Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tracking a sniper? There's an APP for that!

Push Is On To Make Smart Phones Work for Combat Troops

Already there's a smart phone application that calculates a bullet's trajectory, accounting for wind speed, distance, temperature, altitude and other factors. And soon soldiers will have another app to turn their smart phones into acoustic sensors to help locate snipers.

There's an app that uses a phone's GPS capabilities to track friendly troops, and another that helps troops translate English into Arabic.

Officials responsible for modernizing the U.S. Army say that smart phones and apps - the small but ingenious software applications that make smart phones so smart - will soon be as essential to soldiers as rifles.

It's even likely that soldiers soon will be issued smart phones or other "hand-held devices" when they start basic training, said Col. Marisa Tanner, chief of the doctrine, organization, operational architecture and threat division of the Army's Future Force Integration Directorate.

The Army is moving aggressively to get smart phones ready for active duty.

In March, the service launched an "Apps for the Army" competition in which 100 soldiers or civilian Army employees are competing to develop Army-specific applications by May 15. Designers of the eight best apps will win $2,000 in prize money. Other prizes range from $1,000 to $100. The winners will see their apps deployed.

Separately, the Army's Future Force Integration Directorate is getting ready to issue smart phones to 192 soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, in a project called "Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications."

"We're trying to examine the benefits of putting access to knowledge and information in the hands of soldiers in garrison, in the field and in the theater of operations," Tanner said.

"Sometimes you're only as strong as your comms reach," she said, referring to communications. "Not every soldier dismounted from his vehicle in theater has the ability to access comms readily."

But it's when they're dismounted that soldiers get the best sense of their surroundings. They mingle with locals, observe activity and gather intelligence.

"How do you capture that information?" Tanner asked. "How do you transfer it" to other unit members and commanders? Lately, smart phones have become an obvious choice.

Unlike military hand-held devices, which tend to be expensive, single-task appliances, commercial handhelds are cheap and increasingly able to perform a multitude of tasks.

But for soldiers to get the most out of their Androids, iPhones and BlackBerries, the data they collect and share has to be structured "in a graphic format that is timely and relevant to the dismounted soldier," Tanner said.

And that's where the apps come in.

Drivers in an Army convoy will want an app that can display where roadside bombs have been discovered recently along their route. "We have found three apps that we really like" that do that, Tanner said.

There are mapping apps, maintenance manual apps, training apps, even a "COIN Collector" counterinsurgency information collection app.

For the Fort Bliss project, the Army is making more than 50 applications available to the 192 soldiers who receive smart phones, said Michael McCarthy, the director of operations for the Fort Bliss battle command training complex.

Part of the effort is to find out which apps soldiers find most useful and easiest to use, McCarthy said. If all goes well, the Army hopes to expand the program in January to an additional 2,500 soldiers.

Smart phones have already proven their value as training tools, Tanner said.

When advanced individual training materials were made available via handhelds, soldiers were able to view video clips on how to operate equipment and review classroom lessons outside the classroom. Test scores went up and training time went down, Tanner said.

While the Army checks out what smart phones and apps can do for it, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is exploring how the U.S. military can do a better job of buying them.

With a program called Transformative Apps, DARPA hopes to speed up the process of creating and buying new applications.

DARPA Director Regina Dugan said most current Pentagon development and buying practices "do not permit a quick reaction in the face of rapidly changing user needs."

Dugan told a House Armed Services subcommittee in March that she hopes to create "a military apps marketplace" and to develop "a new model for rapidly and effectively acquiring, introducing, maintaining and enhancing software."

If she succeeds, that could represent a real change.

The military often takes five to seven years to develop and buy new technology, said Mark Bigham, the vice president for business development at Raytheon's defense and civil mission solutions division.

Raytheon has already developed applications for the military. One, the Raytheon Android Tactical System, or RATS, lets soldiers designate "buddies" - which could be another soldier or an unmanned aircraft - and keep track of them on a map using a phone's GPS capabilities.

Another lets troops annotate photos and video by drawing on a hand-held screen with a finger, Bigham said.

