Each U.S. military service recognizes that operations must be seamlessly coordinated across all domains of warfare for future conflict. Within that broad sphere, the Air Force, under the direction of Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, has made multi-domain command and control a top priority.

Broadly speaking, this will involve the seamless integration of air, space and cyber capabilities, providing commanders cross-domain options to make more rapid decisions in complex battle spaces. The Air Force is in the throes of a highly anticipated study on the issue lead by the multi-domain C2 enterprise capability collaboration team, or ECCT, which should be finalized by November.

Message received: Industry is prepared to back the Air Force as it takes different approaches toward multi-domain C2 and figures out what this might look like and how to employ it.

Regarding the latter, Lockheed Martin in April held a war game on multi-domain C2 as a means to help inform the Air Force and the ECCT team.

The war game looked at operational planning in air, space and cyber in support of the ECCT. Lockheed will continue this work during another war game this fall. This upcoming war game will build on the efforts of its predecessor, adding additional layers such as hundreds of targets with actual Air Force operators coming together and planning against a much larger scenario, said Steve Froelich, director of operational command and control for Lockheed Martin C4ISR, during an interview with C4ISRNET at the Air Force Association’s annual symposium.

At the conference, Lockheed briefed reporters on some of the systems ― both those currently used by the Air Force and others in which the company is investing ― as well as systems of systems that could be produced to fit a multi-domain C2 construct.

“What we’re looking at doing is enabling the vision of linking assets that are space-based, in the air, in the sea and on the ground to create combined effects,” according to Jack O’Banion, vice president of strategy and customer requirements for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “[The] challenge is: How do you create a dynamic network that allows you to link things together to create effects inside the bubble and from outside the bubble to create collaborative engagements and multiple dilemmas for an adversary?”

Renee Pasman, mission systems road maps director for the Skunk Works division, noted that what Lockheed was demonstrating is merely a concept from a multi-domain C2 perspective, not a specific solution. The adoption of things like open-systems architectures makes these solutions possible.

“The key is really as the speed of information and the speed of war increases, making sure that we can get the right information to the right person to allow them to make that decision quickly,” said Pasman, adding that being able to share that information across the entire network is critical.

“One key thing from a Lockheed Martin perspective is we’re trying to approach the technologies … there’s key enabling technologies that come up again and again and again; open-system architecture, automation, that ability to do machine to machine. And part of what we’re trying to do is make sure all of those technologies are mature no matter where the Air Force chooses to apply them so the technology doesn’t limit how the Air Force uses their systems. It’s really how they want to use it to be most effective for the war fighter.”

Other contractors have applied diverse approaches to the problem set of more multi-domain capabilities for the Air Force and the military writ large.

Tom Gould, head of business development for Harris Corporation, when asked how he sees the company fitting into multi-domain concepts, said the company is developing a modem and a waveform that is truly multi-domain, highly jam resistant and very hard to detect. This will allow forces in the ground, in the air and in space to seamlessly talk to one another without being detected and without being jammed, he said.

Raytheon’s vice president of mission support and modernization, Todd Probert, said during an interview with C4ISRNET that the firm wants to serve in a ”facilitator role to work at the foundational layer; foundational layer being building those constructs, be it the open architecture.”

Probert explained that Raytheon’s work within the “foundational layer” involves enabling services to play and talk together, much like applications on a cellphone. Though apps are developed by different organizations, he said, they are brought into a single store. Using the example of a mapping layer, Probert noted how several apps can render a map even though they may not even know the map app provider in and of itself.

Raytheon is also building applications to help commanders better understand the non-kinetic effects of battle such as cyberspace.

“We’ve been fighting wars literally since the rocks and spears age in a kinetic sense. If you’re a commander out there, you understand the impact of a bullet missile … it’s very tried and true … the concept of operations, to deploy over years, and they’ve migrated in a progresses in very serial sense as technology has come along,” he said. “In the space of an operations environment, we’ve built modeling and simulation capabilities to merge kinetic ― again, bullets and missiles ― and non-kinetic, things like cyber and electronic warfare and other things into that same space using frames of reference that our military understands ― mostly kinetic ― to project how they might employ these non-kinetic-like things.”

What Lockheed’s demonstrations and war games focus on is integration, and making systems within an air operations center talk. Today, the tools in each individual operations center, while very good at what they do, are stovepiped, Froelich said.

“One of the ways in which we can move faster is to see if we can take all of these stovepiped systems and get them to start to talk to each other,” he said. “You want it to be integrated and you want it to be collaborative and you want it to start to have real-time intelligence layered on top of it as well so you now have some machine-to-machine conversations that will take care of the routine planning, tactical decision-making, all of the routine things so it makes real-time recommendations to the operator.”

Some of the capabilities displayed during the demonstration included:

  • The ability of a multi-domain common operational picture to illustrate to commanders that either a cyber, air, space or a mix of each can be used against a certain target overlaid on a map.
  • Coordinated planning and air-tasking orders to include coordinated and space tasks pushed to tactical C2 nodes.
  • Use of software applications to unburden pilots in single-cockpit aircraft to allow them to focus on their primary tasks.
  • Software that automatically detects that and automatically will find the next best communications path through which to send information if links are broken due to jamming or distance without any input from the pilot.
  • Machine learning to pick out key targets from a synthetic aperture radar map, which normally would take several minutes for a well trained operator to find.
  • Ability for the machine to make recommendations to the commander for effects to be used.

Next steps

Pasman, of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, explained that the firm eventually wants to get to the point where all services and all domains are incorporated.

Joint force and combatant commanders require holistic options from all domains and services to include air, land, sea, space and cyber. Land and maritime capabilities will be incorporated into the future tabletop exercises.

“One key thing in terms of seeing how we can best instantiate that vison, we’re doing tabletop war games, which look at everything and look at [concept of operation] development,” Pasman said.