Military Embedded Systems

JADC2 and the Kill Web

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September 30, 2022

Ray Alderman

VITA Technologies

JADC2 and the Kill Web
DoD JADC2 Summary image. DoD Image

WARFARE EVOLUTION BLOG. If you have been a fervent reader of these Kill Web articles, you know that the Army has been connecting their sensors and weapons together into a tactical network under their IBCS initiative (Integrated Battle Command System). The Navy has been secretly connecting their ships and planes together with their CEC program (Cooperative Engagement Capability). The same goes for the Air Force’s planes under their ABMS initiative (Advanced Battle Management System) and the Space Force’s satellites (SF-ABMS).

JADC2 (Joint All Domain Command and Control) is the Pentagon’s vision of how each of the services’ sensors and weapons connect into a single network (the Kill Web). Keep in mind that many platforms in each service were never designed to talk to each other, let alone talk to another services’ platforms. The JADC2-CFT (cross functional team), made-up of representatives from each service, was supposed to sort-out the technical differences and arrive at a common set of requirements. But the CFT doesn’t have the power to dictate a solution, so things are not going well. Recently, the Secretary of the Air Force raised concerns that each of the services were going off in different directions as they build their service-specific tactical networks. He recommended that the Pentagon’s CDAO (Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer) be given control of JADC2, to pull all the services together. If he chooses a specific data structure and packet format for all the data flying around on the network, that could ruffle some brass feathers and play havoc with the budgets and egos in each service. A complete overhaul of each platform’s communication systems, considering all the old legacy platforms in the field from each service, could mean ripping-out all those older radios and communications links and installing new hardware. It also means new software, to comply with any new data standards. It also means big expenses for each service, not covered in their present budget allocations. And that means moving money from ongoing pet projects to comply with JADC2’s requirements.

