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Photonics in: Military/Aerospace

Photonics Spectra
May 2000
For tomorrow's small, autonomous, increasingly mobile military units, less means more: more sensors, more imaging technology and more networking technology to connect them all.

Daniel C. McCarthy, Senior News Editor

The technological force that was on display during the Persian Gulf conflict in the early 90's represented the beginning of the end for the military's traditional role as the sole standard-bearer of advanced technology. The New World Order hailed by then-President Bush signaled a change in the type of conflicts the US armed forces likely would confront. Strategists anticipated more frequent missions requiring multiple small, mobile military units that would operate independently but cohesively.

Similarly, in the post-Soviet-era Europe, as economic unification sends ripples through defense structures, military forces may come to comprise small mobile units designed to maintain the peace within Europe's borders rather than to keep out aggressors.

The integrated tactics of these forces presumably will require greater integration of more numerous sensors. This, in turn, will trigger a need for advanced information technology of the sort the military can no longer leverage alone.

The architects of the next-generation military force would like to see every sensor become an information protocol node on the Internet in the sky, said Douglas H. Reep, director of electronics technology for Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, Md., referring to the military's vision of air, sea and land forces networked by satellites. However, Reep added, the technology that will enable this vision is driven more by the commercial telecommunications infrastructure.

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