Introducing RAN – a Framework to Enable Network Interoperability Across the Military

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lauren Sweitzer marshals an E-3 Sentry at Al Dhafra Air Base. The aircraft provides an accurate, real-time picture of the battlespace to the Joint Air Operations Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Ross)

The past few years have been witness to a United States Department of Defense (DoD) in transition. The DoD has been shifting its focus away from the War on Terror that it has been fighting for the better part of two decades and is looking towards the conflicts and adversaries of the future.

That shift in focus is an important and somewhat daunting one. While the adversaries we faced over the past two decades were less sophisticated in their technologies and weapons, the adversaries that the DoD is preparing to face in the future are pacing threats with capabilities near or on par with our own.

The re-emergence of these superpower adversaries is requiring rapid advancements in technological development and innovation, as well as an increased need for collaboration between the disparate services within the DoD. This pacing threat is also going to require that any future fight is fought not just with the U.S. but also with its coalition partners if success is going to be assured.

The rapid advancement and innovation that we’re seeing on the battlefield have resulted in an increased need for connectivity at the edge as the weapons and defensive systems of tomorrow become increasingly network-enabled. And the accelerated pace of warfare is requiring actionable intelligence to be available to military decision-makers in real-time.

This means that accurate, timely, and actionable information is the key driver for success. Unfortunately, interoperability challenges and the disparate networks utilized between services and allied nations could stand in the way.

Over many decades, the armed forces – along with military and commercial industry – have developed numerous waveforms and datalinks to provide communication and networking services that cover a wide range of spectrum, bandwidths, resiliency, reliability, and networking capabilities. However, each one of these waveforms and datalinks is a standalone communication system, a homogenous network of its own.

With this proliferation of numerous waveforms and communication methods, there is an increased requirement for a modern, integrated, and interoperable digitalized communication system to enable networked command and control in increasingly challenging environments. The existing “network-of-networks” has resulted in a need to seamlessly integrate those systems and distribute their information to consumers and end users, forming a completely interoperable heterogeneous network.

In a recent whitepaper entitled, “Resilient Autonomous Networking,” Collins Aerospace proposes a framework and architecture for networking services for heterogeneous networking. This proposed framework provides the capability to integrate individual networking services into a whole across a variety of domains and operational theaters – both military and commercial – for the next generation of resilience, reliability, and robustness.

The whitepaper introduces a common framework and lexicon intended to demonstrate solutions to the challenges of heterogeneous networking and further advance collaboration in this developing field. The whitepaper also serves to provide a consistent set of terminology for discussion partners and customers in industry.

According to Joseph Graf, a Fellow and Communication Systems Architect at Collins Aerospace and one of the authors of the whitepaper, “[RAN] simplifies the deployment of the latest networking solutions to maximize network effectiveness and seamlessly interface with joint and combined forces…”

The RAN framework is not only intended to help break down the silos separating disparate military networks but is also intended to open the door to the next generation of advanced military capabilities and applications. According to Graf:

“The goal of RAN is not to reinvent all the existing infrastructure, but to define a consistent way to bring all these existing networks together into a seamless and robust heterogeneous experience that reduces human-in-the-loop interaction through a phased approach to automation and eventual incorporation of AI/ML to ensure information is provided to the right user at the speed of relevance.”

To learn more about the interoperability challenges facing the military and the RAN framework, click HERE to download a complimentary copy of the whitepaper, “Resilient Autonomous Networking.”