Tap to bomb: new Android app lets troops call in airstrikes

by: Bogdan PetrovanOctober 17, 2013

atak android air strike Draper

US troops will soon be able to request air support and get information on the battlefield using an Android app called Android Terminal Assault Kit, or ATAK.

The app is developed by Draper Laboratory, a Cambridge, Mass.-based research institution, in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory. ATAK will allow soldiers on the battlefield to call in an airstrike by tapping the position of the enemy on a map and then sending it over to the base or to pilots through a secure radio connection.

ATAK lets soldiers label the position of various objectives on the map, including enemy positions, civilians, and friendly forces, and even warns the user when the designated location for an air strike is too close to a friendly force. The app shows hostile forces in red and friendly forces in blue, and automatically calculates coordinates and elevation using GPS.

Previously, troops had to calculate coordinates and keep tabs on various objectives on the battlefield in their heads. The US Military issued laptops to simplify the process, but soldiers reportedly found them too difficult to use in the field.

Besides allowing troops to call in airstrikes, ATAK can also display live feeds from UAVs. Special forces have already used ATAK in “a handful of missions” and the app will roll out to more units starting next year.

atak android app

Draper didn’t specify if the app has special requirements or if it runs on any Android device. The team said it chose Android because it’s more secure and easier to develop for than iOS and that it doesn’t plan an iPhone version of ATAK.

Military forces could use ATAK on a rugged Android tablet such as the recently launched GETAC Z710-Ex, which is designed to withstand “hazardous and explosive environments”.

  • Aniruddh

    Quoting from above:

    ” Android because it’s more secure and easier to develop for than iOS”

    That’s what Eric Schmidt said didn’t he? Android is more secure than iOS, and people laughed at him? Now an organisation which is developing an app for the US Military is saying that. Where are you Apple fanboys, laugh.

    • Mayoo

      Just Imagine with Siri in the ways…

      U.S. troops – “Bomb this facility” *tap*
      Siri – Couldn’t find the address. Using your current location by default.

      • Aniruddh

        Think about this – a guy order an airstrike from the Pentagon, and Siri uses the current location because it couldn’t find the address.
        Tim Cooks will have some serious explaining to do…

      • Balraj

        Lol lol

  • Guest

    Real life BF4 commander mode

  • Cloduar

    Will the app allow to use cheat codes?

  • sourabh sekhar

    If i was a Soldier with such a phone in my hands,i would bomb Apple’s HQ and their upcoming spaceship/bullshit campus too.

    • Aniruddh

      Spoken like a true (Android) soldier!

    • MasterMuffin

      You’d kill the people you’re supposed to protect just because you hate Apple? Wow

      • Aniruddh

        Noone would do that really, except, maybe a few mentally unstable people (like Trevor from GTA V), but they wouldn’t be in the military, would they?

        • MasterMuffin

          Some mentally unstable people can hide it pretty well!

          • Aniruddh

            That’s the military’s problem then, not ours…as long as we don’t have any haters in the military that is
            And anyways, air force won’t bomb New York if someone called them to do so, would they?

          • MasterMuffin

            You can never know. As long as sourabh sekhar doesn’t know where I live, I’m fine :D

          • Aniruddh

            Ha, he’ll employ the best hackers to get your IP and location. I suggest you start packing before you find yourself in heaven :P

          • MasterMuffin

            Tor network ♥

          • Mystery Man

            That didn’t save DPR on silk road 0_o

          • MasterMuffin

            Luckily I’m pretty sure that sourabh doesn’t work for NSA :D

        • sourabh sekhar

          Umm trevor is actually a retired army person

  • Nathan Powell

    Butt dialing someone e is awkward enough but butt bombing?
    But really this is pretty cool

  • Jason Bailey

    Anyone have an apk lol

  • j.d.

    cha ching

  • InkSlinger

    They are gonna use android, because if they used iOS, with Apple maps, They would end up bombing a nursing home in Wisconsin on accident…Oh those Apple guys..LOL

  • John Locke

    “The team said it chose Android because it’s more secure and easier to develop for than iOS” – I love this sentence!

  • Balraj

    What if reverse happens..
    App can never be trusted with security

  • Jason Yuen

    Before clicking install, I’d like to get a good look at the permissions required for this app.

    • D’Ander McSullivan

      You won’t get the app.

      • Jason Yuen

        I’m sure the app itself is easy to get. Except it’ll be useless without proper authentication access rights.

        • D’Ander McSullivan

          Well, you have a point there.