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The US Army wants to take the flexibility of enterprise, commercial cloud into the tactical theater. The inherent advantage of a tactical cloud is that the Army is able to quickly and reliably access, share and process data at the local level. Data use cases may vary from operations, blue force tracking, to soldier health monitoring.

The vision is to embed interconnected, high-power computing capability into a wide array of drones, soldier-worn sensors and vehicle-mounted intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tools. Rather than collect data in the field and ship it back for processing — the Army would leverage the cloud to process on the edge.

Localized cloud could also ease the pressure on satellites and other networking infrastructure, with processing at the edge freeing those assets for higher-end uses.

In a recent document on future trends in tactical networking, US Army leaders pointed to the tactical cloud to get data in the hands of warfighters more effectively.

“Edge computing enables warfighters to gain access to data and software previously available only at large data centers … even when wide area network [WAN] access is down,” they noted.

That ability to leverage big-muscle computing on a much smaller, nimble platform should give commanders the inputs that they need to react more effectively to fast-changing circumstances.

“You can plug a bunch of sensors into it — basically any device that measures something — to give you instant situational awareness,” said Tarek Abdelzaher, a professor at the University of Illinois. “You can have a vibration sensor, so that if there are fires, you can localize the shooter. You can measure the electromagnetic spectrum to find where the enemy is. Then you can put those things together to find a rocket launcher in a particular site, and then tie in a targeting device to pinpoint and perhaps destroy it.”

In this way, cloud supports a faster operations tempo, allowing commanders to act on valuable sensor data in real time, according to

Tactical cloud also will be a key component supporting the Army’s emerging artificial intelligence capability, military leaders said.