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Combat cloud or tactical cloud, the future of defense is already here

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Aeronautics |  Aerospace and Defense |  Naval |  Space |  Terrestrial

Nothing new under the sun

Since ancient times, the quality, quantity, speed and timeliness of information have been key to the development of military conflicts.

One of the bases of the success of the Roman legions was the information available to the troops on the battlefield. Each centurion was as knowledgeable about the battle plan as Julius Caesar himself. He had learned that it was the centurions of his legions who won the battles, making the important decisions during the battle, and not the generals themselves.

 

Multi-domain and collaborative combat

The Armed Forces of the 21st century are immersed in a revolution on the use of information in military engagement, in which rapid access to information, advanced technology and joint force organization are being reconfigured for the effective employment of military power in the execution of military operations in multi-domain environments (land, naval, air, space, cyber and cognitive),

Collaborative combat means that the capabilities of different platforms are implemented as a single system to improve detection of enemy systems and generate the desired effect faster and more effectively, in action and in reaction. Thus, for example, the armament could be employed by a land, naval or aerospace platform with integrated sensor data from other platforms.

One of the keys to this new defensive system is based on the so-calledMulti-Domain Combat Cloud, which is based on an a priori simple premise: in essence, it is about having the right information at the right time. Put another way, the concept is to enhance military power through information superiority.

To this end, a decentralized, cyber-resilient information network is designed in air, land, maritime, space, cyber and cognitive domains. using cloud-based technologies. It connects the nodes(users) of the network(platforms, units, command and control centers-C2) in all domains, allowing information to flow in real time.

The combat cloud can be thought of as a global mesh network for data distribution and information sharing within the theater and battlefield, where each user transparently contributes and receives essential information and can use it across the full range of military operations for the accomplishment of the assigned mission. The tactical cloud should thus become an essential part of any future combat system.

It is, in short, a matter of shortening the time between the data and theobtained by some kind of sensor/platform, on a threat and the decision (assignment by the responsible mission commander) of the medium (effector) to be used to neutralize the threat, in order to have an advantage in the confrontation.

Cloud processing capability is a model that enables ubiquitous, convenient and on-demand network access to a shared set of configurable processing resources (networks, servers, storage, applications, services and others) that can be quickly configured and made available to users with minimal management effort or interaction with the provider of those services. With future platforms becoming more autonomous and automated, the battlefield needs much more advanced communications and data processing capabilities.

As part of the combat cloud, the concept of the distributed processing (
fog/edge computing
)
in which part of the data generated and emitted by the different users is stored in their local devices, instead of being sent only to the cloud, forming a nebulous environment for the processed data that is both in the cloud and in the users’ own devices.

Future combat platforms whether ground, naval or aerospace, as nodes at the tactical end of the combat cloud, will have:

  • Various software applications designed for your different operational functions.
  • Automated analysis tools, possibly shared with other systems, implemented through their applications.
  • Common IT services shared with other systems, operating transparently for crew and operators.
  • Local storage of large amounts of data.
  • Connection with other users through a mobile ad hoc network or mobile node mesh (MANET), self-configurable and self-healing.
  • The management of data transfer over the network will be performed independently of the crew or platform operator, who will see the merged data, overseeing only the overall process.”

The combat cloud will integrate manned and unmanned systems and utilize advances in low observability, precision weapons and advanced C2 tools, ensuring that no point cloud degradation can cripple combat operations. Such an effort will present an opportunity to create scalable and modular warfighting capabilities, rather than forcing individual platforms or other assets to take on more and more tactical tasks.

 

Command and control function

The latest generation combat platforms, in addition to employing armament(effector), operate as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms with their modern sensors. With the data fusion and processing capabilities of the cloud, platforms will have the ability to take on more of the local control of operations, far beyond today’s decentralized execution. This is how the concept of distributed control arose.

 

Challenges to combat cloud implementation.

The main challenge of the combat cloud is the threat of electronic cyber attack and its ability to operate in extremely restricted electromagnetic environments, where operations could often be degraded or even denied.

Another major challenge lies in the interdependency between cloud users that will require an unprecedented level of interoperability.

In a nutshellAs a conceptual solution, the combat cloud is presented as an operational paradigm where information, data management, connectivity and command and control, enabling the seamless integration of cyber (sensors and networks) and kinetic (platforms and weapons) elements, become the central priorities of the mission, offering the fighting force greater speed, agility and synergy, which will allow better decisions to be made more quickly. Thus, the combat cloud:

  • It treats each platform as a sensor and an“effector” and requires a C2 environment that allows automatic connection and seamless data transfer, while being reliable, redundant, secure and interference-proof.
  • It reverses the paradigm of warfare by putting the focus on information and mission-adaptive payload rather than on operational domains and platforms.
  • It represents an evolution in which individually networked platforms, in any domain, are transformed into a “system of systems”, integrated by domain- and mission-independent connections.

 

Salvador Álvarez, Strategy Director of Oesía Group