Military counts on tech to pierce fog of war

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Web site

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — The fog of war, the age-old term applied to the unknowns that pervade battlefields, will continue to play a debilitating role in U.S. combat operations until technical solutions can provide troops the right information in the right context at the right time, say several Defense Department technology leaders.

Speaking today at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPAtech 2004 conference, program managers from the agency's information exploitation office outlined the need for more sensors that can be networked to warfighters to give them situational awareness.

DARPA and its industry partners must reduce the time it takes to review data and make a command decision on the battlefield, Ted Bially, director of DARPA's information exploitation office, told a conference audience.

"Future battles will be fought with a richer inventory of engagement assets and surveillance and reconnaissance platforms," Bially said.

Jeffrey Paul, a program manager in the information exploitation office, said troops on the ground often don't have the means to tap into the sensors and intelligence afforded larger units. A program called Mantis designed to provide soldiers with a helmet-mounted visualization, sensor and communication suite could exponentially change the way battles are fought, Paul said.

"They could become a sensor in the network by contributing data and imagery," he said.

He and others said a challenge is to tap the field of image exploitations, which uses sensor data to determine what a target is, whether it's friend, foe or neutral, and what weapons might best be used to eliminate any existing threat.

"Information and image exploitation would allow us to filter sensor data and visually present it in real time to the warfighter," Paul said. "We need to deliver that information to him as seamlessly and ubiquitously as if through the Internet."

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