LONG BEACH, Calif. — As the Department of Defense’s largest user of satellite communications, the Army’s supremacy in multi-domain operations is irrevocably tied to space technologies. During the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of the United States Army space symposium earlier this month, service network modernization leaders emphasized the importance of leveraging space to enhance network resiliency and security as the Army supports Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2.
The Army is looking to commercial industry to keep pace with space technology in multiple orbits and unleash the art of the possible to enable JADC2 and a force capable of multi-domain operations.
"The Army’s unified network is the Army’s contribution to JADC2, and at the core of the unified network is space,” said Lt. Gen. John Morrison, Army Deputy Chief of Staff G-6, during the event. “Our ability to extend an expeditionary Army and to fight multi-domain operations in a congested and contested environment will always be reliant on space; so having multiple ways to communicate in space is crucial.”
JADC2 applications include linking sensors to shooters and data via a command and control network — across all domains to all forces.
“We learned in the Project Convergence 21 campaign of learning — as we move toward PC22 — that a data fabric is very important. Taking all those sensor and shooter capabilities and ingesting them into a data fabric to allow us to make sense of that information is key,” said Brig. Gen Jeth Rey, Director of the Network Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command. “But equally as important is thickening the network transport, and space plays a big role in that.”
JADC2 requires a data-centric environment enabled by a resilient and secure network to connect sensors to shooters across vast distances; weave together mission-critical message threads for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and provide commanders with a “single pane of glass” to visualize critical battlefield data and act decisively.
“We want systems that are transport agnostic, multipath; we want a data-centric environment as we move away from a network-centric environment and leverage the cloud and other assets; we want multi-layer security architecture; and we definitely want to ensure cyber security is baked-in,” Rey said. “This will achieve speed, range and convergence for decision dominance over our adversaries.”
The Army is enhancing network resiliency by thickening the network through the addition of numerous network communication pathways. The more pathway options that exist for data to travel through, the more resilient the network becomes. One of many ways the Army is enhancing network resiliency — offsetting congested and contested network environments, including electronic warfare and cyber threats — is to deliver modernized communications solutions that are self-healing and transport agnostic. Adaptive network connections will determine the optimal signal path for any given moment to enable rapid and reliable data transfer.
Future transport agnostic solutions will include both satellite and terrestrial communications capabilities using multiple frequency bands to support strong primary, alternate, contingency and emergency, or PACE, options; enabling uninterrupted global data exchange down to the edge of the battlefield.
To expand the aperture of operations and increase network resiliency and flexibility worldwide, the Army continues to expand the capability and number of network gateways that it can use to securely access the unified network “to obtain the strategic and operational effects needed in time and space to conduct multi-domain operations,” Morrison said. These gateways include Regional Hub Nodes, DoD Teleport Sites and Global Agile Integrated Transport points of presence.
To augment the military’s Wideband Global satellite communications, or SATCOM, and Geosynchronous orbit capability advancements, the Army is leveraging emerging commercial High-throughput/Low Latency, shortened as HT/LL, SATCOM capabilities — including Low Earth Orbit and Medium Earth Orbit solutions — as well as multiple line-of-sight capabilities such as high-throughput radio mesh networks, which will be critical to the PACE in multi-domain operations. Underpinning the Army’s HT/LL solutions is the ability for transport agnostic solutions to be auto-managed, with an auto-PACE feature that would be seamless and unbeknownst to the Soldier.
In the future, more communications assets will be delivered down to lower echelons at the edge, to Soldiers with little or no signal training, so equipment solutions also need to be easy to use for general purpose users.
“There was a pretty conscious decision to start at the very hard point of the edge and work options that can scale up,” said Col. Shane Taylor, project manager for Tactical Network, assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical. “As we design the network architecture, we can bring the complexity out from the edge and up to division and our higher-level echelons, so that it doesn’t have to be managed at the edge by Soldiers on the ground. We want seamless capability for Soldiers that is plug-and-play. It doesn’t matter if it’s terrestrial, SATCOM, or which pathway it takes. We want solutions that can blend commercial and military SATCOM.”
