Podcast: Five Eyes Connectivity - Tactical data links
Welcome to Shephard Studio’s special series on Five Eyes Connectivity, sponsored by our partner Viasat.
In the Five Eyes Connectivity podcast special, we look at the changing face of modern warfare across the land, sea and air domains through the prism of three key technology areas: Satellite communications, line of sight data links and cybersecurity.
In this episode, we turn to military tactical data links and look at how military planners are working to create a fully networked force where each platform sensor and operator are tied together on that highly resilient line of sight network.
We look at upgrades to the ubiquitous Link 16 network and hear how the US Air Force plans to take the data link into low Earth orbit for even greater reach.
And we will hear from our sponsor Viasat on how the private sector is stepping in to assist militaries develop these technology areas further.
Find Part 1 in our series here
And Part 3 here
To access bonus content, including more detailed interviews with the Canadian armed forces about how it is enhancing its information sharing, click here
The podcast series features music and effects by: Bobby Cole; Neil Cross; Romolo Komars Diprisco; Jason Donnelly; Michael Genato and Mark Merlino; Ceiri Torjussen
A transcript of this episode is below:
Following the events of 9/11, western militaries were forced for more than a decade to focus resources on the counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
While both campaigns brought many harsh lessons for the US and its allies, a generation of military commanders came of age when having technological overmatch on the battlefield was a given.
But with the rise of China and the emergence of an increasingly muscular and self-assertive Russia, the West can no longer take things like better equipped troops as superiority and dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum for granted in any future conflict.
Indeed, as we heard last episode, the need to prepare for high intensity operations has led Five Eyes military forces to champion the idea of multi-domain operations.
As a refresher on the idea of multi-domain operations and how the technologies that underpin the concept are now central to transformation plans, here's General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force.
Gen. Goldfein: ‘But modernisation is not defined solely by hardware. It requires changes in the way we organise, train, develop and then employee forces. Victory in future combat will depend less on the individual capabilities and more on our integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ. An integrated and collaborative approach is central to unleashing the potential of multi-domain operations. So, what's new? As I said, our platforms today already work cross domain. We have weapons and aircraft that are guided by space and ground units that are networked to air platforms.
‘What I'm talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected not by point-to-point circuits, but in a mesh network that is highly resilient and self-healing, and they're not just connected either - they're part of a command and control system that automatically pairs the right sensors for the right target, using data from all platforms and sensors, identifying and refining targets automatically and allocating weapons to targets, allowing us to converge effects in a synchronised and simultaneous manner.’
Welcome to Shephard Studio’s special series on Five Eyes connectivity, sponsored by our partner Viasat.
In this special series, we're looking at the changing face of modern warfare across the land, sea, and air domains through the prism of three key technology areas: Satellite communications, line of sight data links and cybersecurity.
In this episode we turn to the tactical data links and look at how military planners are working to create a fully networked force where each platform sensor and operator are tied together on that highly resilient line of sight network.
We look at upgrades to the ubiquitous Link 16 network and hear how the US Air Force plans to take the data link into low Earth orbit for even greater reach.
And we will hear from our sponsor Viasat on how the private sector is stepping in to assist militaries develop these technology areas further.
But first, let's revisit the need for the new operational approaches currently being fostered by the Five Eyes nations.
The UK has also placed the concept of multi-domain operations central to its transformation. Here is Air Commodore Phil Lester, the head of Air and Space at the UK MOD's Developments Concepts and Doctrine Centre.
Air Cdre Lester: ‘So, the contemporary continuum of competition is increasingly ambiguous and uncertain. It is no longer, if it ever really was, a linear or sequential pathway and involves a substrate of state-sponsored, organised disinformation crime and interference with the everyday life of those occupying the rules based international order. Rather, it is a multidimensional amalgam of different conditions occurring at the same time and in different places but with the same actor. Multi-domain operations have become a catch phrase for a potentially new conceptual operational approach. For the United Kingdom, joint action is our framework approach to integrate information activities with fires, manoeuvre and outreach to gain operational competitive advantage, and placing influence as the primary outcome and integration at its core as the principal enabling tenet.
‘Tempo and the precision of effect will continue to be generated predominantly, but not solely, by a joint force - planning and executing operations within and across multiple domains rapidly to maintain the initiative and oppose the adversary with multiple insoluble dilemmas. Yet, joint action needs to evolve so that we can keep pace with and ideally be ahead of the specific challenges posed by hostile states. The continued drive towards the calibration of all multi-domain activities, whether they are conducted and owned by the Royal Navy, Army or the Royal Air Force must be at the heart of such adaptation.
