U.S. Military Chose Android for Tactical Ops

The Defense Department has reportedly chosen Android to develop a smartphone framework and a suite of applications for use in tactical operations by the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps.

The Defense Department's Software Engineering Directorate is currently working on a two-pound device called the Joint Battle Command-Platform (or JBC-P Handheld)-- in essence a military-grade Android smartphone. Apps to be used on the device will allow soldiers to locate friendly forces, exchange "critical messaging" and other important tasks.

A prototype is currently being used by soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In a practice military scenario, Spc. Hao Bui demonstrated one of the uses of the device by pulling out the JBC-P Handheld smartphone from his uniform and entering the information of an "enemy" into an app, immediately transmitting warning graphics to his buddies and higher headquarters.

"If we see an enemy up front, we could put it in the GPS system," said Spc. Hao Bui, a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division. "Even though they (fellow Soldiers) can't see it, you can mark it for them."

Strangely enough, the military is going to allow external third parties to develop applications for the government-owned Android network (known as Mobile /Handheld Computing Environment) by releasing the development kit for free to the industry in July. By allowing this, the government can leverage fresh ideas and technology on a government-led, "disciplined" software environment.

"All of the research dollars are out there in the commercial market. All of the best minds are at work in these companies to produce these smartphones and this software," said Lt. Col. Mark Daniels, product manager for JBC-P. "We don't want to rehash that, we want to leverage it. We want to take advantage of it and get it out to the Soldier in a structured fashion, so it can be implemented in a way that is secure and useful at the same time."

However, the Army is currently refining its own suite of Mission Command Apps which include mapping, blue force tracking, Tactical Ground Reporting and more. There's also a baseline suite of supporting apps like an address book and Open Office for document viewing.

Right now the government is still trying to determine if a commercial off-the-shelf smartphone in a rugged tactical sleeve will be ideal for the final JBC-P Handheld device, or a government-off-the-shelf model. Either way, the software is designed to run on a variety of Android platforms. "We're trying to set this program up so that it can rapidly adapt and maintain relevance to the current warfighting generation," Daniels said.

According to an article on the Army's website, soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division will also try out the handhelds and JBC-P software during the Network Integration Rehearsal at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in October. The Network Integration Rehearsal is part of a series of four events leading to executing a fully integrated Brigade Combat Team Network Evaluation at the end of 2012.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • joytech22
    Sweet, score one for the green team!

    If they ever take the phones out of the US they might need to put satellite dongles into their phones, some places don't have GPRS/2.5G/3G and it's also more secure.
  • K2N hater
    Revealing the exact position of the soldiers to anyone (including the enemy) must be complex tactics.
  • JerseyFirefighter
    I wonder if the military will lock THEIR bootloaders...
  • eddieroolz
    Oh man, that wasn't a smart choice by the US Military...but not that iOS is any better of a choice.
  • wild9
    Who said war wasn't profitable? Jeeze it looks like it's one of the last remaining growth industries. Well done, Obama. I bet it even uses green technology. Aren't we the lucky sod's to have you, and the people you represent, sending our young kids off to fight these foreign wars all with the aid of sophisticated technology. My God we're so lucky aren't we.
  • ericburnby
    Poor choice. Neither Android or iOS are secure enough. Should have went with QNX (RIM) if they wanted mission critical.
  • robochump
    I hope those military spec Android smart phones have decent battery life compared to civi version. One big draw back to droid phones.

    I am sure the smart phones have built-on hardware encryption and very rugged. Most of you knuckleheads think the US military is going to use smart phone from the local cell phone store!?!? lol
  • robochump
    robochumpI hope those military spec Android smart phones have decent battery life compared to civi version. One big draw back to droid phones.I am sure the smart phones have built-on hardware encryption and very rugged. Most of you knuckleheads think the US military is going to use smart phone from the local cell phone store!?!? lol
    Hah...missed the commercial smart phones with rugged sleeve. Need more caffeine! Unless water proof I cant see that working out too well in real World situations.
  • no one said war isnt profitable!

    and why cant ppl just call them applications instead of pretending "apps" is something different
  • To the comments of people saying Android isn't secure enough, you are right, to an extent. It's going to be a Military Grade smartphone which also means the Government is most likely going to have a hand in the security of this device. To "Wild9" really? Do we seriously have to blame EVERYTHING on Obama? Unfortunately countries HAVE to have armies, there is always going to be war. Lets not also forget that this is a volunteer Military that we have. No one forced these young kids to join. They signed the contract knowing what they were getting in to, if they didn't know what they were getting in to then their parents failed at raising them right. I joined the US Army almost 4 years ago and I made sure I knew everything I could about the Army before even thinking of talking to a recruiter. As my old First Sergeant always said "There's only one reason for a Nation to have a Military, War!" Also, yes the Military is actually using "green technology." The Military isn't as bad as you are trying to make it out to be. I have deployed and have served my first 4 year contract honorably and have re-enlisted for another 3 which I will serve honorably then get out. It's not about profit, it's about keeping us safe so we can come home. Why do you think all these unmanned weapons are coming out? Rifles that can attach a pistol and shoot around corners. It's about safety, not money.