Network connections help facilitate information exchanges that benefit weapon systems and their operators in many ways—such as command and control of the weapons, communications, and battlespace awareness. If attackers can access one of those systems, they may be able to reach any of the others through the connecting networks.
Weapon systems are dependent on external systems, such as positioning and navigation systems and command and control systems in order to carry out their missions—and their missions can be compromised by attacks on those other systems. A successful attack on one of the systems the weapon depends on can potentially limit the weapon’s effectiveness, prevent it from achieving its mission or cause physical damage.
Innovations in sensors, analytics and artificial intelligence promise entirely new warfighting capabilities, serving as force multipliers and enabling new levels of situational awareness. New robotic and autonomous networks promise to reduce the number of warfighters in harm's way, while speeding our ability to project force on the battlefront.
“Soldiers are finding themselves operating in contested environments with degraded or no GPS signal at all. It's our job … to explore new network technologies, to be able to give those soldiers enhanced GPS signals, to be able to operate through those denied and contested environments.”
In a “contested environment, we can't shoot, move or communicate without some sort of new network capability. The service's multi-domain operations concept “talks about penetration, disintegration and exploitation — and new networks are needed for all of those.
Troops will be able to see “formations, tanks, weaponry and have really an unprecedented level of situational awareness. We want to take the flexibility of enterprise network and put that into the tactical theater.
Commanders will be able to quickly and reliably access, share and process data at the local level. That’s the inherent advantage of a tactical network. “In the regular network you have a machine that talks to some remote server. With tactical network, “you will execute functions on whatever resource is available. They can be mobile and heterogeneous, you can have handheld devices, things mounted on mobile platforms or unattended ground sensors. We should be able to execute computing on any of these resources.”
That ability to leverage big-muscle computing on a much smaller network platform better able to move quickly should give commanders the inputs that they need to react more effectively to fast-changing circumstances.
“You can plug a bunch of sensors into it — basically any device that measures something — to give you instant situational awareness. “You can have a vibration sensor, so that if there are fires, you can localise the shooter.
ou can measure the electromagnetic spectrum to find where the enemy is. Then you can put those things together over the network to find a rocket launcher in a particular site, and then tie in a targeting device to pinpoint and destroy it.”
In this way, network advances support a faster operations tempo, allowing commanders to act on valuable sensor data in real time. Being able to communicate what you see locally enables you to take action locally. Tactical networks will also be a key component supporting emerging artificial intelligence capability.
“The vision for future warfare is moving toward fewer people in the field — taking people out of harm’s way and adding more things instead. Just as soldiers need to communicate locally, enabled devices will need robust connectivity and data sharing. “Network devices will need the same ability to coordinate locally amongst themselves, to plan collectively and deal with changing situations.”
In the bigger picture, network capability deployed at the edge could substantially reduce the logistics/supply burden, streamlining technology requirements in the command post and simplifying the hardware aspects of a military deployment.
“Rather than being locked into a certain number of servers in your logistics/supply footprint, we could virtualize and share that compute and storage across a range of applications. “It’s going to reduce the total amount of hardware in the command post, taking that network scale and deploying it in a much smaller footprint.”
Localized networks could also ease the pressure on satellites and other networking infrastructure, with processing at the edge freeing those assets for higher-end uses.
Even as the Services readies for tactical networks, the service wants to nail down the best uses for this emerging compute paradigm. “We need to figure out what is the optimal use of new network technology, what are some of these novel and unique uses that could potentially be involved, what are the most effective uses near term.
The service also will investigate practical means for scaling out tactical networks for widespread adoption. “It is a non-trivial task to roll this out across something the size of our Force.”
Our adversaries possess increasingly sophisticated communications and information technology allowing them to leverage advanced wireless technology and smartphones while actively moving in ground vehicles. They are also able to execute network and electronic warfare attacks in tactical settings that can cause substantial, intermittent and lasting damage to forces' ability to communicate.
Specific to network modernization, communicating securely with command-and-control and other units within the increasingly communications-reliant battlefront landscape is critical to ensure the success of the mission and the safety of warfighters. However, as future battlefields develop and missions require units to be mobile and support lots of tactical capabilities critical communications infrastructures are becoming more difficult to establish and maintain.
