The new year will likely bring a new secretary of defense, a renewed emphasis on changing how the Pentagon buys weapons systems and a continued focus on watching technological development by the Chinese government.

C4ISRNET asked industry leaders what trends they expect to emerge in the battlefield landscape in 2019. Here’s what they said:

Accelerated acquisition

“Right now, your toaster can tell your refrigerator that it needs to order more bread, but the world’s most advanced military is still challenged to connect its huge array of systems. That’s just not sustainable. Before the military can start tackling huge technological leaps like artificial intelligence, we have to change the way we develop weapon systems. I see 2019 as the point when the DoD really starts moving away from buying proprietary, stove-piped, closed hardware systems and instead looks to the commercial software world as a model for how we develop and integrate weapon systems. Focusing on commercial-style software development is how we’ll be able to develop truly open, upgradeable, cyber-resilient systems quickly. And by quickly I’m saying weeks or months for a new system, not years or decades. The pace of technology is moving faster than ever before, especially in the software world. We need to accept that and move with it if we want to stay ahead.”

Todd Probert, vice president of mission support and modernization at Raytheon

An increased need for a coordinated response

“Today’s environment is evolving to warfare coordinated across multiple domains driving our forces to be more adaptable and coordinated in our response. As this threat environment accelerates, we recognize that our customers require methods that will enable them to operate seamlessly and simultaneously across domains. We see C4ISR technologies as the foundation for managing and responding to these more complex missions on a shorter timeline. We will continue to invest in transformational technologies that will help make multidomain operations more predictive and more effective. This includes:

  • Machine-to-machine communication across new and legacy datalinks;
  • Fusion to enable information from several sources into one unified picture of the battlespace and reduce the data to decision timeline;
  • Artificial intelligence to provide decision makers with the ability to react quickly to problems that demand fast-paced analysis and decision making. AI offers the technology to change the human role from “in-the-loop” controller to “on-the-loop” thinker who can focus on strategy versus the execution detail;
  • ‘Algorithmic warfare’ to support a partnership between humans and computer systems, exponentially increasing the pace of processing, exploitation, dissemination and C2 operations; and
  • Advanced multi-level secure modeling and simulation to manage patterns of life and actionable changes.

Brent Upson, director of ISR Systems at Lockheed Martin

A move to small form factor networking

“In 2019 we expect the DoD to significantly increase its investment in small form factor networking, secure wireless and virtualization-enabled compute necessary to improve war-fighter mobility and situational awareness in tactical and expeditionary programs. Tactical communications programs have proven the efficacy of size weight and power (SWaP) reduction by moving to small form factor equipment, and the savings enable entirely new IT-enabled use cases at the network edge. In particular, tactical deployments of classified wireless using commercial technologies, data center services and storage, and defensive cybersecurity solutions will see sizable new adoption in 2019.”

Peggy Miller, chief executive officer at PacStar

Audio for authentication

“Audio will be the buzz word of 2019 for network solutions. Introducing audio as a security layer in IP video provides a new layer of overall security to physical security solutions. Audio technology allows security professionals to interact with people remotely, as well as provide an automated response to prevent situations from escalating to an incident by identifying aggressive voices, glass breaking and even gunshots. With this new audio technology and analytical capabilities, security professionals can proactively detect, interpret and respond to events and emergency situations.”

John Merlino, government business development manager at Axis Communications, Inc.

Attacks on data in the cloud

“In the past two years, enterprises have widely adopted the Software-as-a-Service model, such as Office 365, as well as Infrastructure- and Platform-as-a-Service cloud models, such as AWS and Azure. With this move, far more corporate data now resides in the cloud. In 2019, we expect a significant increase in attacks that follow the data to the cloud. With the increased adoption of Office 365, we have noticed a surge of attacks on the service — especially attempts to compromise email. One threat the McAfee cloud team uncovered was the botnet KnockKnock, which targeted system accounts that typically do not have multifactor authentication. We have also seen the emergence of exploits of the trust model in the Open Authorization standard. One was launched by Fancy Bear, the Russian cyber-espionage group, phishing users with a fake Google security app to gain access to user data.

"Similarly, during the last couple of years we have seen many high-profile data breaches attributed to misconfigured Amazon S3 buckets. This is clearly not the fault of AWS. Based on the shared responsibility model, the customer is on the hook to properly configure IaaS/PaaS infrastructure and properly protect their enterprise data and user access. Complicating matters, many of these misconfigured buckets are owned by vendors in their supply chains, rather than by the target enterprises. With access to thousands of open buckets and credentials, bad actors are increasingly opting for these easy pickings.”

Sekhar Sarukkai, vice president of engineering, cloud at McAfee

The expansion of technology to counter small drones

"The ever-expanding proliferation of small UAS (sUAS) has resulted in a rapid rise in sUAS incidents, leaving security personnel starved for a holistic solution to this new and evolving threat. A hobbyist unwittingly flying near a flight line or a drone pilot with nefarious intentions present both risk and unmet challenges. Counter-sUAS (C-sUAS) technology is an essential tool for assessing airspace activity, understanding the severity of drone incursions, and informing new protocols to mitigate potential threats. With C-sUAS technology, security personnel can now observe a drone’s behavior and deploy appropriate offensive or defensive countermeasures, which may include direct contact with the pilot or coordination with local law enforcement. In all cases, detection of sUAS activity is the critical foundation of any C-sUAS program.

“2018 was a year of testing and evaluating. Rapid prototyping, experimental deployments, and government testing events validated that no single C-sUAS system is a one-size-fits-all solution. Moreover, C-sUAS technology must be flexible to meet the needs of each specific environment.”

Phil Pitsky, vice president of U.S. federal operations at Dedrone

Mike Gruss served as the editor-in-chief of Sightline Media Group's stable of news outlets, which includes Army Times, Air Force Times, C4ISRNET, Defense News, Federal Times, Marine Corps, Military Times and Navy Times.

More In Industry