As part of The Modern Battlespace’s “Experts in the Field” series, our editorial team connects with various experts across the defense community to share their experience and insights with our readers. From active duty service members to veterans, to technology experts, we highlight leaders from a variety of backgrounds, with one thing in common: they are committed to evolving the battlespace to win future fights.
In many cases, to keep up with the latest threats, the defense community must innovate faster with a DevSecOps approach to get open systems tactical solutions into the hands of the warfighters faster. In our latest podcast, we talked with Rob Scott, General Manager, Tactical Communication at Collins Aerospace, who shared that his varied project management and engineering background in the commercial sector and how it gave him new insight on shortening the product lifecycle in defense.
“Throughout my career, I have had a passion for applying new technologies and capabilities to solve problems that help our customers while growing the business,” he said. “What makes the aerospace and defense area special is that what we create saves lives.” That makes the acceleration and speed of innovation even more critical. DevSecOps approaches allows industry to get technologies into the hands of the warfighters as they need it to combat the threat, Scott continued. “It is always rewarding to hear the stories about how a warfighter was able to complete their mission and get home safe with the aid of our product or service.”
As Scott looks to the future of the battlespace, he noted, “With any major change, it is imperative that the collective defense and industry team focus on first principles.” Scott said this applies specifically to Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control, or CJADC2, which is enabled by connectivity that evolves at the pace of the threat.
“The first principle in coalition interoperability is that all operators need to be using the same time, accurately know their position, have radios that are on the same frequency, and the same or backward compatible waveform and cryptography,” he explained. “While this seems obvious, the biggest challenge is to integrate, test, configuration manage, and train for technology insertion while ensuring these parameters are met in the face of continuously evolving peer threats.”
With the need to shorten the product development schedule, and ensure a longer lifetime of the product, it requires an open systems approach. Scott sees this shift in modernizing communications technologies for the warfighter. Specifically in comparing legacy radio systems to modern software defined radios, he noted that legacy radios update waveforms every few years and crypto modernization every five to 10 years, which determines replacement of the systems.
“As software defined radios are being fielded, we have fielding plans that improve the technology insertion at more than twice the rate of legacy systems,” Scott said. “Peer competitors are driving the need for even faster technology insertion. Our radio system includes a fully software defined waveform and cryptography enabling significant technology insertion cost savings over the 15 to 20 year expected life.”
While this addresses one of the challenges in the battlespace, the industry is also grappling with a “dizzying number of open system approaches, many of which have conflicting requirements,” Scott noted. While industry works with defense to ensure that solutions are truly open and can integrate with one another, there are still other opportunities for defense to modernize.
These opportunities, according to Scott, include “a push for DevSecOps, agile acquisition, and a number of other initiatives in a drive to develop and field systems at the pace (or faster) than commercial industry.” Yet, in order to speed innovation, Scott said, “It requires a fundamental cultural shift in risk management, communication transparency, and leadership to not overreact to imperfect information coupled with the open systems architectural approaches being developed and fielded.”
Listen to Scott’s full podcast below: