Field commanders get new hand held weapon

Strategy Page:

The U.S. Army is sending over three hundred new design Commander’s Digital Assistant (CDA) hand held computers to Iraq with platoon leaders and company commanders later this year. The CDA is basically a militarized PDA (Personal Digital Assistant, like the Palm). PDA technology is changing so fast, especially by traditional military procurement standards, that the army expects to have a new version of the CDA every year or so. The 2005 model (shipping out later this year) will have satellite phone capability and be able to download maps, along with instructions overlayed on the maps. The army is taking advantage of cheaper, and more compact, memory available to provide this vital map download feature. It’s now possible to equip a PDA with a gigabyte, or more, of flash (like used in digital cameras) memory.


In the last year, PDAs and cell phones have been merging, which is where the new CDA came from. The army needs a combat PDA that can communicate, preferably via satellite, and can display visual information (like maps). The new CDA will do both, and their use in Iraq will provide a lot of feedback from officers about what software, hardware and graphics improvements are needed. The army is already concerned with battery usage, and getting the graphics to work just right, and be easy to use. The basic idea is to keep platoon leaders (and platoon sergeants, who will probably end up with CDAs as well) constantly informed about what their commanders want, and what new information is available about the enemy. With the satellite communications link, new information about the enemy situation can be constantly sent. Of course, the new CDAs will have the “Blue Force Tracker” technology that will constantly show the location of all nearby friendly platoons, tanks and combat aircraft on the PDA screen. Instead of, as in the past, the company commander trying to explain to his lieutenants, over the radio, what the new plan is, he just sketches out a new plan on his CDA, and transmits it to his platoon leaders (and the battalion commander, so his boss knows what’s going on as well.) The young officers have taken to the new technology enthusiastically, as many have been taking their own personal PDAs into combat and training exercises for years. This is the Nintendo generation at war.

This enhances "situational awareness" down to the platoon and squad level.


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