Army Eyes Samsung smartphones

The U.S. Army this year plans to begin buying Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphones for some infantry soldiers, pending approval from the Defense Department, according to a program office.

Exactly how many devices will be specified in a production decision expected no later than July, according to information provided by Program Executive Office Soldier, an organization within the Army known as PEO Soldier and responsible for fielding weapons and equipment.

To date, the service has purchased more than 1,700 Motorola Atrix smartphones as part of a retooled acquisition program known as Nett Warrior. The devices can be connected by cable to handheld radios made by General Dynamics Corp. to display secure information, such as troop movements, the location of roadside bombs, even text messages. A brigade in the 10th Mountain Division will be the first in the Army to use the new combat radio system in Afghanistan this spring.

Both the Atrix and the Galaxy Note II run the Android operating system made by Google Inc.

The Army wants to switch to the Galaxy Note II, made by South Korea-based Samsung Group, in part because it has a bigger screen and faster processor for a similar price. The shift reflects the service’s new approach for buying communications equipment, in which it seeks commercial, “off-the-shelf” products that can be modified and tested for military use, rather than spending larger sums of money developing unique hardware.

“Our agile approach includes procuring soldier-evaluated commercial products more frequently,” Bill Brower, deputy project manager for Soldier Warrior, the office within PEO Soldier that oversees the Nett Warrior program, said in an e-mail. The process ensures soldiers receive the latest technology at the lowest cost, he said.

After the program office buys the phones, engineers wipe the devices clean of software and then install custom applications. The handsets’ cellular functionality is also disabled, so they can’t make calls and can only share information via a radio that has been certified by the National Security Agency. The NSA is part of the Defense Department and responsible for protecting government information systems.

The Army plans to spend about $150 million on the Nett Warrior program in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30, according to a January report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. That figure includes $103 million in procurement and $47 million in research and development. The funding is part of the $3.8 billion the service budgeted this year for communications equipment.

Before the service scaled back the Nett Warrior program, it was estimated to cost $2 billion for 74,200 sets of equipment, according to a GAO report from March 2012. The Army estimates it saved about $800 million by restructuring the effort.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • USS ENTERPRISE

    I don’t think I understand this right. A few articles ago, I read about the iPad in the military. Then there was something about smart phones syncing with military communication. Now we want to buy our soldiers phones? Dang. We really are buying up tech. I just hope all these phones have anti-virus software. We might end up going Navajo/Choctaw codetalker style.

    • William Peterson

      You obviously didn’t read the part about how the phone was being completely wiped of all commercial software, and it’s cellular phone capabilities were being disabled…

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Okay, okay. I noticed that. But even with all the software gone, we have the trouble of hackers. The old US system had hackers, as does this system, when it will be implemented. Also, like I said in a similar thread, can these phones even survive tough combat? I mean and Iphone at least has the protection of an Otterbox or LifeProof case (albeit they probably can’t take a bullet). So yeah.

        • Mark

          With Linux based systems you have to purposely download a virus to get one.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Well okay. But that still leaves the survivability of the phone in close quarters combat. I mean, no smartphone is designed to take a round from an AK-47. I know that there are sensitive equipment with US soldiers in the battlefield, but almost always these things are inside a tank or on a helicopter. So yeah. People that downrated my comment, calm down.

          • Vaporhead

            So, you think the military or the manufacturer are unable to make a protective shell for this? Let’s cut through all the BS and tell us what you really feel? You feel that the military should not look into technology that could benefit the soldier in the field or here at home?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Not at all. I can see why you go by Vaporhead. I am simply trying to think like a procurement officer. As for not caring for US soldiers, you must be blind. Go read my comments defending the US troops. I wouldn’t be surprised if your just another “Free Palestine” like troll.

          • whatever

            you think your “comments”, or more precisely “BS posts” can “defend the US troops”??

            whew. you are one hyper-delusional self-aggrandizing solipsistic schizo boy.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Hey, everybody. “Restore Palestine” or “free Palestine” is out here commenting under a new name.

  • James

    So we are giving our solider phones that are based on freeware yeah its easy to creat for but at the same time it’s easy create for. I’m pretty sure 600k android phones were hacked into not that long ago in CHINA!!!! This does not sound like it will end well

  • orly?

    Well, at least the profits go to S. Korea.

