Sea Air Space 2021: The Future of JADC2

Sea Air Space 2021

JADC2 represents the future of defense, a long-standing belief among defense industry professionals for quite some time now. This was the sentiment at the recent Sea Air Space 2021 panel “JADC2: Navigating the Netted Battlespace.” The panel consisted of experts and professionals from the U.S. Navy along with executives from Northrop Grumman and L3Harris. The conversation started with Kelly McCool, Acting Director of the Digital Warfare Office, OPNAV N9ID, addressing some of the priorities that she sees for JADC2 in the future.

“Number one, we’re really about closing capability gaps,” McCool began. “This includes building the right resources and requirements plans so that we can focus on those capability gaps that we need to close.” She continued noting that JADC2 boils down to the ability to send information from point A to point B. “When you connect your phone to different networks, it’s seamless as you transition between different cell towers. That’s really what we need in our networking capabilities across the fleet.”

When working towards providing for these needs, Northrop Grumman CTO Scott Stapp argued that defense industry partners also need to adapt to a JADC2 mentality. This means abandoning the long-used stovepipe functionality in the industry and working more collaboratively both internally and externally. “We were built in different little segments,” he began. “We recognized that as we look across all the services with [Project] Overmatch, [Project] Convergence, and ABMS that the entire company needs to ‘JADC2’ ourselves.” L3 Harris’ Vice President and CTO Dr. Ross Niebergall echoed those sentiments while further illustrating what is at stake. “Oftentimes capabilities were designed to fulfill requirements that have expectations on communications and networking.” But, as Niebergall noted, those requirements have changed. “Those expectations and requirements were for operating in an environment that was perhaps lightly contested.” Niebergall continued noting that at the heart of JADC2 efforts is data transmission, and agreeing with McCool, he urged defense partners to think of data as a strategic asset and integrate solutions and create a “mosaic of capabilities.”

The panel then pivoted towards discussions of how JADC2 and related tech will influence the battlespace in the near and long term. McCool led the discussion noting that within the U.S. Navy, JADC2 will likely see use among tactical units. “Right now, they need to coordinate across aviation surfaces and sub-surfaces.” The question, that McCool says the Navy is asking is “How do we stitch that data together in a meaningful way?” From there it will all be about scalability and integrating solutions into a hybrid approach.

Stapp then leads the discussion towards how the private-public partnership needs to operate to help bring JADC2 to fruition. “The biggest struggle comes from looking at a contested environment, everything has to be multi-domain, and it has to be multi-service.” Stapp pointed towards the specific and targeted role that the multitude of armed services brings, and that from the industry side, the biggest question will be “How do we move that data into all those critical platforms that each service uses and needs?” To Stapp, the answer is clear: the industry needs to design solutions focused on integration.

This concept of an Open Systems Architecture (OSA) approach has been top-of-mind for the Modern Integrated Warfare team, and it continues to find its way into many different discussions around battlespace innovation, not the least of which is JADC2.

Ultimately the success of JADC2 and related programs and initiatives will rely on the buy-in of both sides of the defense industry, but throughout the panel, each participant remained cautiously optimistic. “This is the future of the battlespace,” each said, in turn, now it is up to the industry to help lead the way.