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US Army May Issue Smartphones for Combat Use

John Moore, Getty Images

After a successful trial run using touchscreen phones and tablets in combat, US Army officials say they may begin equipping service members with the devices later this year. It would be used to complement tactical radios and other existing technology.

Smartphones can be used to text updates about surroundings, send GPS photos, and access maps. “When they have a problem or need to submit a report, they default to the texting. These young soldiers grew up with this technology. They’re very familiar with it. They’re very comfortable with it,” said Michael McCarthy, an Army director for the program.

Troops have already tested more than 300 Android, iPhone and Windows Phone units, as well as tablets from Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

Ed Mazzanti, the Army director who’s lead the pilot program, said a few hurdles still remain since software and transmissions aren’t yet fully secure. “Today, we don’t have the level of encryption that we would need to take (a phone) overseas and fully integrate it into our mission-command systems. [But] there could be some limited deployments even this year, tied to tactical radios that supply the encryption that’s needed.”


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