To read more Warfare Evolution Blogs by Ray Alderman, click here. One of the possible solutions is to leave all the older proprietary communications links in the legacy platforms and create a black box, that can translate those older protocols to a common JADC2 protocol. That’s called glueware, and has already been done by the Air Force. As you know from previous articles here, the F-22 fighter plane cannot directly share radar images and targeting data with the newer F-35. The F-22 computers are older and the software is spaghetti code. The F-35 computers are newer and the code is more modular. That means a third aircraft, with a black box, must fly near F-22s and F-35s, and translate the F-35s MADL (Multifunction Advanced Data Link) messages to the F-22s IFDL (Intra-flight Data Link) messages and vice-versa. They did that in 2021 in Project Hydra, using a U-2 as the third aircraft carrying the translator box and antennas. So, each service might be required to put black boxes and translation software on some of their platforms, to connect their older weapons and sensors into the Kill Web. Let’s look at JADC2 from a higher level, starting with intelligence data collection. There are five basic intelligence collection systems. First, there’s HUMINT (human intelligence sources: spies that say the enemy is at this place on a map). Then, there’s SIGINT (signals intelligence: detecting, identifying, and locating enemy communications transmitters and cell phones). Next comes MASINT (measurement and signature intelligence: detecting, identifying  and locating enemy radar signal sources, infrared signatures, and nuclear emissions). Then, we have IMINT (imaging intelligence: photos and video from satellites and drones). Finally, we have OSINT (open source intelligence: data from social media websites and enemy news sources). All that data will be zinging around on the Kill Web, from all those sources, using different data structures, packet formats, and radio frequencies, and it needs to be processed into targets. That means that all that data needs to go into a tactical cloud of servers somewhere, shared by all the services. Then, targets can be identified and coordinates pushed to the appropriate weapons and fired in a matter of seconds. That means that the Army might take control of the missiles on a Navy ship, and fire them at a column of approaching enemy tanks… without asking permission. That’s a relationship that the services have never experienced in previous wars and violates a host of weapons officer fire control procedures in the different services. So, there are some well-defined age-old ingrained doctrines that must change in the services. A lot of walls have to be torn down for JADC2 to create the Kill Web and work like the Pentagon wants. Also consider that with all that data traversing the Kill Web network, it needs to be encrypted so the enemy cannot intercept and understand our strategy, operations, and tactics. Additionally, some of the data might be highly classified, not to be viewed by the average soldier in the field or allies who might have their platforms connected to our Kill Web. Exposure might disclose intelligence sources and methods that are highly guarded intelligence secrets. And, the entire network must be resilient to enemy jamming and cyber attacks by the enemy. Finally, the network will be carrying strategic, operational, and tactical information at the same time. They are different levels of traffic for commanders of different units in the field. Army soldiers, dodging bullets while crawling between trenches on a battlefield, don’t need to see urgent messages from a Navy ship sitting offshore reporting that they have run out of lobster in the officer’s mess. Let’s move up to another level of JADC2. Inside those tactical cloud servers, in their memory, is a topographic map of the war zone. All of our sensors and weapons constantly update their position, speed, direction, and weapons load on that map in real time. As sensor data finds and identifies enemy targets, those targets are assigned to the nearest appropriate weapon using AI algorithms (like emergent coordination, "greedy shooter," hierarchical coordination, centralized coordination, or consensus coordination…all covered in previous articles). That is done in seconds and the weapons from any platform in the Kill Web are fired by AI algorithms (like Rainmaker, Prometheus, Firestorm, and Shot). Those have been covered in previous articles too. The targets are found by AI algorithms (not intelligence officers) and the weapons are fired by AI algorithms (not weapons officers). That process makes some people in the services nervous, but that’s the way JADC2 is ultimately supposed to work. About a year ago, some table-top JADC2 exercises were conducted to see what links were working (GIDE-1, 2, and 3). The Army’s upcoming “Project Convergence-2022" exercises will include platforms from the different services as well as some platforms from our allies. That will give us a better idea of the progress being made on JADC2, in spite of the problems noted above. And that exercise will bring-up another scenario. Imagine the U.S. Army taking control of missiles on a British or French warship offshore, and firing those missiles at a column of approaching enemy tanks. How tightly will our allies’ platforms and weapons be integrated into JADC2? In March of this year, the Deputy Secretary of Defense signed the classified JADC2 implementation plan. It contains the resource requirements, milestones, and plans of action. The unclassified version is eightt pages long and you can read it on the web. It’s short on details and doesn’t seem to have any teeth in it. We’ll have to wait and see if the CDAO takes over JADC2, how much authority he has to pull things together, and what the Army does with it later this year in the PC-22 exercises. There’s not much data about how JADC2 works right now. What’s out there is how it is supposed to work. Just remember that JADC2 is the physical implementation of the 5F Kill Web model: find (identify), fix (track), fire, finish, and feedback. And that entire sequence must happen in seconds. There’s lots of other stuff about JADC2 that we have covered in previous articles such as: What if the tactical cloud servers go down in a fight? That requires the 3-2-1-1-0 back-up plan, so the servers come back up fast with a trustworthy COP (common operating picture) for the field commanders. There’s also zero-trust multi-factor authentication, for platforms signing-in to the Kill Web. For cyber security reasons, sensors and weapons can’t come into the Kill Web like signing-in to your Amazon account. JADC2 is very complex on many levels. Next time, we’ll take a look at how James Joyce’s novel, "Ulysses," became a foundation for cryptanalysis and how it has also become a tool for communicating with extraterrestrial aliens (if they ever show up). Although it is considered a masterpiece, many people who were forced to read that book in college regard it as a hideous form of literary torture. Because of the severe levels of incomprehensibility and boredom this novel mercilessly inflicts upon the reader, you should be required to show proof that you are under the care of a licensed neurologist just to check it out from the library. Harvard linguist George Kingsley Zipf had the same reaction when he read it in the late 1940s, so he dived into the 730 pages of "Ulysses" to find something, anything, of value in the novel. What he found was purely mathematical, not literary. I can safely say all this because English Literature majors rarely read my articles about the Kill Web. They are busy reading "Ulysses" and slowly going into a literary-induced coma.

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