High-speed, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled computing can help multi-national coordinated air attacks reach new levels of proficiency and precision. This improvement in waging war is informing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) deployment of a new Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) technology connecting Air Force Global Hawks to allied air and ground nodes.
NATO AGS relies upon a connection with the U.S. Air Force RQ-4D Phoenix Global Hawk to gather, organize, analyze, process and transmit crucial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data among partner nations, using common technical standards for interoperability.
“We have a strategy called the ISR 2030 Game Plan that looks at capabilities we have today and what we will have in the future,” Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe, Africa, told reporters during the 2021 Air Force Association symposium.
AI-empowered systems can instantly identify targets and objects of relevance and compare potential response scenarios against what has worked previously to optimize combat operation effectiveness and present possibilities to humans performing command and control. The concept, as articulated in a Northrop essay, is to enable continuous 24/7, uninterrupted in-theater operations among NATO allies.
Part of the increased allied collaboration, made more possible with emerging systems such as NATO AGS, rests upon a successful ability to safely and effectively manage airspace.
“Many nations are much more supportive of our ability to operate over their territories and in their airspace, in part because we ensure that they are comfortable with the deconfliction. We help them understand how we are going to operate and what we are going to do,” Harrigian added.
Allied interoperability, particularly as it pertains to rapid warfare decision-making, is something heavily emphasized by Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown as well, who reminded people of the famous “OODA” loop in an interesting presentation at the 2021 Air Force Association Symposium.
“We need to take a different approach, we need to make decisions at the speed of relevance. Those decisions need to be informed by analysis, and they need to be made in a timely manner to outpace our competitor’s decision cycle. Remember John Boyd and the OODA loop? We need to do that at the strategic level,” Brown told an AFA audience, according to a transcript of his remarks.
Certainly, as referenced by Brown, Boyd’s well-known Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action Loop (OODA Loop) process not only applies to air-to-air combat as conceived of by Boyd, but also introduces wider-spanning strategic dynamics as well, given that NATO AGS and other surveillance technologies will enable faster, more precise and combat-relevant information sharing between NATO-allied countries.
“It’s really about how we move data. And that’s the key aspect. And we already do that outside, you know, outside of the Air Force, outside of the Department of Defense,” Brown said.
Certainly moving analyses and organized information in near instantaneous fashion could bear heavily upon the OODA Loop process, given that its successful competition to achieve victory in air-war engagement relies upon the “speed” of decision-making.
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 Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.