of a highly mobile force connected by what Buckley dubbed a "living Internet" will help to focus the development process.

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