The U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC) at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., is moving to fuse commercial and military satellite data for Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), as the command moves away from an aircraft-centered approach to a data-centric one.
“We’ve made some changes and continue to make changes to adapt to the new National Defense Strategy and to the JADC2 concept,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven Gorski, director of intelligence at ACC, told a JADC2 panel at the Satellite 2022 conference in Washington, D.C. on March 22. “Part of that is the shift from an airborne-centric and a very much platform-centric [approach], where we would have our airmen dedicated to whether it was an MQ-9 or a U-2—just looking at that imagery and reporting out what it said, over to a more data-centric, problem-centric approach, where that same group of airmen would then be realigned to look at, say, Russian integrated air defense or Chinese ballistic missiles, and then report out more of a fused picture of what they’re seeing based on that intelligence.”
General Atomics is the builder of the MQ-9 Reaper drone, while Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the U-2 contractor.
Due to Chinese and Russian anti-access, area-denial technologies in future scenarios, “we either have to stand in with penetrating ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] or stand off at further distances, and that’s where space comes in, for sure,” Gorski said. “Commercial space can continue to provide a whole wealth of information for JADC2, specifically, [for military forces]. From a sensing standpoint, we get redundant and expanded coverage in multiple modalities for sensing, whether that’s electro-optical, multi-spectral radar, even in the SIGINT [signals intelligence] realm.”
Gorski said that such fusion also “allows us to do battlespace awareness, mission planning, and speeds up our targeting efforts.”
JADC2 has seven joint functions–command and control (C2), fires, intelligence, movement, protection, sustainment, and information.
The first three, C2, fires, and intelligence, “are the ones most people focus on…but a lot of times we forget about the bottom four,” Jay Chapman, the director of government solutions at Iridium Communications, Inc. [IRDM] and a retired U.S. Army colonel who served on the Army G-3 at the Pentagon, said during the Satellite 2022 conference JADC2 panel on March 22.
“Enhanced range cannon artillery isn’t going to be able to put a round down range, if we haven’t got the projectile or the fuze to it,  or if it ran out of fuel en route to its firing position, or if it broke down,” he said. “And so when you start to look at all the data that is required across all those functions, there’s a lot of room for a lot of transport to be able to push the sense part of the strategy and implementation plan back to that AI and machine learning node so that we can get the right information in front of the commanders that make those decisions.”
Chapman said that commercial space has provided needed data across those envisioned bottom four JADC2 joint functions for use by decision makers during the crisis in Ukraine.
In May last year, the Pentagon issued its JADC2 strategy, and on March 15, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks signed the Pentagon’s implementation plan for JADC2–an effort to use artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced computing to build a cross-service digital architecture for multi-domain operations that are to rely on the fast provision of information from sensors to shooters.
The classified implementation plan “details the plans of actions, milestones, and resourcing requirements” for the strategy, DoD said. Marine Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, director of command, control, communications and computers/cyber and CIO for the Joint Staff, J6, said a key area of focus for the JADC2 implementation over the next year is delivering baseline capabilities for enabling agile software development and creating the new mission partner environment, which he cited as critical “minimum viable products.”
The Air Force on March 18 announced its latest 23 industry entrants competing for up to $950 million in indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity JADC2 contracts (Defense Daily, March 18).
In May 2020, the Air Force announced its first tranche of 28 JADC2 competitors, and last July, the Air Force announced its third group of 29 JADC2 contestants (Defense Daily, July 9, 2021).
Thus far, more than 100 companies are in the mix.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has said that his priority is to refocus research efforts, including JADC2, on advanced technologies that DoD will be able to field in the near term.