Electronic Weapons: February 21, 2003


Within just six months, the U.S. Navy modified and tested an NP-3 electronic aircraft to experiment with new networked combat techniques. The modified NP-3 (codenamed "Hairy Buffalo") was configured to rapidly exchange information (voice, text and video) between Predator UAVs, a nuclear sub carrying SEALs, warplanes and surface ships. The point of the exercise was to see how quickly a combat situation could be sorted out if all these different vehicles were rapidly exchanging data. In the past, if would often take an hour or more for information (like sighting possible enemy operations) to get around to all the ships and aircraft in the area. Often, some of the aircraft involved wouldn't get vital information until they had landed. Now the idea is to collect and distribute the information quickly, like it gets done on the Internet, and have commanders sort things out and make decisions much more quickly. This is all in line with the navys push for practicing "netcentric warfare." The experiment was a success, and work is underway to reconfigure the equipment carried on the NP-3 to fit into a C-130 (for Marine use) or a surface ship (if no long range, land based aircraft like the NP-3 were available.) This particular project was able to move ahead so quickly because most of the communications equipment and software already exists. It's mainly a matter of reorganizing the stuff and having people operate differently. 


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