As the U.S. Army’s program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors (IEW&S), Brig. Gen. Rob Collins was responsible for ensuring the soldier can detect, recognize and identify the enemy.
Collins’ vast portfolio included airborne and terrestrial sensors, position, navigation and timing devices, biometric solutions, and the TITAN ground station program, which will take data from aerial, terrestrial and space sensors to distribute essential data to shooters.
The officer has a long career working in this arena: He previously served as project manager for the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System and before that as product manager for the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increments 2 and 3.
Collins is now the new head of the Army’s Program Executive Office – Command, Control and Communications (Tactical) where he will oversee the Army’s network modernization efforts and work with the network cross functional team at Army Futures Command.
In a wide-ranging interview with C4ISRNET’s Nathan Strout while wrapping up his previous job this spring, Collins discussed the various efforts he led at IEW&S, the lessons he’s learned there, and how the Army is approaching multi-domain operations. Below is an excerpt discussing the Army’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control-related efforts.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
C4ISRNET: How has your office helped the Department of Defense’s shape its approach to JADC2?
BRIG. GEN. ROB COLLINS: Enhancing deep sense and linking sensor to shooter is fundamental to our Army multi-domain operations concept, and really, the future of large-scale ground combat operations. And specifically for our PEO, we’ve been active partners in JADC2 efforts, working closely with our network (cross functional team) and our PEO C3T partners and the Assured Position Navigation and Timing cross functional-team in particular and the ISR task force at large, which is led by the G2.
We’re working on integrated architectures, multi-functional sensors that are integrated within the network for both (data) transport and mission command, and really solutions that are tailored to meet the unique requirements of our Army ground force. And when I say that, [I meant that they are] really at scale and they can meet the mobility requirements of our ground force. We operate at a scale and at an expeditionary mobile fashion which makes the Army a little bit unique. I’ll tell you, the collaborations that we’ve embarked upon with the (program officers) really assisted in some common design principles and components to assist in interoperability and really enabling sensor to shooter.
Most recently within the PEO, we really helped the Army with some deep sensing ground stations — TITAN circuits if you will — that participated in some sensor-to-shooter threads in a training exercise [outside the continental United States]. So that really informed our approach. Across the PEO moving forward we’ve identified a lot of collaborative areas for experimentation demonstrations, tech maturity and really focused in on sensor integration and really data — how do we share data best across the battlefield?
C4ISRNET: From the outside, it seems like TITAN will be an essential piece to the entire JADC2 concept, especially for the Army. How are you approaching redundancy and survivability to that system?
COLLINS: TITAN is certainly a significant focus area in the modernization effort. It’s a key component for our deep sense capability and really being scalable and expeditionary as an intelligence ground station and supporting commanders across the multi-domain operations battlefield framework. And we’re really looking at TITAN to be kind of a LEGO approach that can be tailored based on the echelon it supports.
And yes, one of the tenets is that it’s going to leverage a multi-layered approach, a robust set of nodes from space, from high-altitude aerial to terrestrial sensors and assist with target nominations and link fires, command and control, informed by all the multi-disciplines of intelligence. And really as it connects all these various feeds, hundreds of thousands of intelligence feeds, it’s going to employ artificial intelligence and machine learning to rapidly synthesize that information into meaningful info at the speed of battle — sometimes what we say is time can almost become a weapon in and by itself.
Part of the analysis is taking a look at primary and alternate communications, what we call PACE, as part of the design, and I’ll tell you TITAN is going to consist of a number of assured communications capabilities designed in the PACE plan, from Beyond Line-of-Sight communications, common tactical network components, direct downlinks, software-defined radios, and other IT and non-IP options that really span the gambit of the security domain. So we understand the criticality of PACE and it’s one of these that we’ll work closely with our network and APNT CFT partners as we continue to refine and define the concept.
C4ISRNET: Speaking more broadly, a key function of JADC2 is being able to network with the other services and pull in their information to your shooters. When you look to the other services, what are the platforms, networks, or developments that you’re excited to see feed into TITAN and other Army systems?
COLLINS: We’re always looking for opportunities to leverage national and other mission partner information, and that can span a number of sense capabilities, certainly within space. We certainly watch all things that are going on within low earth orbit, capabilities that will provide a lot of opportunity. Across the joint force there are a number of areas — certainly within the Air Force — that have the ability to do deep sense with aerial platforms at altitude, so we watch that closely. And I would just tell you, even in the commercial arena even as far as the geospatial information there is a lot of collect capability.
TITAN is really adopting an open systems architecture kind of baked in from the beginning (where it can take data from multiple sources), whether it’s a (science and technology) effort—which could come from the Army or another agency — for intelligence warning capability or detect/assess/decide-type capability, or if it’s leveraging a mission or national partner capability as I mentioned for deep sense, or really even adopting a commercial capability like geospatial collect or adopting a high performance data platform.
C4ISRNET: The Space Development Agency frequently notes that the Army is the biggest customers for data collected from space. Can you speak a little bit about how you’re looking at their architecture and tying into their transport layer?
COLLINS: At least on the ISR side, we work closely with many of our partners as we look at opportunities to be able to leverage investments that they’re making into the space sense capability, and certainly some of the things we have to be conscious of are the responsiveness to our tactical command. If they have intelligence requirements (we need to be able) to provide those back so we can get the persistent stare or the on-demand access that we need for the tactical war fight.
We certainly are also aware as we push that information down, some of the impacts that it may have on the Army networks that often operate on disconnected, intermittent, limited bandwidth environments, so to the extent that we can do processing as far forward at the point of collect and sense so we can only distribute the information that’s absolutely necessary, we’re working those concepts to do that. And that’s where the artificial intelligence and machine learning comes into play.
Nathan Strout was the staff editor at C4ISRNET, where he covered the intelligence community.