The company has others in the works, such as an app that will let soldiers share sensor data.

"We talked to guys who came back from the wars" to see what kind of applications they think are most needed, Bigham said.

"This is an exciting new market opportunity," he said of the burgeoning interest in apps.

One caution, though: The U.S. military probably shouldn't count on $2 or $5 apps that are so widely available in the commercial sector.

Commercial applications are cheap because popular ones sell in the hundreds of thousands and volume and competition keep the price down.

In the military market, which is much smaller and more specialized, apps might sell for $50 or $500, Bigham said.

The Case for Stealth Blimps:

Authors note: I think this is a case of the left side of the brain not knowing what the right side already knows.


Originally published HERE

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in border security missions around the world is expanding rapidly from very little activity today. This expansion will create new markets and new business opportunities, particularly for integrated capabilities guided by an Operating Concept and turn key packages that include equipment, training, operations and maintenance. Small nations are discovering this technology. Smaller UAV types will especially benefit in these new markets where the established players have less influence.

This new report is the only available research that examines, analyses and predicts the evolution of Border Security markets and the relevant UAV technologies.

It is also the only UAV report of any kind that lays out a clear path to profit; it is far more than just market predictions. Readers will find an Operating Concept tying the most common border security technologies together into the capabilities border agents demand. They will also find clear instructions on which nations need these UAVs, what relevant foreign aid they receive from the US and how to approach those governments.

This unique report also analyses and forecasts global UAV procurement trends as the foundation for Border Security details. Both valuable data sets are presented by region and by UAV type.

The report covers these technologies:

Stratospheric UAVs (stealth blimps)
Jet Stream UAVs
High Altitude UAVs
Medium Altitude UAVs
Low Altitude UAVs
Micro UAVs

The report identifies, analyzes and forecasts these topics, among others:

Global Border Security - Areas of Concern & Types of Threats
Border Security UAV - Operating Concept
Border Security UAVs - Sensor & Radio Coverage
How to Sell Border Security UAVs
Global UAV Procurement Forecast - By Region - 2010-2015
Global General and Border Security UAV Procurement Forecast by Region - 2010-2015
Global Border Security - UAV Procurement Forecast - by Technology - 2010-2015
Global Border Security UAV - Market Forecast - by Technology - 2010-2015
Global Border Security UAV - Operations & Maintenance Forecast - by Technology - 2010-2015


First excerpt posted!

First excerpt from "The Interceptors Club and the Secret of the Black Manta:

> Ken had hopes that someday Freaks would become a valuable asset, keeping the Core informed on goings on in the White Sands Missile Range. Ken was quite aware that although Area 51 was where black projects were born, the White Sands Missile Range was where they were proven.<


-Steve Douglass
UPDATE: How cool is this? I just signed up to sell my book for Kindle on Amazon!
I'll post a link soon.

Breaking: Watertown Raid Connected to Times Square Bomber

The FBI raided a home in Watertown Thursday morning in connection with the Times Square bomb plot investigation.

FBI spokesperson Gail Marcinkiewicz told WBZ the raid was one of several being conducted in the northeast United States in the probe.

"The searches are a product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation subsequent to the Times Square bombing investigation," she said.

Marcinkiewicz added that there is "no known immediate threat to the public or any active plot against the United States."

She said two people were taken into custody for "immigration violations" in the raids, but would not say if they were involved in the incident at a home on Waverly Avenue near Summer Street in Watertown.

UPDATE: CNN) -- Raids by federal agents in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey on Thursday are focused on a system of "cash couriers" who bring money into the United States from overseas, a source close to the investigation said.

Authorities were searching several locations in the Northeast on Thursday as part of their probe into the failed Times Square car bombing earlier this month, an FBI spokeswoman said.
Investigators searched locations in and around Boston, Massachusetts, and in New York and New Jersey, a federal law enforcement source said.

