The connected battlespace presents immense benefit and contribution to overmatch for warfighters today, but it also comes with its own challenges. With communication networks, electronic warfare, and RADAR congesting the battlespace, warfighters must learn how to effectively weave them all into their combat strategy. While operating in an increasingly complex and technically sophisticated battlespace, it’s crucial for warfighters to have the next generation of connected battlespace solutions, enabled by effectively trained artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models that are becoming increasingly important to their mission success.
The need for a more realistic AI and ML training and solution evaluation platform that accounts for this connectivity in-theater (and its corresponding threats) gives rise to the adoption of concepts like digital twins and electromagnetic modeling and simulation (EM M&S). To learn more about how these concepts are being applied in the battlespace, we sat down with Chris Routh, Associate Director of Engineering at Collins Aerospace. He told us that the ultimate focus is to create an end-to-end model of the EM battlespace and the systems residing within it. “Doing so helps us develop the next generation of mission systems and AI training within the complex environment our solutions must operate in. This is imperative to understand the connected battlespace and deliver the solutions the warfighter needs.” Read more of what Routh shared below:
Modern Integrated Warfare (MIW) Editors: What are some of the most common areas in the battlespace that EM M&S is applied to?
Chris Routh: Multi-function RF solutions being developed for weapon systems to be used in multi-domain operations employ EM M&S technologies. We create digital twins of the weapon systems, their communication networks and RF functions in a virtual and live hardware in the loop environment. From there, users can plug in software and hardware throughout a development lifecycle.
We are using EM M&S capabilities to help develop, test, and demonstrate our next generation of mission platform systems and EM products. Some examples of this include multi-domain operations, where we can simulate the swarms of platforms using multiple independent communication networks to evaluate new JADC2-enabling technologies. We build out these operational scenarios with robust adversarial presentations, and from there we can scale and modify studies in a way we wouldn’t be able to do anywhere but a virtual test range.
MIW Editors: What are some of the challenges around EM M&S? How are they being addressed by industry?
Routh: Some of the EM M&S challenges we face are the immense complexity and diversity of the EM systems that exist in a battlespace, from electronic warfare, to RADAR, to communications, to civilian systems. Being able to predict how these systems operate together and what emergent behavior happens to the mission systems they support when they interact is critical to understanding the connected battlespace.
Even in a tightly controlled environment, creating digital twins with physics-based accurate models pushes the boundaries of what high performance computing can do. For instance, a single RF receiver can generate over 140 gigabits per second in digital data. That single sensor creates 1400 times more data than the average broadband internet found in U.S. residences can handle. Most largescale CONOPs will have dozens if not hundreds of RF elements.
In addition to wrangling the massive amount of data being generated, the time to model its propagation is also a challenge. If an aircraft is half of a kilometer away from another, we have about 750 nanoseconds to process what the platform will see if we want the EM signal to propagate in real-time. Aircraft that are further away have the challenge of the many paths or bounces a signal could take. Each path creates copies of the signal and holds it in memory while they are transmitted in the synthetic space, thus quickly overwhelming even the most capable computers.
With JADC2 specifically, the challenge becomes the amount of independent, modern, and legacy tactical networks involved. These networks each have different data rates, frequency ranges, control systems, jamming resiliency, and networking configurations they support. Industry is then tasked with creating accurate models of these networks for mission services to utilize with mission impacts such as jamming, terrain, antenna placement, and geographic positions.
Recently the competition around high-performance computing to support AI, cloud data centers, graphics ray tracing, and 5G in the industry opened new capabilities to process and model the environment at a rate and level of fidelity we could have only dreamed about five years ago. Cloud technologies have also increased our capability to model complex collections of tactical networks and their configurations.
Currently, we are developing new technologies to accelerate and tie together the EM models to our platforms and mission digital twins so we can understand the connected battlespace. We are looking for answers to complex questions like how one platform or flight in a package being jammed on one of its three datalinks impacts the mission systems onboard those aircraft and ultimately the outcome of the package’s mission.
MIW Editors: Tell us more about how this capability folds into efforts around JADC2 and the connected battlespace?
Routh: JADC2 will significantly benefit from end-to-end EM M&S tools integrated with operational analysis to validate the system of systems approach for contested environment operations. With the ability to integrate across multiple government and third-party organizations, our digital twin and modeling tool environment provides confidence in our analysis and training pipeline for JADC2-enabling technologies. This expands from virtual constructive testing in the lab, to the intermediary non-traditional open-air battle lab, all the way to the field with the warfighter.
By allowing for a highly realistic and representative modeling of the RF signal environment with these platforms, defense leaders can analyze multi-domain effects on missions such as Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T), collaborative effects, or other advanced missions. This experience will help JADC2 efforts model the future battlespace to scale in a lab environment, demonstrating new technologies and battle tactics earlier. Modeling enables new functionality and concepts for JADC2 and realizes the connected battlespace faster with lower development costs.