One Killer App

By Sirena Sorensen-Harrison / The Haveman Chronicle

FAIRBANKS, Ak – Does “ATAK’ sound familiar to you? It is not necessarily the most friendly sounding acronym ever, but if you think about it, it is perfect for what it actually breaks out to be: the Android Terminal Assault Kit.

This is not your average, military game app; it’s the real deal. The United States military has been in the process of creating an app that may one day give troops the option to call in airstrikes using Android smart phones. It is currently being developed with Draper Laboratory, a non-profit development lab based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Not only will military users have the ability to call in airstrikes, they will be able to use handheld devices to connect to the military’s network of communications and its satellite system which would allow military personnel to establish safe zones, conduct battlefield surveillance, and track aerially delivered supplies.

United States Special Forces have began testing the prototype of the app overseas, and Draper officials are hoping that next year, the app will be used in training and combat situations. In addition, ATAK was tested in a variety of battle situations by troops themselves to replicate real-life situations that they may have to deal with in the future.

“It’s one thing for a user behind a desk in a climate-controlled office to toggle back and forth between 10 windows, deal with system crashes, and wait 60 seconds before booting up,’ Draper’s Laura Major, who is overseeing the project, replied in the release. “It’s another thing to deal with those issues while someone is shooting at you or if you’re jumping out of a plane. That’s where ATAK comes in.’

Supporters of this new technology believe that the app will help protect soldiers by creating distance of the fight and themselves, in addition to guaranteeing that decisions are made with proper, updated information and on-the-ground logistics.

“Operators who used the app during the exercises also indicated that by keeping all of the information in a well-organized, easy to access display, the likelihood of friendly fire accidents, civilian casualties and collateral damage would be significantly reduced,’ Draper officials replied in a statement.

Critics of this app, myself included, are very hesitant to bring in this kind of technology. Think about all the possibilities a hacker, whether or not he or she was a terrorist, a civilian, or your typical psychotic citizen, could possibly invoke. The damages could be absolutely horrendous… with just a few simple touches.