Discussions at AFA Focus on the Role of Industry in Making JADC2 a Reality

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JADC2

Modern Battlespace recently had the opportunity to attend the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA) Warfare Symposium. This annual event, held in February in Aurora, Colorado, is the premier professional development event for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force, and the aerospace and defense industry that supports them. It focuses on the critical concerns and challenges of joint warfare facing the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in every corner of the globe.

This year’s theme was “Preparing for Great Power Conflict.” In that vein, one of the key focuses of this year’s AFA Warfare Symposium was Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and how industry partners can connect every sensor to every soldier.

This is incredibly important as the military shifts its focus to near-peer adversaries and pacing threats. This concept is also one of the common themes heard from military decision-makers and senior leaders across the DoD. Ultimately, they all agree that the fight of the future will require every service – and allied nations – to operate together across domains.

There have been many great strides made in JADC2, especially in the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which is the U.S. Air Force’s effort to create a next-generation command and control (C2) system that contributes to JADC2. But as seen in this year’s AFA Warfare Symposium, there is more work to be done to truly unify all military branches.

Creating heterogeneous environments that behave homogeneously
The AFA Warfare Symposium showed that to improve JADC2, industry partners will need to focus on making disparate communication systems work on a single interface. All military decision-makers across all services would leverage this interface so they can receive the information needed to make military decisions in real-time.

However, having heterogeneous environments is vital if a pacing threat tries to disrupt communications. Multi-modal communications that span across disparate networks and signals deliver resiliency and redundancy that can make it more difficult for adversaries to deny communications.

The challenge, then, becomes bridging those heterogeneous networks to build a homogeneous network that is both redundant and resilient.

Conn Doherty, Vice President and General Manager of BMC2 and Autonomy Solutions at Collins Aerospace, an RTX company, explained how a multi-modal approach to communications needs to be inherent in military networks from the design phase, “I think it’s really critical that we first take a kind of top-down macro look to understand where the vision is, where we want to go, and do that in a way that is open and multi-domain from the beginning.”

When networks and platforms are integrated, sensor fusion and data aggregation are possible. This combined data can then be analyzed with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to deliver essential insights to the warfighter and timely, actionable intelligence to decision-makers.

Collaborating to reach the same vision
The military services and industry partners will need to collaborate to enable an environment where the entire joint force can access and benefit from the data generated on the battlefield. This collaboration will require organizational alignment on both the government and industry sides.

After all, JADC2 is not a branch-specific issue; it is a community issue.

Doherty spoke about the importance of collaboration and alignment, stating, “That alignment is key for us to ensure that we’re helping each other accelerate and that we don’t see any kind of disconnects. Oftentimes, industry is a reflection of our customers and how we organize. That’s something that we’ll have to work on together, which it’s a great opportunity. Communication is absolutely foundational to achieve a unified mission.”

Not only will industry and the DoD need to collaborate, but industry partners will also need to work side-by-side with each other by bringing the best people to the challenge.

As Doherty explained, “We need to be bringing the best people to the problem. That’s not just the best people within our companies; it’s the best people across our industry and other industries as we attack this. No one knows all the great talent or technology or products that are out there. But the more we communicate and share them, the more we don’t recreate the wheel and go faster.”

JADC2 has come a long way, especially in the Air Force’s ABMS program. However, the AFA Warfare Symposium shows there is still a lot of work to be done in order to reach favorable mission outcomes for the warfighter across the joint force. But bringing the best minds from across the military and its industry partners to deliver on the promise of resilient, heterogeneous networks that can behave homogeneously will help get us there.