January 03, 2011, 9:36 AM — U.S. soldiers may be issued an iPhone alongside their MREs as part of their standard pack in the near future. A program spearheaded by the Army Capabilities Integration Center aims to improve fighting capability, as well as general efficiency, by making smartphones standard issue among both deployed troops and soldiers garrisoned on home bases.
Under the plan, soldiers would likely be given the choice of either an iPhone or an Android phone, along with access to an app store customized for their duties. One such test app, developed by Raytheon, allows a soldier to take a picture with the smartphone's camera, then mark it up with circles and arrows before sending it back to base, or distributing it to other troops in the field.
The Army is aware that such capabilities are available in off-the-shelf apps, and plans on deploying smartphones which are exceedingly similar to those civilians can buy in an Apple Store. No changes are planned for the internal components of the phone, although their cases will be ruggedized to withstand battlefield conditions. Tests may also include other technology, including iPads, Kindles, and Nooks—perhaps a nod to recent commercials suggesting that an iPad might have issues on a sunny day in Kabul.
The Army expects to deploy additional technologies to support these phones in the field, as 3G service can be hard to come by during insurgencies. This leads to issues of network security, including the possibility of knowing when you are in a war zone by watching the bars on your phone. "Can you hear me now?" might become code for "you're in mortar range."
But the potential and low cost of deploying these technologies may someday lead to a future update of the Rifleman's Creed: "This is my iPhone. There are many like it, but this one is mine."