Attacking enemy fifth-generation fighters at stand-off range, sensing threats from beyond the radar horizon, processing incoming radio frequency (RF) and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) data, and even jamming incoming air-to-air missile guidance systems are all critical tasks that stealth aircraft need to perform faster than an adversary.
However, what if an approaching enemy weapon needs its RF signal jammed, while EO/IR sensors detect additional threats and on-board computer processing needs to perform immediate targeting identification at the same time? Can these seemingly disparate pools of data be organized and analyzed in relation to one another in real-time? After all, the variables are interdependent, since finding, fixing, targeting, tracking, and engaging enemy targets while defending against incoming fire needs to happen simultaneously. Oftentimes, special gateways might be needed to merge information arriving through different data formats. Yet, data needs to be interpreted, analyzed, and acted upon quickly.
These are the kinds of challenges now being taken up by a special Raytheon Intelligence & Space unit called Department 22, a collection of scientists, engineers, innovators, and weapons developers collectively immersed in identifying breakthrough means of data management, secure processing, and connectivity. Increasingly, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled systems are allowing data organization, analysis, processing, and decision-making to take place at the point of collection in a more integrated fashion. This will prevent communications channels from filling up beyond capacity to share this data across the battlespace.
“The world's becoming a much more integrated place relative to avionics, and the Mission Systems themselves along with emerging weapons systems like NGAD is where you are enabling this data sharing. You're doing a lot more assessment, calculation, and creation of actionable information at the sensor level before you transmit it over the communication lines,” Paul Meyer, president of Department 22, told the National Interest in an interview. “The next complex step is integrating that across the battlefield amongst a plethora of legacy Battle Management infrastructure and diverse CONOPS by each respective Service.”
The aim of leveraging different areas of innovation and information gathering systems, Meyer explained, is to “exploit all of the data into a relevant set of artifacts for the battlefield commander and to achieve the Department of Defense vision for JADC2.”
The mention of JADC2 is significant, as the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control program aligns with concepts Meyer outlined for Department 22. The Pentagon is working to engineer an interwoven multi-domain joint force able to decrease sensor-to-shooter time by organizing, processing, and transmitting time-sensitive data across multiple “nodes” in real-time, a process integrated sectors of Department 22 are working to accelerate and develop.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.