JADC2 will look a lot like a commercial network, with data clouds, lots of signal relays, and nodes all over the world both collecting and contributing information. But adapting that commercial approach to a military setting takes something more – namely, security and durability.
The data that will flow through JADC2 will enable the military to better plan and execute its movements on land, at sea, in the air and in space. That makes the information a prime target for adversaries – not just to intercept it, but to alter it and throw military operations off-course.
Raytheon Technologies already has a strong presence in secure communications across the military services. Collins Aerospace, a Raytheon Technologies business, provides secure HF, VHF and UHF radios, satellite voice and data communications systems and jam-resistant data links. The business is also building upon two decades of work in Link 16 – the tactical datalink network used by U.S. and NATO forces – to demonstrate its global connectivity from lower Earth orbit.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense, another Raytheon Technologies business, is working with research and development organizations across the military to use cutting-edge approaches such as software-defined apertures, intelligent information distribution and multi-level security – a way to ensure operators can access the right data on the right nets. Those methods would help link platforms and synchronize their actions across extremely long distances in contested environments.
That type of work gives the company a broad view of communications systems across the military – and, with it, valuable knowledge of how to put JADC2 into action in the long term.
“Our competitive advantage is, we’re starting from that real estate. We’ve got capabilities deployed on all those platforms,” said Ryan Bunge, Collins’ vice president for Communications, Navigation and Guidance. “We’ve got that visibility across all the services’ efforts … that’s where we live and breathe every day.”
The key, he said, is making those systems adaptable, flexible and easy to upgrade, so that they meet the services’ future needs – even those they haven’t yet defined. Collins, for example, has invested in software-defined radios, which can add capabilities through fast, frequent system updates; RF (radio frequency) products that perform multiple functions, and open-systems architecture, an approach to design that allows for quick, efficient modifications.
“We’re building it into the products we have today, and we’re investing into it for the future. It’s not just about aircraft and ships – it’s about UAS and attritables,” Bunge said, using military terms for expendable, uncrewed and remotely piloted vehicles. “We’re bringing connectivity to those platforms as well, where you can’t put a 200-pound rack-mounted computer in there.”
Ensuring the integrity of highly sensitive military transmissions is the work of the protected-communications experts at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. Their products include a line of Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, satellite communications terminals, along with arrays of antennas, modems and cybersecurity tools that can be installed on many platforms and work in many domains.
“We produce the communication equipment the government uses when the message unambiguously has to go through – no ifs, ands or buts,” said Mark Hutchins, the business’ executive director for protected communications. “We supply already a good part of the DoD’s existing communications infrastructure for a lot of the highly encrypted missions. Part of JADC2 is trying to determine how to proliferate this level of encryption to a variety of different platforms.”
His team also has to ensure the equipment is rugged enough to work and survive in military missions, he said.
“If you have an aircraft doing Mach 1, and it’s tracking satellites that have a secure data link, the type of tracking that’s involved is very different from the type of tracking that’s required for a cell phone going 55 miles per hour down the interstate,” Hutchins said. “Military equipment has to be very robust.”
Not only that, it has to be undetectable; unlike commercial wireless modems, which are built to reveal themselves for anybody who is looking for them – think of connecting your phone to the wi-fi at a friend’s house – military communications equipment has to do exactly the opposite.
“If you’re saying ‘here I am,’ you’re declaring yourself a target,” Hutchins said. “We have to be very well encrypted and very low-probability-of-detect.”
But he’s far from saying the defense industry should build the network on its own. Rather, he said, he’s looking to strike up partnerships with commercial firms that have experience building at the speed and scale JADC2 requires.
“We understand the security ramifications, whereas they may not be as well equipped to do so. They, on the other hand, have a little bit more agility,” Hutchins said. “The combination of those two is a unique opportunity.”