US Army Plans an App Store for War

Need to take out an enemy sniper? There’s going to be an app for that.

To streamline its operations in a rapidly advancing world, the Army is creating an online app marketplace in the hopes of empowering its soldiers and boosting efficiency.

Called the Army Marketplace, the project is spearheaded by Lt. Col. Gregory Motes, chief of the newly created Mobile Applications Branch. With over 30 apps already built for both iPhones and Google Android-powered models, Motes suggests that this is more than just a place to download useful software for your phone.

“It’s much more than just an app store,” Motes told “It’s actually a place where apps can become officially certified and also where ideas can be generated, purchased, and contracted out.”

The Army hopes that someday its app store will host battle tech that the Terminator robot would be proud of: apps that track the location of friendly forces or map out wartime terrain or even translate foreign languages. Indeed, Wired recently reported that software writers and defense companies have already created apps just like those.

In the short term, many of the current apps focus on a peacetime environment, or "garrison apps," as Motes described them – apps used for training and preparation, often containing unclassified information. New recruits, for instance, can now replace thousands of pages of technical manuals with one simple program. Another popular new app helps soldiers maintain their diet and exercise regime.

But Motes' ultimate vision is one of collaboration and crowdsourcing -- between the army, its contractors, and its soldiers. Soldiers will have a forum to discuss their needs while developers have a direct channel to their users along with a platform to distribute their software.

“Imagine if an outside company could write a great app, unsolicited, and we had a way for these programs to be posted and downloaded on the storefront,” Motes continued. “There is also the potential to develop universal frameworks that different developers could deploy in multiple apps.”

Still, much of this will remain a pipedream until security issues can be ironed out. A battlefield app that shows you where friendlies are isn’t quite so useful if the enemy is able to intercept that information as well. For Motes, such software, though it exists, will probably remain “uncertified” for some time.

“Right now our biggest problem is that none of the new phones are that secure,” Motes concedes. “If your bank app is compromised, you’ve lost some money and maybe the bank can replace it. If our systems are compromised then genuine lives could be put in danger," he told

While numerous organizations already have specialized software for specific, government-grade hardware, translating that across the entire military is a more daunting task. The search is nevertheless currently on for a device the Army could potentially use down the road.

“As we move this into the tactical space, we’ll be looking for phones that are more rugged, lighter, and have better battery life,” Motes told “We’re looking for a device that has added security protection so that if the phone gets lost, the data isn’t compromised.”

The project is still in its infant stages, but the promise is hard to ignore. “There are a lot of senior leaders who really get this,” Motes said. “Young soldiers are also onboard. The visionaries see it as a positive direction for the army."

For now the site is restricted to government and Army personnel. Motes suggests that those looking for a taste of what might be on the marketplace can check out their respective iTunes or Androids app stores, which have civilian versions of certain Army apps. But no sniper apps, of course.