Military supplier preps large tablet for battle

October 21 2011

AAI Corp. is seeking buyers for the two-feet by three-foot tablet it believes will become the go-to tablet for battlefield commanders. In a best-case scenario, the U.S. Army could order up to 1,300 of them for deployment in the field in the fall of 2012 during the next major troop rotation, Lance Swift, Tampa, director of Tampa operations, AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems, told TabTimes. AAI is an
an operating unit of Textron Systems.

Published reports say the big tablet can call up a real battlefield scenario.  Assorted red icons on the screen represent the user’s military assets, such as aircraft and soldiers. Another group of blue icons shows the enemy. When a red diamond representing enemy action appears on the screen, an officer can drag one of his blue icons over it, responding to that action.

So what looks like a move in a video game is in fact the depiction of a drone aircraft (in blue) being directed to an enemy position (the red diamond). In real life, the tablets could give real orders to troops on the ground. The tablet would be more expensive than smaller, commercial tablets the military is already experimenting with

The AAI director estimated that the hardware component of each tablet cost “a couple of thousand” but alluded to the notion that it’s the software within that jacks up the price. “It’s the software that makes it sing and dance,” he said.

The new tablet merges disparate military software programs, a report stated. “We took a whole array of platforms, payloads, sensors, and weapon systems and ported them into this battlefield awareness tool,” Swift explained. 

“The Army has real issues and is looking for scalable solutions,” he added. Every private company [that works for the Army] brings their own laptops. We took the data feeds from all those companies to create one interface. Removing equipment and lightening their load will be a plus.”

Recently, the prototype was on display at a replica Tactical Operations Center on the floor of the Association of the United States Army convention in Washington. “We were like the hit of the show,” he said.

The next step in the road toward actual production comes in November when the company hears whether the technology will be included in a military exercise next year.  “We’re very optimistic” about that, Swift said.

Steven Lang
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