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Joint Conference Exhibits Showcase Support for U.S. Warfighters

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., June 21, 2008 – Members of the military services, Defense Department civilian employees and military contractors showcased how they harness technology to provide support for U.S. warfighters at the 2008 Joint Warfighter Conference held here June 17-19.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy civilian employee Phil Love stands before an orange-painted, 13-foot-long, jet-propelled aerial target device built by Northrop Grumman that can replicate the speed and maneuverability of enemy cruise-type missiles at the 2008 Joint Warfighter Conference June 18, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

U.S. Joint Forces Command, based at nearby Norfolk, Va., was one of the sponsors of the conference, which featured more than 300 vendors of defense equipment.

Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, U.S. Joint Forces Command’s chief, reminded attendees during his June 19 speech that although technology is important to warfighters, it isn’t a panacea, and that war remains primarily a human endeavor.

“We want to make certain that we keep technology in an enabling role, not in some kind of dominant role,” Mattis said. “We do want high (technological) capability … I want the highest capability we can bring to our troops in the field.”

Hannah R. Jones, a technical analyst for Trident Systems based in Fairfax, Va., displayed some of that capability. Jones modeled a tiny, lightweight computer screen that can be worn on a servicemember’s forearm that replaces a bulky laptop display.

She also pointed to a group of foot-long, cylindrical sensor nodes that can serve as silent electronic sentinels for troops deployed in harm’s way.

“Let’s say you have a group of soldiers and you need them to go to sleep,” Jones explained. The sensors, she said, can be buried in a perimeter pattern, while one of the soldiers stays awake to watch the radio-monitor screen.

“If something should ‘trip’ the motion detectors, which are located in the product, you’d find it on the radio and it would come up as a yellow flower (symbol), so you can know exactly where it ‘tripped,’” Jones said.

At another booth, Navy civilian employee Phil Love patted an orange-painted, 13-foot-long, jet-propelled aerial target device built by Northrop Grumman that can replicate the speed and maneuverability of enemy cruise-type missiles.

The remote-controlled rockets “are for training for the fleet,” explained Love, who works with the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center-Aircraft Division at Norfolk. “The ships will either shoot them down, or not. If they are not destroyed, we recover them, recondition them, and we can have them ready to go the next day.” The target devices, he noted, can be launched from a ship or land.

A model of the Boeing Company’s Transformational Satellite Communications System that’s under development garnered a lot of interest among conference attendees. According to a company official, the new system is designed to be the “Cadillac” of communications satellites. Old-style satellites “bounce” their signals earthward and back up to other satellites by ground controllers several times while transmitting trans-global messages, the official noted. The new satellite system, he said, can “think” for itself and transmit signals to other satellites without ground-control assistance. This saves considerable time, and money, the official said.

Meanwhile, Fernando Del Angel showed off a group of special universal serial bus “flash” computer data storage drives that can carry encrypted information that cannot be retrieved without a password. The robust, aluminum-cased thumb-drives are made by Kanguru Solutions based in Millis, Mass., Del Angel said, noting they are used throughout the federal government and by private industry.

“Encrypted means protected,” Del Angel explained. “So, if you lose that USB drive you’d bought at Office Depot or Wal-Mart and it has vital information on it, Joe Schmoe can pick it up off the street and sell it or use it to breach your network.”

During his June 18 address, Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization based in Arlington, Va., urged defense contractors to help his agency find ways to train troops how to detect and defeat deadly improvised explosive devices before they explode.

Metz said he believes simulators could be developed to train U.S. troops how to contend with roadside bombs before they’re deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“I think the simulation business could help us tremendously … come give me your good ideas, help these soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines -- those who are doing the fighting for us -- to beat this weapon system,” Metz said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageHannah R. Jones, a technical analyst for Trident Systems, based in Fairfax, Va., models a tiny, lightweight computer screen that can be worn on a servicemember’s forearm that replaces a bulky laptop display. Defense Dept. photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThese foot-long, cylindrical sensor nodes can serve as silent electronic sentinels for troops deployed in harm’s way. Defense Dept. photo by Gerry J. Gilmore  
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