Additionally, innovations in network sensors, robotic and autonomous systems, analytics, artificial intelligence and deep learning are driving tactical network developers to consider deploying warfighting systems that are highly reliant on high-performance computing and storage.
But in the face of potentially degraded communications, those resources may only be available if deployed all the way out to the individual warfighter or small teams conducting operations in austere and hostile environments, such as forward operating bases or combat vehicles-locations known as the tactical network's edge.
Capabilities that enable DoD and warfighters to modernize their tactical networks and maintain overmatch through better communication include command post mobility, secure wireless communications, operational security and edge computing.
Edge computing enables warfighters to gain access to data previously available only at large data centers-including access to more robust services even when wide area network access is down.
The Services’ tactical networking and command post programs widely acknowledge the critical need to improve mobility. The current state of the art for tent-based command posts requires hours of setup, including thousands of feet of copper wiring, which delays network availability and results in a dangerous lack of situational awareness for commanders.
Currently, troops who jump from one location to another typically do so in phases, with tent infrastructure, generators, network servers and satellite links going up first, followed by the running of cables to provide the local area network command post support. This process translates into long delays in availability of critical information services, which, in turn, can lead to increased vulnerability of troops and their systems.
Defensive postures of the past applied to a much more stationary battlefield environment. It was simply assumed that communications would be limited as warfighters moved from position to position. But technology advances by adversaries demand that our warfighters have the same secure communications experience while on-the-move as they do at-the-halt. At the same time, communications solutions must be delivered in a smaller form factor-whether to fit on the back of a Soldier or in a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle.
And the fight does not stop just because you are moving. This is why defense forces need networking on-the-move capabilities. On-the-move means communications components that are smaller, made more rugged to adapt to mobility over any terrain, and reliable in the face of unanticipated conditions such as poor power sources and extreme temperatures.
In other words, situational awareness cannot wait until troops establish an at-the-halt position. Entering a dynamic tactical environment "blind" puts warfighters at a significant disadvantage, which can lead to loss of life and mission failure. There is a need to ensure that transportation vehicles and aircraft operators can communicate directly with a warfighter's headset-and vice versa-while en route to the destination.
True mobility demands innovation and modernization designed to reduce size, weight and power requirements. Not only do dismounted Soldiers need mobility, but so does the network infrastructure to support them.
All else being equal, communications equipment can never be too small, too light or too power-efficient. In contrast to legacy data-center-style, rack-mounted equipment, new generations of equipment designed for tactical and expeditionary use are becoming available with enterprise-grade networking and security technologies.
The DoD shift from wired to wireless battlefield and in-theater communications has been slowed by warfighters' not being able to securely transmit classified information over wireless networks.
Without the confidence to share classified data securely, warfighters lose situational awareness relative to adversaries who can move faster and accept more security risk. This is particularly problematic when it comes to how defense units have historically operated in tactical environments.
While it was possible in the past for warfighters to use Wi-Fi and radio types to transmit classified data, it was prohibitively expensive and required both ends of the connection to be staffed with Soldiers cleared to take possession of classified security hardware.
As a result, wireless Protocol networking was primarily limited to site-to-site, communications, and warfighters did not have the ability to use mobile devices for classified warfighting operations.
Tactical networks need data center-like computer, networking and storage capabilities at the edge to support applications including Situational awareness, mission command and command-and-control applications, Signal and image data gathering and analytics workloads and sensor fusion-based applications.
Tactical networks must unify access to data and applications from the enterprise level to the tactical edge. This means deploying high tech services at the tactical edge of the network, so that data is available at the edge even when connectivity is unavailable.
At the same time, new network tech is raising the table stakes significantly when it comes to the volume and complexity of devices and sensors in tactical environments that can be compromised. From wearables on the troops themselves to connected tanks, helicopters and drones, network interconnectivity is only an advantage as long as it is secure, trusted and available.
A new class of modular, tactical data centers is becoming available for tactical and expeditionary programs, capable of hosting storage, artificial intelligence and analytics applications. Using ultra-small form-factor modules for computer, storage and networking functions that reduce size, weight and power .requirements, these systems can be deployed dismounted, at forward operating bases, in command posts, and on ground vehicles and aircraft-supporting a diverse array of use cases in disconnected, intermittent and limited environments.