‘The threats we face, whether they be from the sea, on land, across the increasingly blurred air and space domains, as well as from cyberspace, all encapsulated within hostile and deceptive information activities will be challenging, but we must be able to deter attacks, detect them when they occur and face them head on. This requires increased strategic orchestration within defence and integration across all of our war fighting domains to ensure the defence contribution remains fused with national objectives and priorities.’
Despite this renewed emphasis, this is not to say that the concept of joint cross-domain military operations is in itself anything new.
Here's a quote for you: ‘Separate ground, sea and air warfare is gone forever. If we ever again should be involved in war, we will fight with all elements, with all services as one single concentrated effort.’
That was Dwight D. Eisenhower speaking in 1946.
For this reason, Rear Admiral Matt Briers who is director Carrier Strike at the UK Ministry of Defence sounds a word of caution.
RAdm Briers: ‘I would contend and, just to put a bit of vinegar into the conversation for the panel, that actually multi-domain operations are nothing new. It is a logical extrapolation of where we've been and we've been trying to be for years. Our aim has always been to out OODA [observe–orient–decide–act] the enemy, to think faster than him, to provide him with multiple challenges that he's going to have to deal with at the worst possible time for him. What we're doing though is enabling. That's not to say that I don't agree with multi-domain operations and the ideas there're in, I'm just nervous about buzzwords, and that applies directly to my service with distributed maritime operations, which looks a lot to me like Link 16 on steroids with a bit of added additionality. So, I think we just need to be careful because these terms can exclude people from embracing them.’
So, with that word of caution duly sounded, in this episode, we focus on the importance of the networks that enable multi-domain operations and the data links that bind those networks together.
Data links are the backbone of any modern armed service, supporting communication between individual soldiers and units at the bottom end up to an entire deployed force or during allied joint operations at the highest level of complexity.
Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that the ability of military elements to cooperate is only as effective as the data links that can facilitate the required transfer of information.
Air-Vice Marshall, Simon Rochelle is Chief of Staff Capability at the Royal Air Force. Speaking at the Air and Space Power Conference earlier this year, he outlined the importance of the network.
AVM Rochelle: ‘So, we think we have started to galvanise our system and mechanise it so that it can try and challenge these things. I have previously spoken about this. The network is absolutely critical - two years ago we were sitting here looking at this and my team and I looking at all of these connecting lightning bolts and we've seen those for years, haven’t we, network centric warfare. There was an SRA for that a long time ago and a lot of those things never came to fruition. We have stopped that dynamic. I know how to solve that bit in the air and my team had been told go and put these elements that will bring that together into your programmes of record.
‘We have managed to connect aircraft to soldiers with TV screens on their wrist at the forward edge of the battle. We've done that, so it shouldn't be such a natural extension to make sure an F-35 image can end up inside an Ajax turret - digital platform [to] digital platform, we should be able to do that. Forward recce, with AJAX vehicles going forward at the edge of the A2/AD environment, we should be able to give it the latest update. So, we're on that challenge. The bit on the ground is more complicated, sometimes because of how we acquire information systems, but what is strange is watching how quickly the commercial world is doing it for themselves.
‘I am led to believe that the DoD commercial contracting team have jumped to the Google sites because it is more secure, because Google is spending £1 billion a year on security where we in our services have not being paying that amount of money in our security systems. So, these are the dynamics that we now have to get at to do that. I'm convinced from an Air and Space Power perspective, if we can't understand the data that we gather, the information that we gather and corral it for ourselves and be prepared to distribute it the land open system architecture or into the carrier or into the Type 45, we will in our duties have failed to pick up that bond. It is not somebody else's task to do that, it is our task to do that to make sure these aren't shiny silver toys - these are toys that are relevant, pushing information around the battlefield.’
The ability to instantly access the Internet through our smart phones, tablets and laptops is largely taken for granted in the civilian world.
Despite the huge challenges inherent in providing a similar high capacity connectivity to vehicles, aircraft and ships as well as troops on the ground, such networks are critical enablers of military operations.
Here's Ken Peterman, president of Government Systems at Viasat, which is sponsoring this podcast.
