Air Weapons: Pentagon Fights Access to Radio Shack


August 6, 2006: The U.S. Air Force is looking for civilian communications gear to replace the 1980s era equipment currently used by air controllers (the guys in the ground who call in air attacks for ground troops). The Department of Defense has a new, digital, radio system in the works, but this Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) is being delayed by the usual bureaucratic bungling, and the lack of modern equipment for air controllers is getting people killed. The air controllers (teams of air force personnel assigned to ground units), currently have to verbally tell pilots the GPS coordinates of where the smart bombs should go, and then the pilots have to type in the numbers. Lots of potential for mistakes. And mistakes are made.
Some air force and Special Forces troops have put together more efficient systems, unofficially, using commercial gear. That's why the air force asked the Department of Defense for official permission to buy commercial gear, for all its air controllers to use, until JTRS is ready. While there is some resistance in the Department of Defense to granting permission, the threat of a public discussion of the number of fatal accidents caused by the current system, is expected to wear down such resistance. Then again, maybe not.


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