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Army Selects Android For Mobile Battlefield Network

The military is developing devices and an application development platform to provide soldiers with communications and custom-built apps during combat.

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The U.S. Army has chosen the Android platform as the foundation for a mobile framework that will support a range of custom-built applications soldiers can use on the battlefield.

The Army is currently testing the first Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P) Handheld device leveraging a government-owned Android-based framework soldiers can use during combat missions, according to a post on an official Army news resource.

The Army's Software Engineering Directorate is currently developing the framework, which was prototyped by nonprofit engineering company MITRE. The idea is to have a standard environment for mobile applications that will be interoperable with each other and existing mission-command systems.

For the JBC-P program, the Army is currently working on a series of Mission Command Apps that will include mapping, blue force tracking, and tactical ground reporting across mission command systems. Soldiers also will have access to basic productivity applications such as an address book and Open Office for document viewing, according to the Army.

In addition to developing its own set up applications, the Army plans to open up development of JBC-P apps to the broader community of third-party technology developers. It plans to release a Mobile /Handheld CE Product Developers Kit in July, it said. In addition to the Army, the Marines also will be able to leverage JBC-P beginning in fiscal year 2013.

The Army is currently testing prototypes for the smartphones, which are expected to weigh about two pounds. Program managers are still trying to decide whether to use a commercial off-the-shelf Android device or a government model. In the meantime, the software it's developing for the devices can run on a variety of different Android platforms, the Army said.

The devices also will be able to communicate via different military radio networks, including the Army's Joint Tactical Radio System, or JTRS Soldier Radio Waveform and Netted Iridium, as well as Marine Corps radios such as the PRC 117G and PRC 152A.

The Army will test the devices and framework in October during a Network Integration Rehearsal by the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. That event will be the first in a series of four that will culminate in a Brigade Combat Team Network Evaluation at the end of 2012, according to the Army.

The Army already has been testing the distribution of smartphones loaded with custom applications to soldiers both in the classroom and on the battlefield through the Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications (CSDA) project.

The JBC-P program existed separately before that project, but is now become one small part of it that focuses on the Android OS, said Mike McCarthy, the co-lead for the Army CSDA project.

The broader CDSA project continues to test a range of smartphones for use soldiers--including Android, iPhones ad Windows Mobile devices.

"Our intent is to try to have our solution to the army to be device and operating system agnostic," McCarthy said. To date the Army has distributed about 1200 devices under CSDA.

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