From the Cold War period (1945-1989) through present-day globalization, the importance of maintaining reliable security coalitions and positive international relationships cannot be overstated. As modern-day warfare relies on technology for achieving military readiness and strength, collaborating on interoperable technological advancements remains an enduring mission for the U.S. and its coalition partners.

To perfect military technology, nations must plan strategically beyond tactical units. This is especially important today, as warfare is no longer focused solely on the destruction of enemy forces. By acting as a unified front, coalition partners can integrate more effectively, generate deterrence and thwart adversarial actions by enhancing the training, deployment, coordination, and real-time situational awareness of allied nations.

For instance, in the Indo-Pacific theater of operations, the U.S. maintains a highly capable cross-section of command-and-control technology that supports situational awareness in today’s battlespace. But near-future warfare requires a new paradigm that provides a comprehensive intelligence picture and detailed situational awareness of joint forces across the theater. We must consolidate this information to inform tactical and operational decisions that prioritize deterrence and the saving of lives.

Commensurate with this future paradigm is the ongoing race to develop and deploy multi-domain technology and command and control systems, which are helping to shape a new era in modern warfare: developing Multi-Domain Capabilities to address Gray Zone Competition.

‘Gray Zone’ Competition

Gray Zone competition tactics, deployed globally to avoid all-out conflict, are becoming increasingly common. Recent examples include China’s recent statements on Taiwan’s independence and subsequent U.S. responses. Even the recent incident between North Korea and South Korea, where warning shots were fired over a maritime dispute, demonstrate the persistent need to avoid all-out conflict.

Nation-state governments recognize the potential for Gray Zone competition to bleed into the general population. Social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok, struggling to maintain credibility amidst the presence of bots and foreign propaganda, and the use of naval, coast guard and aircraft assets to physically harass and intimidate opponents, are all being deployed to gain an upper hand in military efforts.

These incidents underscore the urgency to develop and deploy a range of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities across multiple domains, including space and surface. These capabilities can then be digitally applied to command-and-control platforms, which can utilize Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence software solutions to provide our forces with a decision advantage.

The ongoing Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) modernization efforts by each service are being driven by these multi-domain operational imperatives. This is not aspirational; we are already experimenting and fielding innovative new technologies in both “Gray Zone” and multi-domain operations.

Strength in Numbers

Achieving strength in numbers is crucial for effective deterrence. The moral dimension of war calls for a global effort to ensure democratic nations maintain their leadership role in the global world order. Within a theater strategy, coalition partners possess powerful political-military capabilities that can help maintain a strong global presence. This collaborative approach enhances military command and control technology while strengthening support within an integrated coalition.

Creating interoperable systems that enable coalition warfighters to access real-time data and tools across ground, air, sea, cyber and space, is critical for developing the necessary command-and-control capabilities to compete against our pacing challenge. Seamlessly integrating once-disparate systems delivers a competitive edge for our Joint Force and Coalition Partners. In this way, technology must serve our shared mission, with edge computing and data links being two systems that are critical for achieving interoperability.

Leading at the Edge

Edge computing already forms a foundational part of existing mission partner environments. For example, Commercial Coalition Equipment is a core component of a Mission Partner Environment (MPE), facilitating expeditionary coalition or commercial network connectivity. This connectivity enables mission command, network communications (e.g., voice, video, and data), and situational awareness among Army, Joint and coalition forces.

By implementing data links and aerial mesh networks supported by non-detectable video data links, warfighters will be better able to receive fast and reliable internal communications between coalition partners. This technology ensures that synchronized strikes and real-time mission updates can be executed or communicated with clarity, uniformity and efficiency.

One notable example of video data link technology that continues to improve is the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Unified Video Dissemination System. The UVDS architecture and its related services consistently meet Airborne, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Full Motion Video requirements.

In both the “Gray Zone” and multi-domain operational environments, its future importance lies in providing persistent, focused, real-time operational information flow to tactical and enterprise end users worldwide.

Not a New Cold War – A Competition

Despite the view of some, modern warfare is not a stalemate. Rather, it is a fiercely competitive landscape where nation-states strive to achieve independent goals. For instance, China recognizes U.S. multi-domain efforts and is now working (according to reports) to develop a competing technology for the JADC2 initiative, known as Multi-Domain Precision Warfare (MDPW).

The US remains highly competitive against China’s MDPW efforts and is deploying new JADC2 technologies. Ours is a never-ending relay race, where each capability “baton” helps us extend our lead in this relentless pursuit of assured communications and decision advantage.

Every effort by our industry partners and service program executive offices is critical in this race.

This is not a drill.

U.S. Army Lieutenant General (Retired) James Terry is Senior Vice President at Cubic Defense, which designs, integrates and operates systems, products and services focused in the defense training and secure communications markets.

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