While some industry observers contend that U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. has moved away from common design criteria for user interfaces (UI) for the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), SMC said that such ABMS UIs are a “momentous challenge” and that SMC has such common design criteria, though they are “new and evolving.”

ABMS is the planned U.S. Air Force and Space Force component of Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), a DoD effort to build a cross-service digital architecture for multi-domain operations–in effect, a military Internet of Things with machine-to-machine interfaces.

SMC has worked with the Air Force Chief Architect Office (CAO) and the Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) to define and establish enterprise requirements within ABMS and to discover where to modify current systems and where to build new, interoperable systems.

In an email, Col. David Learned, the chief of capability integration for SMC’s Portfolio Architect Directorate, wrote that “with evolving architectures, it must be a balance–standardization and governance must provide a framework, while not dampening innovation.”

Moving to modular, open architectures to ease interoperability among space systems and others is a significant challenge that comes with a “fundamental shift in connectivity strategy,” per Learned.

“The move towards the resilience of path-diverse systems implies crossing cyber security boundaries for network routing and requires time for system security reviews and certification,” he wrote. “For interfaces this is important to capture in design. Intelligent, intuitive interfaces will be necessary due to the complexity of the total supporting architecture enabling the end effect for warfighters. This is a momentous challenge—effective UIs must reach across thousands of systems and across various warfighting domains to provide the right information, at the right level of complexity, to the right user, at the right classification, at the right time in order to empower decisions in a time critical environment. But the threat is real–as adversary weapon and information systems evolve, decision time shrinks; the nation that can nullify their opponent’s OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop wins.”

Regarding common design criteria, Learned wrote that “interoperability is included as a functional/technical standard under SMC’s design compliance standards, but mostly deals with systems and must evolve to fully capture user interface design.”

“Working groups at SMC have begun the process of further defining those at the software development and application levels,” he wrote.

One example of such future common design criteria lies in SMC’s Cross Mission Data Transport (XMDT) effort to restructure communications networks to support a layered ABMS/JADC2 architecture with agile signals, cybersecurity and an open terminal architecture.

“XMDT seeks to expand connectivity and enhance resilience options by diversification of orbits, disaggregating missions into multiple satellites/orbits, path agility, etc.,” per Learned. “It is a networked, interoperable, cyber secure, multi-path transport layer capable of rapid and reliable data dissemination to and from weapons systems, C2 [command and control] nodes, and data lakes. The end goal is an open, networked architecture that enables agile C3I operations (network management and path-diverse comms) and machine-to-machine interface for cross-cueing & hand-off. As SMC moves forward with its ABMS partners, we will be looking for how XMDT and common design empowers ABMS solutions.”

While SMC intends to advance common UI criteria, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are questioning ABMS as a whole.

Last month, Preston Dunlap, chief architect for Air and Space Forces, said that the Air Force would forego a planned sixth ABMS “on-ramp” demonstration this summer, due to congressional cuts to the program (Defense Daily, March 17).

The sixth on-ramp was to involve U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and allies, including Australia.

The Air Force conducted its fourth demonstration in late February with allied and joint forces in the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation. A fifth demonstration is planned for this summer.

While the Air Force requested $302.3 million for ABMS in fiscal 2021, Congress provided $158.8 million.

The Air Force has requested $3.3 billion for ABMS over five years, but Congress has had concerns about the lack of requirements, a well-defined ABMS acquisition strategy and program cost estimates.

The Air Force acquisition office is to provide an ABMS acquisition strategy with the fiscal 2022 budget request, and the Air Force comptroller is “to certify that the fiscal year 2022 President’s budget fully funds this acquisition strategy,” congressional appropriators said in their fiscal 2021 appropriations language. “Further, with the submission of the fiscal year 2022 budget request, the secretary of the Air Force is directed to submit a report summarizing all related programs in communications, battle management command and control, and sensors that fall within the ABMS umbrella across the future years defense program. The report should reference program element funding lines and clearly link all activities with funding lines in the fiscal year 2022 budget justification documents.”

Last November, former Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper signed a memorandum designating the Air Force RCO as the program executive office for ABMS–a designation that moved ABMS from research and development to an acquisition program of record (Defense Daily, Nov. 24, 2020).