This spring, the Air Force brought in lawmakers to witness the latest developments of its Advanced Battle Management System.
The tour included the Shadow Operations Center-Nellis, a laboratory that is identifying emerging technologies for faster data transfer to service members.
“The Shadow Operations Center is critical to the Air Force’s drive to link information to sensors and shooters in real time,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown said. “As our service continues to accelerate change, the revelations coming out of this battle lab will help our warfighters more quickly understand, share, decide and act, which will provide them a greater advantage on the battlefield.”
The Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) is just one part of the Defense Department’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) program that will deliver information, weapons and precision to the battlefield.
“DoD uses ride-sharing service Uber as an analogy to describe its desired end state for JADC2. Uber combines two different apps: one for riders and a second for drivers. Using the respective users’ position, the Uber algorithm determines the optimal match based on distance, travel time and passengers (among other variables),” the Congressional Research Service report on JADC2 noted. “The application then seamlessly provides directions for the driver to follow, delivering the passenger to their destination. Uber relies on cellular and Wi-Fi networks to transmit data to match riders and provide driving instruction.”
JADC2 will ingrate that cloud environment to share satellite images, intelligence and other data across networks in the same way to help commanders and service members make decisions faster. The military wants to integrate artificial intelligence to quicken response time by using algorithms to identify targets.
Building the heart of JADC2
ABMS is critical to the command and control aspects of JADC2. The program is using the Air Force’s Cloud One architecture to link sensors and weapons systems for JADC2. That includes information collected by drones, planes, people on the ground and even robots.
To keep systems connected in a degraded environment, the Air Force intends to create an internet of things approach.
One concept uses KC-46 tankers as hotspots to offload data to jet fighters as they refuel.
“Nearly two years of rigorous development and experimentation have shown beyond doubt the promise of ABMS,” Brown said. “We’ve demonstrated that our ABMS efforts can collect vast amounts of data from air, land, sea, space and cyber domains, process that information and share it in a way that allows for faster and better decisions. This ability gives us a clear advantage, and it’s time to move ABMS forward so we can realize and ultimately use the power and capability it will provide.”
The Air Force uses on-ramp tests to bring in new technologies to the ABMS fold. Those tests have brought in partner nations, integrated robot dogs and hooked into SpaceX’s Starlink system.
As ABMS progresses, service rethinks tech organization
The Air Force is also thinking organizationally about ABMS. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said the service is rethinking its chief architect position in terms of bringing together technologies.
“We need to create something that has more that kind of responsibility of tying things together,” Kendall said of the chief architect position. “I haven’t even decided what we might call it yet, but we want to move in that direction. The Navy’s doing something similar for their overmatch program for their JADC2 approach. We think that’s a pretty good model. We’re probably going to do something that looks a little bit more like that.”