The Power of the Connected Battlespace Ripples Across the Global Defense Landscape

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Connected Battlespace

Recent U.S. initiatives such as JEDI, Advanced Battle Management Systems (ABMS), or Project Convergence are expressions of a new collaborative paradigm taking place. Under this paradigm, not only it is okay to fail, but it is encouraged, because technologies and capabilities are evolving faster than our ability to plan procurement, calling for experimentation, demonstration, and testing. Obviously, as these initiatives are being rolled out, outcomes are not always perfect, and players are learning to work together across the connected battlespace to develop new processes or innovative contracting mechanisms. It has been a bit of a messy endeavor, but a necessary one.

Based on some lessons learned, but also on narrowing capability advantages with potential adversaries, U.S. allies are now also moving in this direction. The U.K. and Australia are close followers with their own initiatives, promoting sovereign requirements, local investments and aligned with regional geopolitical realities. In Canada, emerging policy drivers are pointing at the connected battlespace to eventually become the dominant paradigm. And most, if not all, democracies are making it a key consideration for interoperability with their allies. Recognizing the potential of emerging technologies and factoring in the importance of (re)starting economies in a post-COVID world, U.S. allies are opening the doors of defense innovation to the commercial sector with a view to supporting national prosperity agendas.

Indeed, over the past decade, the phenomenal development of emerging technologies has created opportunities for defense customers around the world. These technologies, mostly developed in adjacent sectors such as telecommunications, space, and information technologies are now drivers of changes in how the defense sector is going about providing enhanced capabilities for the armed forces.

Whether we highlight the role and contribution of AI, cloud computing, 5G, LEO satellite capabilities, or quantum, we end up reaffirming the centrality of data, the new currency of the connected battlespace. At the core of the defense construct, there are new perspectives focused on creating a common operating picture by exploring several different elements: the new defense capability gaps, how data is transformed into information, how it is protected and shared, and how decisions are made by whom and at what speed. It also supports the strategic superiority of multi-domain operations over stove pipe-driven services.

However, at the same time, these new perspectives command a transformational journey in the defense enterprise which goes much beyond the complexity of the procurement. The interplay between emerging technologies mostly developed in the commercial sector with the defense construct is a source of challenge. Indeed, for decades, forces relied on tangible, physical assets being upgraded layer upon layer, piece by piece, so integrating new digital capabilities is not a given. Executing coherently on the connected battlespace demands that every new platform contributes to the creation of a system of systems and may require legacy platform upgrades.

In this environment, Collins Aerospace focuses on modular, open-system architectures, and develops unique, integrated solutions that enable more efficient networking, targeting, communications, and autonomy, exploring how we can enhance capabilities over and above meeting a set of specifications. As we progress, we are realizing that connectivity and interoperability are more a question that should be answered first in cyberspace, through digital engineering and modeling, then in the theater of operations. We believe that by working closely with our customers around the world, we will be able to knit the fabric of the connected battlespace while ensuring tailored solutions factor in local considerations.

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Guillaume Cote is the Principal Strategy Development Manager, Global Strategy, Mission Systems at Collins Aerospace