In a general way, the time scale has been addressed through the identification of the exponential growth characteristics of various technology components and their projected performance capabilities as a function of time out to 2035. Over the next four decades, sensors will continue to evolve, and advances can be expected to be deployed within about 5 years of the time of the projected state-of-the-art capability.
Note that all of the technology growth curves presented are conservative, in that they represent affordable, obtainable capabilities, representative of the near state of the art—not the best, one-of-a-kind achievements. For example, the clock speed of microprocessors in desktop personal computers is indicated as 200 MHz today, which is available as a COTS Pentium or Cyrix 6 × 86 from multiple suppliers. Processors with speeds exceeding this have been demonstrated already, with the best performance currently reaching the 400- to 600-MHz range. With this in mind, desktop computers with clock speeds of 1 GHz are expected to be commercially available by about 2005, and military applications of 1-GHz computers might reach the field over the next 5 years from 2005 to 2010.
Naval operations are increasingly dependent on enhanced sensor data to provide situational awareness, target designation, weapon guidance, condition-based maintenance, platform automation, personnel health and safety monitoring, and logistic management. The Department of the Navy should provide continuing support of sensor technology for areas critical to future naval operations. Special attention should be given to applications of microelectromechanical systems technology because it offers the advantage of low-cost, high-capability systems-on-a-chip that will enable future cooperative sensor networks.