Generating momentum towards data-centric, multi-domain C2 in the UK
The intended direction for the development of C2 for UK’s Armed Forces has been described in a series of recent concepts, writes Paul Bennett, Senior Advisor to Systematic.
"A dynamic and adaptive socio-technical system configured to design and execute joint action." (Joint Doctrine Note 2/17 - Multi-Domain Integration)
"The core technical building blocks are the networks, gateways, hosting services, user interfaces (including identity management and access mechanisms) and middleware that come together to deliver data and information wherever and however we need to exploit it." (MOD Digital Strategy)
"Realising the Maritime Operating Concept is dependent on……ability to process, exploit and disseminate data, including exchanging across the Force, across domains, across Government and with allies and partners. (Maritime Operating Concept)
There are some consistent themes: Firstly, that C2 must be multi-domain, embracing the space and cyber environments alongside maritime, land and air. Secondly, that it must connect UK Armed Forces with other government departments, international allies and partners.
Thirdly, that C2 systems must exploit new technology, harnessing data to deliver decision-quality situation awareness and, through AI, a predictive capability. And lastly, that the system must enable the integration of manned and unmanned sensors and effectors. This is clear, ambitious and, with the ready availability of modern technology, urgent.
Delivery, as always, will be the greatest test. The MOD Digital Strategy has spawned a major strategic change programme touching all elements of military capability. At its heart is a single, secure, modern digital backbone linking sensors, effectors and decision makers.
This would be generated by a Hyperscale Cloud, Next Generation Networks and User Services, supported by a Digital Foundry, a software and data analytics development entity and enabled by a transformed workforce with improved digital awareness. At the same time, bottom-up, service commands are experimenting with potential AI applications, autonomous solutions and a range of data-based innovations.
It is an exciting environment, with lots of activity, but while the vision to move from disaggregated, disorganised, and stove-piped data to a single digital backbone are clear, the route to achieve it is less apparent.
There are a number of obvious challenges; the desire to move quickly vs the large scale of this major cross-Defence capability; the intent to link sensors, decision makers and effectors together in 5 domains vs the myriad, disconnected legacy systems and platforms; and the longstanding challenge of enabling the MOD procurement processes to turn innovation into military capability quickly.
It is, of course, all too easy to identify well-recognised challenges, but what about solutions? My contention is that whilst delivering the ultimate vision will take a number of years, the speed and eventual success of the intended transformation will depend on how much momentum is generated quickly at the front-line.
If we provide commanders and their staffs with modern C2 systems with which to experiment, the cultural transformation will be supported by, bottom up, connecting innovative systems to the front-line user and, top down, starting to bring the multi-domain, data-enabled C2 vision to life.
A trusted solution
How might we achieve that? The SitaWare C4ISR application, used currently by 47 nations, enables the user to harness all sources of data, including from autonomous vehicles, to generate a single, decision-quality picture. A licence-based product, it can be scaled to support small scale experimentation or large scale capability, for example as used today by the US Army.
It is multi-domain, enables vertical (strategic-tactical) and horizontal (cross-domain, cross-Government and with allies and partners) integration. It is configurable to the user, is secure by design with data IP retained by the data owner (unless he/she determines to share) and is evergreen. And adoption is financially low risk; the system can be hosted on any hardware and can be scaled up or removed without the need for any capital investment.
SitaWare has been used recently in support of SJFHQ’s Exercise Joint Protector, the British and US armies Project Convergence and in the Army Warfighting Experiment. It could be rolled-out in days to any HQ that wishes to explore and use data-centric multi-domain C2.