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Industrial networking can learn from military strategy

Sept. 29, 2021
In-flight connectivity can revolutionize JADC2 in contested airspace

Manufacturers can take a lesson from Department of Defense military planning. Not only has advanced technology enabled time-critical communication, but different service branches are learning to communicate digitally.

In September, Northrop Grumman successfully demonstrated a data link for connecting aircraft in highly contested airspace for long-range command and control through an open architecture network.

“The vision for this system is multi-domain and can be implemented in space, air, ground and surface platforms,” says Tom Pieronek, vice president, research & technology, and CTO, aeronautics systems, Northrop Grumman. “The network will quickly re-establish connectivity with adjacent multi-domain, high-mobility nodes in the area of responsibility if a line-of-sight data link is lost.”

This experiment, designed to demonstrate connectivity, was a critical milestone in the evolution of a distributed multi-domain battle management command and control architecture that maintains decision superiority for the U.S. military and its allies.

The Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy is the Department of Defense’s concept to connect sensors from all of the military services—Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force—into a single network. Traditionally, each military service employed its own tactical network that was incompatible with the networks of other services. Defense officials have argued that future conflicts may require decisions to be made within hours, minutes or seconds compared with the multiday process to analyze operating-environment and issue commands.

“Northrop Grumman technologies, built on advanced low size, weight and power electronics, enable integrated and secure communications across domains supporting the Department of Defense’s JADC2 strategy,” says Pieronek.

The flight demonstration is the first integration of a new mission-specific military transceiver, multi-level security data switches and open architecture wide-area networking, utilizing commercial technology into the observe, orient, decide and act loop—the decision-making chain for threat engagements.

This is a key step toward harnessing the power of a network into critical domains for national security missions, but its implications also reach into industrial-networking capabilities. The flight demonstration linked the Scaled Composites Proteus, a high-altitude, long-endurance research aircraft, with a Firebird, an unmanned air vehicle with the capability to be flown manned, through an advanced line-of-sight data link with low probability of intercept/low probability of detection characteristics that includes anti-jam properties (Figure 1).

The aircraft established a link, performed a simulated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission, and then it connected back to a cloud-based 5G network testbed through a novel prototype multi-level security switch.

Northrop Grumman’s battle-management technologies help warfighters and branches of the military to communicate and share mission-critical data across air, land, sea and space to speed up decision timelines and maintain a strategic advantage in an age of data-driven conflict.

About the author: Mike Bacidore
About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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