The next generation of wireless networks is coming.
Sometimes the most valuable military assets are those you can’t see. That may be the case with 5G—the lightning-fast, next-generation wireless network technologies now being brought online.
5G is more than a better, faster network with transformative data-sharing and communications capability that will radically increase bandwidth and speed, enabling new technologies such as artificial intelligence to deliver their full potential over wireless connections
The result is enhanced command and control and situational awareness for everything from driverless technology and improved traffic flow to predictive maintenance and high-fidelity simulation and training.
“Our base areas, we tell them, are pretty large—it’s not just on the flight line, it’s a big, huge circle. Coverage is focused on where the network will be used, however. “We didn’t want to go from fence line to fence line. “We concentrated on where the populations are working.”
The Pentagon is considering how to deal with network traffic and establishing alternative paths for data where and when some part of the spectrum is unavailable.
So what might the Services achieve if it can securely move data at much increased rates? Imagine high-speed wireless connectivity supporting flight line test equipment, or lightning-fast animated simulation and training, or full-motion, high-definition video to instantaneous artificial intelligence. The same capabilities could also be used in targeting and command, control, and communications for hypersonic weapons.
“Flight line operations and maintenance teams can leverage secure tablets within a secure 5G environment to view real-time inventory and schematics, better utilize spare parts, manage aircraft diagnostics solutions, and more. A “flight line of the future” project is already underway that would bring secure wireless connectivity to maintainers where they work.
A DoD-wide 5G experiment will look to create a “smart” port or depot by connecting maintenance and test systems together, automating work that airmen do manually today,
“It’s a way of actually knowing where all your assets are going. Smart systems could automatically track where spare parts are installed, eliminating time-consuming paperwork. “We can link together, dynamically, what parts are existing in a particular component based upon the tags they have already attached to them.”
5G also promises to enable multi-domain operations, speeding decision-making through enhanced situational awareness. The question is, when we have the capacity to move a lot more around, will other things happen? Will we move so much information around that our problem will be sifting through the information and figuring out what it means?”
“Mission planning may be more interesting. We don’t know how they’re going to do that because we haven’t talked about it yet.. “If we have good 5G connectivity, you may be able to get intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information into your virtual reality headgear and understand it better.”
Training will be a beneficiary of increased speed and decreased latency or delay.
“The intersection between AI and 5G will be really interesting, and it goes both ways.“You’ll need AI to manage 5G systems, given the complexity, and the connectivity that 5G provides” will allow increased machine-to-machine communications so data fusion and AI capabilities run more smoothly.
Someday, fiber and wireline networks will be replaced with a totally wireless solution. Wireless infrastructure could be transformative. “We view it as a platform to explore how the we can ultimately benefit from the power of 5G and a network that delivers faster speeds and response times.
“We can explore the future potential for a massive number of smart connections that can enable new mission capabilities like never before.”
1. Advances in mobility and secure wireless enable DoD and warfighters to quickly relocate command posts in theater and give commanders more flexibility and options to manoeuvre.
2. Predictive maintenance can benefit from networks at the edge to support effort to use AI predictive power to streamline maintenance and improve readiness.
3. AI can help commanders explore multiple possible courses of action, while best positioning the force to retain the initiative for future operations.
4. Leverage a range of GPS, traffic, weather, terrain and local friendly/enemy force information for optimal mission planning. The ability of military hardware to chart its own course may also come into play.
5. Integrating systems that had previously been uncooperative with a common, open architecture network infrastructure enables the use of common computing and storage assets which lowers costs.
6. Composable systems and an network design that creates a level of abstraction for hardware component infrastructure allows for rapid adjustment in system components to meet changing needs.
7. Modular and scalable architecture facilitates continuous updates to capabilities and lowers over all total cost of ownership
8. In the event of degraded long-distance communications caused by electronic warfare attacks, those computer and storage resources may only be available if deployed to the tactical network's edge.
9. Command post using secure communications modules functions in a deployed environment. Advances in wireless system availability enables mobile tactical networks
10. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will benefit from advances in computing power. “Both will be critical regarding how soldiers use tactical networks to interpret and use data.