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23 Oct 02. Tests conducted this month at the McKenna Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) Training Center, Fort Benning Georgia demonstrated the power technology could give soldiers in future combat. Field tests of emerging communications, navigation and networking technologies packaged into the Small Unit Operations/Situational Awareness System (SUO-SAS) gave soldiers a decided advantage during the simulated rescue of a downed three-man helicopter crew.

SUO-SAS is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored program led by ITT Industries that brings jam resistant situational awareness information to mounted and dismounted soldiers on the forward edge of the battlefield. During a company level operation airborne, mounted and dismounted soldiers were provided a situational awareness information bubble as they maneuvered through heavy forests and open areas before entering a building within a mock city to rescue the airmen.

The SUO-SAS equipped soldiers constantly and automatically maintained membership in networks spanning the battlespace to keep them connected regardless of the terrain. This was made possible by a radio that automatically adapts itself to the environment. Because the radio transmissions are also designed to have a low probability of detection by hostile forces the soldiers were able to plan their rescue with some stealth.

Voice, data, and geographic position information were constantly provided inside the information bubble to every member of the rescue company. This helped create a common operating picture of the battlespace and gave soldiers a significant advantage in completing the mission. Another advantage was SUO-SAS’s unique ability to identify not only the building, but also the room and floor where the downed pilots were hiding. This was made possible as the radios worn by the airmen automatically joined the network of the rescue team as they approached and provided the position to the rescue team.

SUO-SAS technology has a supporting relationship with several emerging communications programs sponsored by the U.S. Army including the Joint
Tactical Radio System, Objective Force Warrior and Sensors for the Objective
Force. In each case SUO-SAS could provide technology for dismounted soldiers, sensors and even robots. According to DARPA’s program manager for SUO-SAS, Dr. James Freebersyser, the SUO-SAS field demonstration got a “big thumbs up”.

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