Special Forces + Android = Killer Combo


The U.S. Military has spent several billion dollars and over 20 years to develop hardware and software communications for our troops. With the recent advancement of  smartphones the U.S. Military sees the opportunity to cut costs and speed development.

Here comes the Android OS in conjunction with custom designed apps to save the day.

Special Operations Command, aka SOCOM asked Android developers for some Android applications to keep commandos linked up while on missions. Some of the features desired include chat functions, file transfers (audio,video,images), video display and “white boarding” to assist on missions. SOCOM calls the App division”Tactical Situational Awareness Application Suite”, or TactSA, and it must also work in low-connectivity areas. Do I hear Global Phone?

Instead of doing like the Army and spending time and money custom-building hardware and software, SOCOM being a bit more resourceful (as they must in the field) they use off the shelf devices along with some custom designed apps. Doing this would cut down on the time it would take for hardware development and production to reach the troops.

Why choose Android-run devices? Because Android keeps its source code open unlike Microsoft,Apple and most other software manufactures. Special operators aka “coders” can modify software applications in the field. Giving the soldiers valuable time and tools to respond or communicate effectively in a war setting.

The new line of Android smartphones are now sporting 1Gz+ processors and are capable of many things. The Military sees an opportunity to speed development and cut costs in one foul swoop. ANDROID….it just does.

See more pictures below for a simulation of what the government has to work with.

Battle Tac & Layer displays marked places before they are visible to the naked eye

Already released Android App “RATS” for the U.S. ARMY. Defense contractor Raytheon designed the Raytheon Android Tactical System, or RATS  for the Military. RATS picks up aerial images from unmanned aircrafts or satellites and can focus on the smallest details such as license plates on cars or a person’s facial features.

Raytheon said RATS could also let military personnel interact as “buddies” and allow them to track the locations of other members of their squad, as well as help them identify potential enemies.

The Military seeing the future of Android hopes to produce a handful of soldier-developed apps for smartphones in the future. Adopting an already growing mobile operating system lessens the time our military needs for development of a working product. Giving our troops the best equipment and software faster to get the job done. So the future Miltary will be utilizing the Android OS.

Amazed of what you have seen so far? Imagine what you haven’t. The Military is not so open sourced. With an abundance of great apps already for “civilian” use, the Armed Forces have a huge lead in development just in “modding” already useful apps. The future Military has the funds, they have the man power and now they have Android.

Read about an app already in use by the DOD available on the market  “T2 MoodTracker”

*Battle Tac is a web app that layers over the market app “Layar” takes time to set up, users need to sign up on the BattleTac site you also need multiple users for this to function effectively. Due to lack of another device I was unable to fully test the application. Still looks pretty awesome! Anybody use this for paintball? Post comments below.

Props to Chris San Miguel for tip about SOCOM/Android.

  • Drew

    That’s just plain awesome!

  • This is just a taste of what is already in use by our military. Future soldiers tech will be Android integrated. Just imagine the things Android can do and we barely scratched the surface. Follow me on twitter @thedroidlife for the latest in Android news. Androidguys you RULE!

  • This is an excellent example of the military making use of Commercial Off The Shelf or COTS equipment to service their needs in the field. The special forces has always been an excellent test bed for these types of products and activities due to its relatively small population and expedited management approach to acquiring such solutions. There are many more areas the military could make use of equipment and materials that are commonly used in the consumer markets given small modifications.

    Unfortunately, for the US militaries non special forces units its always been a problem regulating the spending and control of these projects and platforms. Most military specific programs have a Program Manager or PM that manages how the equipment or material is processed into the military and acts as the liaison between the military user and the vendor. For the most part this is not the case for COTS equipment. There are three common problems with the militaries ability to absorb these pieces of time, money, and life saving technology today.

    1. The military doesn’t know it exists because there’s no one on the payroll actively looking for it. Most of the time the military struggles to keep up with the advancement in consumer technology so their not quite sure what they should be looking for in the first place.

    2. Barriers to entry for COTS providers are high with no set standard for how to introduce a product into the military. It can take a very long time to get your product in front of the right people if you have no experience working with the military. Trust me on this one its a lot of business development and who you know.

    3. There is no standard budget or management vehicle for the handling of COTS equipment. This means that you could be marketing to individual battalions or at the base level before a COTS provider grows enough presents to show off their capability military wide.

    These three problems were addressed at the Annual AUSA (Association of United States Army) meeting held this year by high ranking military officials. Work is in progress to change the current material acquisition system as it pertains to COTS equipment and lower barriers to entry for those technologies that are deemed useful. What all this means is that we can look forward to this type of technology finding its way into the non special forces community at an accelerated rate in the near future. And for all of those technology developers that didn’t know the US government is the largest customer in the world.

    Happy Hunting

  • Travis

    I’ve seen a lot of reports about cool technology like this being researched by the military, and even more reports from actual soldiers saying basically, “Sure would be nice if any of that were real.”

    The comment above goes a long way toward explaining why this happens. Hopefully the Army will succeed it its efforts to improve the situation. Looks like there’s lots of room for it.

  • Funny how the BattleTac map pinpoints a location in Budapest – I had no idea the U.S. Army trained/fought there!

  • I just recently departed a company who was subcontracted to DARPA do develop similar applications. One big problem is that the availability of network infrastructure where our troops operate is far from certain. The military needs to find a way to deploy their own island of temporary network and cellular coverage hooked into the back office systems. Relying on commercial cellular is a bad move…

  • lilhill

    I wonder how Google feels about its software being used to aid in fighting overseas…

    • Guest

      Probably thankful that good guys are fighting bad guys overseas instead of in Mountain View where they can continue focusing on producing helpful (and even not-so-helpful) products.