Anticipating how adversaries are likely to employ new operational concepts and systems has always been important, but in an era of rapid digital transformation, it’s fundamental and critical to all U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) efforts. Understanding how these adversaries are harnessing new technology, responding with new operational concepts and enhanced lethality in accelerated timelines is how DOD intends to retain a strategic advantage on the battlefield.
There is no doubt that we are facing new and increasingly sophisticated threats from near-peer adversaries, underscoring the importance of innovation in order to maintain an advantage in an age of technology-driven warfare.
One DOD initiative, Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), sits at the center of technology-driven modernization. The DOD summarizes JADC2 as “an effort to integrate sensors with shooters across all domains, commands and services.”
With its focus on integration, it is clear that communications and networking capabilities will be essential to help DOD realize its vision for JADC2. As JADC2 seeks to connect communications nodes, shooters and platforms across all domains and branches of the military, cyber-secure, integrated, open architecture communications capabilities will be critical.
For 60 years, Northrop Grumman has been a leader in the design, development and delivery of end-to-end communications and advanced networking capabilities sought out by U.S. and allied military forces. Today, the company’s communications systems are already bringing forward the integrated, open and advanced networking capabilities needed to support the foundation of JADC2.
Northrop Grumman’s gateway offerings—communications systems that help the DOD securely share mission information across military branches—are one example of how the company is already enhancing the flow of data and strengthening the overall command-and-control structure of the DOD.
Northrop Grumman’s gateway systems have an extensive track record of helping interconnect branches of the military. The company’s leading Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) gateway system recently reached 200,000 combat operational flight hours since its first deployment with the U.S. Air Force in 2008.
Northrop Grumman’s BACN offerings have been one of the Defense Department’s most enduring capabilities, delivering interoperable voice and data communications between boots on the ground and pilots in the sky since 2008. Northrop Grumman’s BACN gateway system and sustainment efforts, combined with both manned and unmanned aircraft, provide warfighters an essential round-the-clock capability—enabling the enhanced communications and situational awareness picture needed to defeat threats in the most challenging battlefield environments.
Northrop Grumman’s BACN offering is a high-altitude, airborne communications gateway that translates and distributes imagery, voice and tactical data from disparate elements—enhancing situational awareness communications and coordination for joint warfighters operating across space, air, land and sea. It is also one of the first battle-tested gateway systems to enable warfighters and platforms to effectively communicate and securely share data across all branches of the DOD.
Over the course of more than 15,500 missions, enabled by sustainment support that delivers uninterrupted mission readiness, the BACN gateway system has a mission availability rate greater than 98 percent. Northrop Grumman takes an agile approach to introduce new capabilities on the BACN gateway system such as the integration of new automation software, implementation of agile software development processes, and the incorporation of enhanced military standard communications protocols—all to meet emerging mission demands.
The open architecture design and cyber-secure processing of the BACN gateway system, coupled with its ability to easily integrate advanced technologies and proven track record of success, make this system well suited to meet the needs of JADC2.
According to David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, “BACN’s operational success suggests that it, or similar data translators, could help build an ethereal nervous system for JADC2.”
Northrop Grumman is also bringing forward a new family of gateway systems that are designed to enable communications and cross domain translations between multiple beyond line-of-sight and line-of-sight networks and datalinks—inclusive of 5th-to-4th generation capabilities. The development of these systems includes a focus on cyber-secure and integrated functions such as cloud computing, machine learning and secure and ethical artificial intelligence, among other capabilities.
Another example of Northrop Grumman’s JADC2 offerings can be found in the company’s Communications, Navigation and Identification (CNI) system. Northrop Grumman pioneered the design of its CNI system—currently used across a number of high-profile DOD platforms—to provide more than 27 fully-integrated communications, navigation and identification functions.
Over the years, the company’s CNI systems have been battle-tested and proven to enhance warfighters’ situational awareness; improve interoperability across platforms; adapt to emerging mission demands; and securely distribute critical information needed for mission success.
The software-defined nature of Northrop Grumman’s CNI system allow for continuous enhancements and its signature design will open up the company’s CNI offering to provide new functionality, such as the use of third-party capabilities that will help meet the advanced networking needs of JADC2 efforts.
A third example of Northrop Grumman’s JADC2 offerings is tied to the U.S. Air Force Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) initiative. According to the Air Force, ABMS is the services’ primary contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control efforts.
In support of ABMS, Northrop Grumman is rapidly working on developing and fielding a gatewayONE prototype by leveraging its proven Freedom Radio and gateway technologies. Freedom multifunction, software-defined radios are the heart of the F-22 integrated avionics suite and F-35 communications, navigation and identification system.
On December 9, 2020, Northrop Grumman’s Freedom Radio supporting ABMS efforts, successfully integrated with an attritableONE platform and enabled 5th-to-5th generation aircraft communications. According to the Air Force, “…this test was the latest demonstration of the transformative warfighting impact of the open architecture underpinning the Advanced Battle Management System.”
The signature design and open architecture functionality of the Freedom Radio supporting gatewayONE will enable 5th– to-4th generation platforms to communicate and extend capabilities to enable multiple 5th generation platform types to share and integrate data, helping make network-centric operations and JADC2 a reality for the DOD.