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TECHNOLOGY CALLED KEY IN FUTURE WARS

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Technology and the swift exchange of battlefield information are the keys to wars of the future, in which a smaller U.S. military will be asked to do more, Pentagon planners say.

One of the chief architects of military strategy says the battlefield of the future will link high-tech eyes and ears - satellites, radar planes and unmanned camera drones - with commanders controlling precision missiles and bombs.Stopping a well-armed enemy quickly will require commanders to grasp "the dramatic effect of technology, if we can envision where it will take us, to see it in its expanse in the way it could affect our overall ability to do joint war fighting," Adm. William A. Owens told reporters Wednesday.

As vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Owens is the nation's second-highest ranking officer and one of the military's top battle scenario planners.

Technology now being developed will enable commanders to monitor in detail a battlefield 200 miles square, aware of virtually everything going on above ground, Owens said.

Improvements in weapons and surveillance technology continue because of, rather than in spite of, military spending cuts. Smart bombs that can pinpoint targets, single shells that can knock out multiple tanks, and surveillance equipment that can give commanders a clear picture of the battlefield mean that a smaller military can do more, he said.

"We're not quite there yet, frankly," Owens added.

That problems remain despite an already formidable array of technology was underscored in April, with the accidental downing of two helicopters over northern Iraq, killing all 26 on board, Owens said. Human error and poor communication among the Army helicopters, an Air Force AWACS radar plane and two Air Force F-16s led to the tragedy.

Owens heads the five-member Joint Requirements Oversight Council, a group of four-star officers from each military service that is overseeing war games and touring the major military commands, looking for ways to improve military coordination among the service branches.

A key focus for Owens and the military leadership is improving communication between battlefield commanders and reconnaissance assets such as U-2 spy planes, satellites and unmanned camera planes.