According to the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — The Air Force has developed a technology that helps identify friendly forces during combat exercises. This can dramatically reduce friendly fire incidents in training, and potentially on the battlefield.
The Air Force, working with Lumitex Inc., has developed and fielded the Target Recognition Operator Notification, or TRON, system which has the potential to save lives and increase combat effectiveness. Not to be confused with the 1982 Walt Disney hit TRON, this system (which stands for â€œTarget Recognition Operator Notificationâ€) helps to visually identify friend forces. “Responding to established needs,” said 1st Lt. TJ Turner, the lead engineer for combat support technology, the Air Force and its partner Lumitex, produced a fiber optic cloth that researchers realized could be used to develop a more accurate system of identification. The Air Force acquired the fiber optic cloth and worked closely with Lumitex, and user groups to create the TRON system and produced 108 prototypes in a period of six months. They used funds from their company grade officer’s initiative program, which provides lieutenants and captains the opportunity to receive funding to work on a special projects outside their core technology area.
TRON is comprised of Lumitex’s patented thin and flexible fiber optic woven cloth, cut to the militaryâ€™s project specifications. The sheets of the fiber optic cloth are laminated into layers and can be formed into lighting devices of multiple shapes and sizes. According to Air Force Lieutenant Turner, the woven nature of the cloth emits light in a controlled way creating a uniform light-emitting surface, making friendly forces identifiable in the field. Officials say they expect the technology to be inexpensive and rapidly transferable to the field. It has a long battery life, running 200 hours on two AA batteries, and weighs less than three ounces, so it would not be a burden to troops in the field. The system is very flexible, and can be worn under uniforms, on outer tactical vests, on an arm or mounted to a helmet. Feedback from Army aviation units showed that the system clearly allowed them to identify friendly forces on the ground.
After the initial successful TRON evaluation, the Air Force if planning variations to identify whole positions. TRON is yet another example of the high-tech transformation taking place in the military. While the exact number of friendly fire incidents is tough to pin down, technologies like these will clearly help save the lives of our forces in the field.
Image Source: United States Air Force