Mouse Mightier than the Sword

March 25, 1997

Mouse Mightier than the Sword

The Army will decide next month whether to outfit one of its divisions with computer-based battle equipment that will rely on information from satellites, radar planes, sensors and scouts to give soldiers an eagle-eye view of the battlefield on mobile computer monitors, The Los Angeles Times reported today.

The high-tech project, which has already cost $700 million and will surpass the $1 billion mark within two years if it gets the go-ahead, will be operational by 2000, the Army projects. Critics of the technology say it is bug-ridden and it will be obsolete by the time it is implemented, but the Army is betting the bugs will be worked out and argues that the new system is its best hope to modernize the way it wages war.

The Army is now testing the equipment under battlefield conditions for the first time, holding mock battles at Fort Irwin, a base in the California desert. The equipment shows soldiers what and who is in their immediate vicinity. It converts enemy tanks into red triangles, friendly tanks into blue triangles and artillery fire into video game-style flickering lines.

Significant problems with the system remain, however. In addition to the inconvenience of soldiers carrying around computer monitors, the system is prone to jamming and vulnerable to hackers.

If the Army goes ahead with the project and works out the kinks, two infantry divisions could be equipped with the "tactical Internet" within the next ten years.

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