In fact, the Army has several efforts currently underway that are informing this type of auto-PACE, prioritization and load-balancing capabilities, Taylor said.
Additionally, the Army wants to provide more path options without delivering more kit, leveraging the same ground equipment to leverage numerous HT/LL options.
The proliferation of commercial HT/LL capabilities requires significant military cyber over-watch to ensure the integrity and security of the network. The Army is building in cyber security along the way as part of a Developmental, Security, Operations — or DevSecOps — capability design process.
“The adversary will be looking for any means at all to disrupt our operations, our ability to extend reach and our ability to command and control forces over significantly extended ranges. If we are not thinking about that on the front-end then we are missing the boat. It has to be one of our guiding principles.” Morrison said. “This marriage of commercial capability with military capability and baking cyber security in from the very start, is how we guarantee this notion of a unified network that can support an Army that is conducting multi-domain operations.”
In the near-term, the service will also continue to protect network transport via transport security, endpoint security solutions and ensuring data sovereignty. Looking forward, the Army is working toward a future zero trust security model, linking identity credentialing systems into the data fabric, so data is rendered based on need to know. The Army wants the ability to tag data so it knows who is authorized to access it; only authenticated and authorized users and devices could access applications and data using this model.
IMPROVING THE ACQUISTION PROCESS
As part of a Capability Set design, acquisition and fielding process, the Army is collaborating closely with industry to address its network priorities and transition commercial products into the military environment, leveraging DevSecOps and early-and-often Soldier feedback along the way, to ensure Soldier-centric designs that will provide a competitive advantage.
“In the past it could take five to eight years for Soldier to get their hands on new equipment,” Taylor said. “But the Army pivoted to two-year iterative Capability Set process that enables us to keep pace with technology and rapidly deliver communications equipment into the hands of Soldiers much faster, by working closely with our industry partners, the Network CFT and operational units.”
In addition to gathering Soldier feedback during quarterly unit exercises and current operational missions – such as those in European Command and Indo-Pacific Command — the Army is leveraging its science and technology community to inform the Capability Set process.
The Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, or C5ISR, of the Combat Capabilities Development Command is providing the Army’s network community with a unique overall experimentation capability that integrates live, virtual and constructive science and technology environments. This includes the ability to feed modeling and simulation into lab- and field-based experimentation events — such as the Project Convergence campaign of learning and the Center’s Network Modernization Experiment – so the Army can tie in systems, applications and units virtually, at scale across military echelons.
“Not only does this enable us to experiment with limited numbers of prototypes, we can replicate realistic operational conditions and varying threats to understand how they will affect systems’, and the network’s, resilience and reliability,” said C5ISR Center Director Joe Welch.
At the C5ISR Center’s Combined Joint Systems Integration Lab, or CJSIL, and other integration facilities at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the service has established a persistent, integrated experimentation environment, including the mission partner environment, in combination with joint service partners to get after solutions from an even greater scale and speed, Welch said.
The CJSIL provides a distributed experimentation testbed that extends lab network connectivity across C5ISR facilities and to external facilities and ranges. This includes connecting Army and Joint Service labs in a virtual, operationally realistic tactical network and data environment for greater collaboration.
Industry, too, may leverage these network experimentation capabilities by teaming with the C5ISR Center through cooperative research and development agreements, also known as CRADAs. The Center has expanded its communications-oriented CRADAs to include a comprehensive set of C5ISR capabilities that will facilitate increased cross-portfolio collaboration. CRADAs are win-win opportunities that establish a two-way transfer of information and provide industry access to Army labs, Welch said.
“As we work together collectively and simultaneously, we want to evaluate what is technically mature, or what could soon be technically mature, and conduct experimentation integrated with the PM and CFT, so we can inform requirements. We don’t want to delay capabilities from getting to the field by requiring a 100 percent solution if a 90 percent solution can get us there three years faster,” Welch said. “The Capability Sets help us align to the easier win, but we absolutely need help from you [industry] to achieve our vision.”