The need to enable Joint All Domain Operations (JADO) to keep ahead of the adversary threat has been well-documented and studied, as has the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) infrastructure needed to enable JADO. The Department of Defense’s focus is now on the transition from concept and planning to implementation and capability delivery. Industry has been working aspects of the problem with each of the individual services and brings a unique perspective on how to combine existing and new capabilities to solve the joint service gaps.
The recently released ABMS Digital Infrastructure Strategy provides insight into the USAF’s approach to build up the backbone of JADC2. This vision for a cloud-based battle management infrastructure providing secure and resilient data sharing from strategic centers to the tactical edge is supported by the core capabilities of connectivity, secure processing, and data management.
There are two major challenges to realizing the JADC2 vision. The first is finding ways to utilize existing assets in future solutions, and second is determining how best to apply the commercial cloud to military environments. Collins Aerospace is focused on addressing both challenges at the tactical edge.
By adapting and connecting current platforms, the USAF may be able to accelerate its timeline for adopting both ABMS and JADC2. Current connectivity solutions are comprised of various existing, purpose-built networks that aren’t easily connected, have limited data rates, and suffer from intermittent connectivity in contested environments. Finding ways to utilize and connect these disparate systems by creating a “network of networks” so each branch can talk to the others using intelligent gateways will accelerate integration and ensure those connections happen throughout the Joint Services and with Coalition Forces.
Over the past year, Collins has demonstrated connectivity and intelligent gateway solutions that integrate multiple existing airborne and ground networks used by the joint forces and coalition partners, including the USAF, U.S. Navy and Army, and the Marine Corps. We demonstrated these capabilities using modular open system architecture solutions, developed in partnership with the Air Force customer on programs like the Software Programmable Open Mission Systems Compliant (SPOC) program.
The second major challenge in realizing the JADC2 vision is addressing the unique processing requirements for operating in tactical environments. Today’s commercial infrastructure is built on large, fixed data centers, fixed networks, and 5G towers. Unfortunately, many of these do not exist in or are not functional in contested environments. Collins Aerospace has been militarizing these capabilities all the way to the tactical edge to provide secure processing capabilities that enable multi-level security access to the power of the cloud for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Once individual systems are connected, the data flowing back and forth is often at different security levels due to differing classifications. Ensuring that cross-domain solutions can resolve differences between and among both Joint and Coalition forces is another critical consideration. We not only connect these systems; we ensure they’re secure.
For example, Collins has already proven that existing assets and capabilities can be connected and remain secure via a recent demonstration conducted with our academic partner – the University of Iowa Operator Performance Labs. In this latest demo, intelligent edge applications that can autonomously find, fix, and engage a target using multi-service sensor integration was added to previously showcased intelligent gateway capabilities in support of the U.S. Army’s Project Convergence.
Delivering these integrated capabilities on the timeline needed to pace the threat requires adopting commercial Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approaches delivering a capability to the user and rapidly iterating new features. Our experimentation and demonstration activities span different operational use cases and joint services focus areas. While working with the Utah Air National Guard, for example, Collins demonstrated the ability of the KC-135 platform to be an intelligent gateway and interoperate with Air Force, Army and Navy networks. The demonstration was based on highly mature capabilities that could be quickly integrated into the platform via already planned technology insertions to deliver joint force connectivity.
These demonstrations – conducted under different operational scenarios – show that enabling JADC2 can be addressed incrementally. This allows combatant commanders to benefit from operationally relevant, leave-behind capability while building out solutions that will successfully enable cloud operations at the tactical edge. We’re ready to support the ongoing efforts that will turn ABMS from concept to reality for the benefit of our warfighters.
Elaine Bitonti is the vice president of JADC2 Demonstration and Experimentation for Collins Aerospace.