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.
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”.