The research arm of the Department of Defense (DoD) is working on a project that will enable U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq to engage in network-centric warfare.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)'s Mobile Ad-Hoc Interoperable Network Gateway, or MAINGATE, aims to allow military personnel to communicate with one another as well as control airborne and ground vehicles for surveillance and reconnaissance during conflicts, according to DARPA.
Raytheon is developing MAINGATE, which has been tested successfully by the U.S. Army expeditionary warrior experiment in Fort Benning, Ga. The test was conducted using a "large number" of both high- and low-bandwidth users and involved voice communications as well as the exchange of video and data, according to DARPA.
The test validated the network's ability to provide mobile dissemination of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data as well as provide control-systems networking between various headquarters and military vehicles. It also allowed several tactical forces performing simultaneous simulated missions to connect during those activities, according to DARPA.
Raytheon's contract for the project recently was extended to include the production of 170 mobile radios that can be used for MAINGATE-based communications.
DARPA said the development of MAINGATE was spurred by a historical inability for different armed services units and branches to communicate during joint operations and exercises, in particular during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Difficulty coordinating efforts between military and relevant non-military organizations, such as those in humanitarian relief and public safety, also was a driver of the system, the agency said.
All of the U.S. military branches have been working to use state-of-the-art technology to improve how personnel engage both on and off the battlefield. The Army, for instance, in 2011 plans to distribute to its personnel mobile devices such as iPhones and Android-based devices loaded with applications that will improve how they perform their duties.