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Smart Phones Could Bring Internet to the Battlefield 

10  2,010 

By Eric Beidel 

The hippest phones on the market may prove the most effective communication tools in a warzone.

Lockheed Martin Corp. believes it can use currently available smart phones to bring reliable broadband signals to front-line soldiers who often times are left out of the intelligence loop. The company’s MONAX adapter seeks to fill these much-publicized gaps in battlefield connectivity with technology that many soldiers use at home. MONAX, a loose acronym for “mobile network access,” would allow soldiers to use technology they are familiar with to connect to a network in remote places.

Soldiers can use an iPhone or any other smart phone with MONAX. Without access to normal cell phone towers, the system picks up its signal from network infrastructure carried on aerostats, other aircraft and ground vehicles. By sliding a phone into a plastic sleeve, a soldier can connect to the network. Mission-specific applications can be added to smart phones so troops can look at maps and intelligence, as well as control unmanned aircraft.

The idea came from “the realization that back in Iraq most of the calls for fire were happening over commercial cell phones, not military radios,” said Macy Summers, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of strategic development.

“We send them over and put them in very harsh conditions … and then we give them effectively walkie-talkies and paper maps,” said Glenn Kurowski, program director for MONAX. “There is a huge divergence in what we can get as consumers and what we can get from programs of record.”

A smart phone costs about $200, and the MONAX sleeve is priced just shy of $1,000.

“You can hand it to a five-year-old, you can hand it to a grandma and they can use it pretty much without training,” Kurowski said, noting that similar devices currently used by the military cost between $3,000 and $18,000.

Reader Comments

Re: Smart Phones Could Bring Internet to the Battlefield

Pete - Have you ever been to Afghanistan? Good luck trying to find a signal to use your iPhone there! I am not saying this is the best idea or only idea, but at least they are providing a solution.

Mark on 11/16/2011 at 09:43

Re: Smart Phones Could Bring Internet to the Battlefield

Let me re-write a portion of this: "Soldiers can use an iPhone or any other smart phone without MONAX. Without access to network infrastructure carried on aerostats, other aircraft and ground vehiclesnormal the system picks up its signal from cell phone towers. Without sliding a phone into a plastic sleeve, a soldier can connect to the network. Mission-specific applications can be added to smart phones so troops can look at maps and intelligence." Lockheed's sole accomplishment here is changing the useable frequency range and turning a $200 smartphone into a $1200 smartphone, 6 times as much as the original. Does this make sense to anyone?

Pete on 11/11/2010 at 19:34

Re: Smart Phones Could Bring Internet to the Battlefield

Wow! They figured out how to make a smartphone transmit and receive voice and data. What will those wizards think of next? A machine to reproduce sound using a needle and big black vinyl discs?

Pete on 11/11/2010 at 17:27

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