War? There's an iPhone App for That
American military contractor shows off iPhone application intended to help soldiers track and kill insurgents on the battlefield
In little more than a year, applications for Apple's popular iPhone have become a sensation - with more than 100,000 downloadable programs that do everything from stargazing to virtual farting.
But now one of America's biggest military contractors is taking the concept to extremes, by building a series of apps for use on the battlefield.
At a conference in Arizona on Wednesday, US defence company Raytheon announced its plans to launch a new range of military-oriented programs that can turn the popular touchscreen mobile phone into a tool for use in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The first application in its plans, called One Force Tracker, uses satellite positioning and mobile networks to give soldiers constantly updating field maps that track the position of friendly troops and enemy fighters in real time.
The program - dubbed a "situational awareness application" by Raytheon executives - would combine data from many sources to try and give an accurate picture of hotspots such as sniper hideouts and vantage points. Troops could also use their iPhones for secure communication, said the company.
"We are committed to providing innovative technology solutions for warfighters and all of our customers," said Jay Smart, chief technology officer of Raytheon's intelligence and information systems business.
The application can run on ordinary iPhone handsets - a decision that came, Smart said, because building software for the gadget was cheaper and simpler than some of the expensive options specifically designed for military use.
"Raytheon's experience with mobile communications in the tactical environment and the government customers' need for low-power, simple plug-and-play applications led to the development of a real-time situational awareness application using Apple's touch technologies," he said.
It is not the first time the iPhone has been linked with military uses, however. Earlier this year Knight's Armament Company, an American weapons maker that supplies rifles to the Pentagon, launched a $12 ballistics application called BulletFlight which helps snipers and sharpshooters to hit their intended target.
Although it is most notorious for hi-tech weapons such as the Silent Guardian - a pain-inducing microwave gun - Raytheon, which based in Massachusetts, has a history of using popular technology for military purposes. Among its innovations are systems used in the unmanned aerial vehicles that are based on video games consoles.
One Force Tracker is not only for the battlefield, though. Raytheon told the Intelligence Warfighting Summit that the software could also be used - with some tweaks - by emergency workers such as doctors and firefighters responding to major incidents.