The U.S. Army plans to issue smartphones to soldiers as part of their standard equipment, in an effort to integrate smartphones into the military experience and revolutionize the way the service trains and fights.
The Army, which has begun issuing smartphones to soldiers in select bases as part of their military training and duty, is expanding to other bases, including Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Lee and Fort Sill.
The military-issued devices, which are part of an Army program, called “Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications,” or CSDA, aims to bring technology to the battlefield and training ground.
CSDA’s next step, already underway at Fort Bliss, Texas, is testing for the war zone with the eventual goal of issuing smartphones as a standard piece of equipment to every soldier.
“One of the options potentially is to make it a piece of equipment in a soldier’s clothing bag,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, or ARCIC.
The Army is rolling out wireless Common Access Card readers for the iPhone in January and for Android phones in April. The cards would enable secure access for soldiers to their email, contacts and calendars.
In February, the Army will begin testing phones, network equipment and apps with the first brigade under the combat team modernization program. This test will include any electronic devices that may be useful to troops, not just smartphones.
“We’re looking at everything from iPads to Kindles to Nook readers to mini-projectors,” said Mike McCarthy, director of the mission command complex of Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss.
“We’re not wedded to a specific piece of hardware. We are open to using Palm Trios, the Android, iPhone or whatever else is out there,” said Rickey Smith, the director of ARCIC-Forward. The Army does not plan to develop its own phone or alter the ones it does use, only making minor tweaks and “ruggedize” existing phones.
The Army is carefully deploying mobile devices in the military experience, working through the difficult task of securing data and wireless networks before it can fully integrate them into the battlefield.
“What we’re doing is fundamentally changing how soldiers access knowledge, information, training content and operational data,” McCarthy said. “The day you sign on to be a soldier, you will be accessing information and knowledge in garrison and in an operational environment in a seamless manner. We’re using smartphone technologies to lead this.”
In September, the Army said it was handing out free iPhone and Android devices to several hundred new recruits, as part of a new test program aimed at improving the efficiency of basic training. Meanwhile, in July, defense contractor Raytheon was reportedly developing new software that would combine maps with buddy lists to help soldiers find enemies using Android smartphones.