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The Army remains committed to the Joint  Tactical Radio System (JTRS) as the main means for disseminating video images to the battlefield, a big program that is still under development and should be fielded in 2014, said Tim Owings, deputy program manager for Army unmanned aerial systems.

But technology developments and rapid advances in encryption software mean smaller-scale self-contained 4G networks could also be an option for allowing troops to see video images in about two years, Owings told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference.

A number of companies, including Textron Inc, Raytheon Co, L-3 Communications Holdings Inc and Sierra Nevada Corp, are already working on secure 4G network systems that would enable video streaming to smart phones, he said.

Contracts would likely be smaller, but many defense companies are trying to develop less-expensive weapons that help the Pentagon save money and become more efficient.

“We’re probably going to look at that. We’d be somewhat short-sighted not to,” Owings said about streaming to smart phones, although he noted that the Army does not have a formal requirement for such a system.

PRETTY SECURE TRANSMISSIONS POSSIBLE

Owings said new encryption advances mean that such systems would allow “pretty darn secure” transmission of data in a very limited area, and they would be fairly inexpensive since they could be used with commercially available smart phones.

He said such smaller networks could complement the larger system needed to provide communications to the entire battlefield, and the companies are already working to get the high level of encryption certification needed.

Source: Andrea Shalal-Esa for Reuters.

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