Three people were taken into custody for alleged immigration violations during the searches, according to a U.S. official. Earlier, FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz in Boston said two people had been detained. A second federal law enforcement source said those two have no direct connection to the Times Square bombing investigation, and their arrests were considered "collateral."

Some of the money allegedly ferried by the cash couriers is thought to have been made available to finance operations like the abortive Times Square attack. The source close to the investigation said two individuals have been under surveillance at least since Wednesday, but could not confirm that they were two of the three individuals arrested in the raids.

The source said there is no direct evidence connecting those under surveillance to the Times Square attempted bombing, but they are being investigated for possible links.

"These searches are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation since the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. "I share that information just to indicate that this is an ongoing investigation and that we are actively pursuing all those who were involved in it."

One of the searches took place in Watertown, Massachusetts, according to a federal law enforcement official. CNN affiliate WCVB-TV reported that two people were taken into custody in

WCVB: Massachusetts pair arrested
A Watertown resident who lives near the home where the search warrant was executed told WCVB he was sitting in his living room watching television at about 6 a.m. when he "heard an FBI agent scream, saying 'Don't move' or 'Put your hands up,' something like that."

"I thought I was dreaming, actually, because in a small town, who would think, you know, that you'd hear an FBI person?" said the man, who did not give his name in the interview posted on WCVB's website.

When he looked out the window, he said, he saw 15 or 20 FBI agents lined up, with their guns drawn and pointing at the house. He said after a few minutes, a couple of agents went inside the house. "I was expecting to hear gunshots or something, you know, but there wasn't ever any gunshots," he said.

After a few minutes, agents brought a man out in shackles, put him in a car and drove away, the man said. He said he'd never seen the man before, but noted that new residents have moved into the home every few years.

Photos from Watertown showed yellow police crime scene tape around a large white Colonial-style house. The photos were taken by, a local news website.

One photo showed a man in an FBI shirt talking with two other men. Another showed a man walking out of the house holding a plastic bag that appeared to contain an electronic or computer-related device or accessory.

Another search unfolded in Brookline, Massachusetts, where police were helping the FBI search a Mobil gas station on Harvard Street, said Lt. Philip Harrington of the Brookline Police Department.

Video from CNN affiliate WHDH-TV of Boston showed apparent law enforcement officers at the gas station. They were examining a parked gray four-door sedan, its two front doors and trunk open.
WHDH: FBI executes search warrants in Boston area

Diane Chung, who manages a Japanese fusion restaurant across from the gas station, said investigators were swarming the scene when she got to the restaurant around 9:30 a.m. She said the gas station was completely blocked off.

She said she hadn't seen authorities bringing anyone out of the gas station and hasn't seen them enter any other businesses in the area.

Michael Sobelman, owner of Michael's Deli on Harvard Street, took a stroll down the street to check out what he said was rare commotion along the retail and commercial stretch.
"You can see them taking stuff out," he said. "You'd never have thunk something like this is going on."

News media and police packed the area as three or four helicopters hovered over the scene. Sobelman said he saw the FBI load vehicles with material from the gas station.

"I'm shocked that it could happen in an affluent community like this," Sobelman said. "I tip my hat to the FBI and praise them for their work and their diligence and looking behind the scenes into everything."

A search warrant was also being executed in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, according to J.J. Klaver, FBI spokesman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. No one was in custody. A federal law enforcement source said the raid was being conducted at a business called Prompt Printing in Cherry Hill.
Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani American, is the only person charged in the May 1 attempted bombing at Times Square.

He was arrested while trying to fly out of New York two days after he allegedly attempted to set off a car bomb in the always-crowded tourist hotspot. The bomb failed to detonate.

Shahzad has been charged with five counts in connection with the case.
According to court documents, he admitted to law enforcement officials that he attempted to detonate the bomb and that he recently received bomb-making training in the Waziristan region of Pakistan.

Court documents also said that Shahzad returned to the United States via a one-way ticket from Pakistan on February 3. He had told immigration officials upon his return that he had been visiting his parents in Pakistan for the previous five months, the complaint said.
Holder said Shahzad was working with the Pakistani Taliban.


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