Military Embedded Systems

Secure data connectivity is the new space race


February 07, 2022

Denis Donohue

President, Communications & Airspace Management Systems

Raytheon Intelligence & Space

Secure data connectivity is the new space race

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the world was captivated by one common goal: winning the space race to dominate a new uncharted domain. Since then, the U.S. defense and aerospace industries have taken great strides to innovate and to create next-generation systems that help the U.S. maintain a competitive advantage in global defense from space.

As the U.S. faces adversaries with increased capabilities, and military operations have become more complex across sea, air, land, space, and cyber domains, a new race has emerged: to accomplish true communications connectivity across all service branches and domains. For the U.S. and its allies, this goal requires continued investment in secure and connected joint communications solutions.

Data, communications, and the need for speed

On the battlefield, seconds may differentiate mission success from failure. Making sense from our sensors, faster than our adversary, gives us an asymmetric advantage. With threats continuing to evolve, delivering secure data faster than ever before is crucial for our joint forces to make informed and timely decisions. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has recognized the need for agile and rapid defense solutions to dominate on in the multi-domain contested battlespace of the future. In summer of 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved and released the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy, which seeks to leverage connectivity of sensors and shooters across every domain and service branch.

When looking at defense investments, focusing on a singular program or platform alone is insufficient to maintaining an operational edge. In today’s security landscape, a system-of-systems approach is needed to share data seamlessly across the joint force and to ultimately bring the DoD’s JADC2 vision to life. Resilient communications that are able to hold up against peer threats in a contested fight must remain a priority to deliver critical data to decision-makers when it is needed the most.

Harnessing the power of thousands of sensors across multiple domains to create one common operating picture in real-time will enable military commanders to make decisions faster and smarter. Industry can help by developing the foundational technologies for JADC2, including resilient communications, to explore ways to operationalize and equip the future battlespace. These JADC2 solutions must be capable of delivering sensitive data securely and rapidly.

Building secure, resilient networks

Each nation’s own defense networks house a wealth of sensitive data that, if not kept secure, could be exploited to an adversary’s advantage. Any gap in data relay can leave allied nations vulnerable to attacks.

To help thwart those threats, major defense companies have focused on secure and rapid deployment of data by investing and building cloud-based systems and combat-ready global networks. As joint forces look to further strengthen their position and build the necessary shared data and communications network capability to stay ahead of our nation’s adversaries, one thing is clear: The modern battlefield will require next-generation communications solutions to safely and securely transmit highly sensitive information and data to the right place, at the right time.

To that end, the defense industry and the military community can work together to innovate and develop the ability to layer new communications solutions on top of legacy systems. Teaming like this will help enable seamless and secure connectivity across all sensors, effectors and command and control systems.

The future: a centralized communications ecosystem

Just as reaching the moon once seemed to be an impossible task, real-time shared data also seemed unattainable as recently as 20 years ago. Today, we have the potential to create true connectivity throughout the entire joint and allied defense ecosystem. The DoD’s continued investment in a secure communications network is an essential step towards harnessing data-driven global defense capabilities and providing further security for the U.S. and its allies.

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