To say the modern military runs on data is a gross understatement. Stop for a moment and think about the graphic image of the modern battlefield with every military asset being identified and reporting their current location in nearly real time. Just that alone begins to paint a picture of what is possible today. All the current and emerging technologies are driving military forces around the globe to seek out innovative battlefield solutions they feel are now necessities. With all of the emerging technologies like wearable computing and technology; the internet of things sensor networks; connected vehicles; battlefield applications; and 3-D printing for maintenance, you can easily see the validity of the opening statement.
Clearly, the modern military needs a secure, robust, self-healing battlefield communications network that automatically adapts and moves as the battlefield changes. As one subject-matter expert recently phrased it: "Data must answer the call of duty."
Given the nearly endless missions of the modern military and the nearly continuous influx of new technologies, the amount of data generated by operational units will likely continue to see explosive growth for the foreseeable future.
One recent report estimated that the modern military communications market is expected to top $40 billion by the end of 2020. One analyst suggested that the continued application of drone-based "continuous imagery and surveillance" will likely increase the current estimates of data communications requirements and drive the market estimates up.
Another analyst was quick to point out that when you include battlefield robots, that figure is likely to go up even further.
Finally, we should include the multiple initiatives by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that are currently underway and said to revolutionize battlefield communications. Anytime the word "revolutionize" is used, we should not expect to see data communications demands decrease.
Analysis suggests that machine-to-machine data communications may very well be that most significant aspect of modern battlefield communications. If you look at recent research and other publications, there is an ever-increasing demand for secure, real-time, high-capacity, integrated information sharing.
IEEE recently published an article titled "The Internet of Battle Things." "On the battlefields of the future, multitudes of intelligent things will be communicating, acting, and collaborating with one another and with human warfighters," the authors wrote in their abstract.
That paints a very interesting mental model of what this space is rapidly becoming. It is essential that we recognize that in actual operations, the collaboration and sharing will be of data with multiple classification levels, adding even more complexity to an already difficult problem set and operating space. One individual said the military has an unquenchable thirst for rapid and secure, real-time data — anything short of that is unacceptable and places our military at greater risk. C4ISR self-healing/adapting battlefield communications networks is where the modern military sees its information lifeblood flowing, and the armed forces are concentrating efforts to makes sure they have everything they need today and in the future.
Given the criticality of all of this data communications, you can be sure it is a high-value target for cyberattacks and cyber disrupters. If you are not familiar with disrupters, think of it as wireless communications jamming. Equally as concerning to the disruption of data communication is the growing threat of data being intercepted and altered on the fly. The growing threat posed by cyber disrupters have some nations once again calling for a cyber weapons arms treaty. Operating and making decisions on maliciously altered data is "horrifying," one cyber analyst told me.
Given the criticality, enhanced cyber defenses will likely be built in from the start and updated in nearly real time. That is a tall order to fill, for sure. Dominate, deliver, defend, destroy, disrupt and deceive, or D
, seems to fit the bill when discussing the cyber implications of modern battlefield communications. When it comes to modern battlefield communication, many militaries are far behind the United States and our allies. However, given all the espionage activities that continue to steal the secrets of emerging technologies, that leadership could be short-lived.