  • Not_Sure

    PEO Soldier, the organization responsible for bringing the Army the Family of Flashlights program. Now, with a free App, this Galaxy Note II can also belong to the FoF program… unless they disable the camera.

  • Tad

    Ha! I can just see the future recruiting ads: “Free Galaxy Note II when you join the Army.” “Tweet all you can tweet.” “There’s texting. Then there’s Army texting.”

  • Guest

    All electronic devices emit RF ( electronic footprint ). Think of these electronic devices as a beacon / tracker. The electronic signature / signal / RF can be tracked not too mention hacked. In my opinion giving these devices to our troops is allowing their location / operations to be tracked. Every electronic device emits RF energy and that can be tracked. Maybe the military has addressed these issues. Hope so. Last thing our troops need is a beacon on them that will compromise their position / location. I hope we cross train with old school / old army tactics as back-up incase all these electronic gismo’s become compromised, hacked, or tracked. Can you imagin the enemy having a electronic signal that pinpoints our troops / equipment locations. NO ELECTRONIC DEVISE IS INFALLIBLE. THEY ALL LEAVE A FOOTPRINT THAT CAN BE TRACKED. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think so.
    GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS.
    …/……..

    • blight_

      So you’re proposing to drop everything with “electronic footprint” and fight without night vision, radios, and..?

      To be more specific on what is a threat:

      If soldiers are wandering around with GSM-capable phones in an environment where the enemy can use stingrays to set up a false tower and triangulate their location, that’s scary. If soldiers are running around with an electronic device that is trying to find a wifi connection, that too can be used to triangulate position.

      But how likely is this?

      Edit:

      The stingray, as used by the FBI: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110923/1725171

      Google, using street view cars to map wifi hotspot locations for refined GPS position data, but accidentally collecting more than they should have from open wifi hotspots.
      http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/wifi-data-

      Fake wifi hotspots http://www.privatewifi.com/airport-hotspot-hackin

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      The last two lines in your comment are good, but everything else is inaccurate. Even if tech does emit an RF,(which is does when it sort of works), how do you know that the Taliban can trace a signature that low? Jamming technology will take care of an RFs.

  • Larry

    OK, all the comments about how silly this seems are somewhat valid, but you are missing the point.

    A smartphone is basically a handheld laptop or personal computer that you can put applications on. As the Galaxy Note comes to you from Samsung it has software/applications that make this handheld computer a phone and personal digital assistant.

    The Army is going to wipe everything but the operating system (Android on the phone, similar to MS Window or Apple OS on your personal computer) and then load their special purpose application onto it. The Galaxy Note will no longer be a phone and personal digital assistant, it will now only have the software to make it a tactical tool.

    It makes sense to buy handheld computers that only cost them a few hundred dollars rather than funding a contract for some defense contractor to spec out, design, prototype, test, and field a small handheld computer/device that will do the same thing but cost thousands per unit instead…and also be five years behind the curve in terms of what technology can do.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well okay. But I just feel kinda safer with DARPA tech then consumer tech in the battlefield. Like, the president flies on Air Force One, which is a heavily modified Boing 747. Not a product you can buy. A Humvee is a military version of the Hummer. Not the same. The argument here is whether this is a good idea, just buying off the shelf phones, erasing everything, and the stuff something new in.

  • Guest

    All electronic devices emit RF ( electronic footprint ). Think of these electronic devices as a beacon / tracker. The electronic signature / signal / RF can be tracked not too mention hacked. In my opinion giving these devices to our troops is allowing their location / operations to be tracked. Every electronic device emits RF energy and that can be tracked. Maybe the military has addressed these issues. Hope so. Last thing our troops need is a beacon on them that will compromise their position / location. I hope we cross train with old school / old army tactics as back-up incase all these electronic gismo’s become compromised, hacked, or tracked. Can you imagin the enemy having a electronic signal that pinpoints our troops / equipment locations. NO ELECTRONIC DEVISE IS INFALLIBLE. THEY ALL LEAVE A FOOTPRINT THAT CAN BE TRACKED. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think so.

  • Guest

    Not sure why my last comment was deleted by the administrator. I thought that I explained myself very respectful and very thought out. Oh well maybe my reference to NV. That’s why I don’t post much on here.
    Stay safe out there.
    73’s

    Maybe my deleted comment made to much sense. Please pass it on to the proper channels.

  • Guest

    Thank you. I will remember that the next time I post.
    In replying to your post. I am more worried about larger RED countries that have all types of satellites. Just my observation. I am sure that there are smarter people than me working on this kinda stuff. My other reply was kinda long and I have other things to do. besides, I hate typing.
    Thanks again and Stay Safe Out There.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well, Red satellites are an issue. But I doubt that China (I think it is safe to say that is who you are referring to) has the same amount of satellite tech the US does, at least for the moment. Both the US and China have the capability to take out a satellite, so I mean we are kinda at a stalemate there. I guess we just have to see who gets to the highly coveted “operator of an orbital weapons platform” title first.

  • Big-Dean

    Overheard at boot camp in the summer of 2014

    “I don’t know but I’ve been told, my smart phone is made in S Korea, going to get me some, Samsung, good for you, good for me, Samsung…”

  • liken

    Most people seem to be missing to point on this one. All the phones wireless transition capability is going to be disabled. So there will be no (very tiny) RF footprint. The phone will receive connectivity via the riflemen radio. The phone will only be on a tactical army network with no ability to access the greater internet.

  • pedestrian

    I believe such purchase from Samsung is counterproductive. Samsung has violated many patents of American firms, Apple iPhone in specific. If we gave them the access to our market, it will give an incorrect message hinting the US government will keep a blind eye on violation of patent rights against US firms. Samsung has also recieved kickbacks from its South Korean government, in a protectivism manner, against the nature of free market, and benifits from fixed currency rate for an unfair trade. There are also very serious risks South Korean government may gain access to US military network for espionage to give an advantage for Samsung, and military exports. South Korea has a very bad record in reverse engineering improted military items, and exporting copied military equipments to foreign countries.

  • Mastro

    Hmm- has the Army missed out on all the internet pictures of Galaxy smartphones with cracked/shattered screens? Unless there is a major redesign they are hardly ready for field use.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Exactly my point. Smart phones have the computing power, but not the survivability qualities of, say, a field radio.

    • Restore Palestine

      Why would you want to redesign the phones? You just buy 3x more spare phones for replacement. It’s only taxpayers money.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Oh please. You couldn’t understand the functions of the military.

  • whatever

    why would the US Army need smartphones? that’s outrageous.

    a few extra White diapers and White towels will suffice.

    those in the US Army haven’t become so stupid and retarded as not knowing how to find a stick, tie a White diaper or towel to it, and wave, have they?

  • Bill Alves

    Damn it, what the hell is the Army thinking. Let me get this right. The Army is
    buying a Korean product and use our tax dollars to do so and put American workers
    out of jobs. The U.S. Army buying Smart phones is an oxymoron – who in the Army
    will have the brains to use them. The U.S. Army senior management is a joke!

  • This is MANET system, I completed a same project over 4 years ago in Iran with much more secure protocols. DoD doesn’t know how invest on projects and now they are using galaxy phones that even a soldier can’t use it in real fight !

    Weakness of this system are :

    1. NSA encryption protocols that have been used has back door and can be hijacked ( This intel must be classified in Iranian secret services but i share it with you guys to pass my message to your higher ups, no fuck up )

    2. This phone doesn’t have any IP57 or IP68 certificate

    3. If soldiers are in war-zone in middle of night they can’t use this phones since the enemy can see the light of screen. ( This can be solved with one eye monitor i dont know what you people say it )

    4. Most of soldiers wear gloves in the battle if they lose that pen they have to remove their gloves to touch that screen.

    5. If you want to hold this big phone you need to use both of your hands, how quick you will be when you be in danger ? can you draw your pistol ?

    6. If enemy capture one of soldiers that carry this device, They will lead your teammates to death.

    other intel are classified

    Im not government dog of Iran but value my information so this will decrease casualty of your country.

    Soldiers are busy in battle they dont have time to look at screen when they must watch their backs, I have plan to use google glass in my project to remove any device like smartphone !

  • Pathfinder

    Maybe what we need is some integrity? Samsung received a judgment against them for walking off with Apple’s technology and then Apple also stopped buying from them. While I am not siding with either company why should the US Government reward a company for what is effectively theft? What sort of message is the US G sending? I am getting rid of my Samsung for this very reason. I think I’ll get a BlackBerry or whatever

  • SFP

    You might be my role designs. Many thanks to the write-up