Peterman: ‘It's important to understand that assured connectivity and high capacity trusted connectivity is a critical enabler for so many things. It enables access to the cloud, it enables cognitive decision aids, it enables proactive information flow, just like we get in our civilian life. So, in our civilian life you're proactively notified if there's congestion on a road that you're about to go to travel on. You're proactively notified if an item that you've been shopping for is now on sale and can be purchased at a discount, and these kinds of capabilities have direct applicability to the war fighter environment where the stakes are higher and it's increasingly ever more important.
‘So, for example, to proactively tip and cue a war fighter that the situation is changing or the adversary is moving through a particular manoeuvre or a changing con op that could signal a change in behaviour, could signal that the environment is going to become more threatening, it could signal that warfighter needs to implement a change in tactics or take a defensive posture or exploit an opportunity. This type of cognitive decision aid and proactive tipping and cueing that comes from the cloud and is enabled by machine learning and artificial intelligence in the fusing of information and sensory information from multiple sources, all of this is enabled by a secure assured high capacity communications infrastructure that provides the warfighter connectivity to the force as well as to the cloud, so that they can have access to the same type of information that we all rely on every day in our civilian and personal lives.’
Among the speakers at the Air and Space Power Conference was Major General Tonje Skinnarland, Chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
During her presentation, General Skinnarland outlined how the NATO member was using advances in networking technologies to develop joint ISR and joint targeting capabilities.
Maj Gen Skinnarland: ‘We need to develop a joint ISR and joint targeting capability to fully utilise the potential of both P-8s, F-35s and other capabilities cross service. We need to change the mindset on how to execute multi-domain command and control and develop plans for delegating engagement authority to autonomous platform levels in time and space. The prerequisites for multi-domain operations are to be connected across domains and services, to share information between allies at the property security level and with capacity to support the demands of data exchange that goes with network enabling weapons.
‘Furthermore, the networks need resilience against electronic warfare and the challenges we face in cyber and space domain - it is a contested environment and will be for the future.’
However, for each new military function that is enabled by the tactical networks, the increased activity that the function enables also increases pressure on the network itself.
Since the 1980s, the ability of units to communicate with each other has centred around the US developed Link 16 data link.
The Link 16 waveform has proven useful over the past three decades, but new challenges are emerging as military forces develop platforms and capabilities that require a more enhanced form of communications in networking.
There are additional requirements for increased throughput capacity and security.
Here Viasat's Ken Peterman explains how the company is updating the Link 16 network to cope with the demands of the modern battlefield.
Peterman: ‘Well, I think one of the things to bear in mind is that the multi-domain battle space expands the field of view. It expands the area of operations across a much broader geography. When you think of fighter aircraft or close air support aircraft that are moving at high rates of speed, it's more important than ever that the situation awareness picture, the common operating picture that provides the definitive lay down of where the friendly forces are, where the adversary forces are and other relevant information, that geographic domain is much broader than it ever has been before. If you go back 30 or 40 years, a soldier in a foxhole really only cared about what was within a kilometre of them. If it wasn't within the range of their weapon, it really didn't matter, relative to informing of the world around them, from a common operational picture perspective.
‘Today that's completely different, okay. You have... it's important for the war fighters on the ground to see the world around them in a much broader field of view and it's important for the air ground common operational picture to be blended because a soldier on the ground needs to know whose UAV that is and how they can tap into the video that that UAV is capturing. They need to know who's helicopter that is and the same thing that’s true with the helicopter is true with the close air support. They need to know who's in the foxhole. Is that a friend or is it not? Okay, and given the rate of the pace of play, the accelerating pace of the battle and the accelerating speeds at which the different platforms move, it's more important than ever that this common operational picture be expanded broader than it's ever been before.
‘That places enormous burdens on the communications infrastructure because the common operational picture, the data that comprises that has to push around the battlefield faster and broader and more extensively than it ever has been before. It also has to be trusted in the sense that we didn't used to worry about cyber threats and things like that. We worried about jamming, but we didn't worry so much about cyber threats, and now we have to because if that common operational picture isn't trusted then it actually loses its complete value. The multi-domain battle space that stretches across land, sea, air space, RF spectrum, cyber and all of those different domains comes into play now and it places burdens on the communications infrastructure in a way that has never existed before.
‘Link 16 is addressing that because what we're doing in Link 16 is expanding the feature set, and in Viasat that we're expanding that feature set and the capability well in advance of the formal emerging requirements that are being documented by the customer community. We're extending the throughput, we're providing the ability to monitor and receive on multiple networks simultaneously. We're creating the capability and have created the capability and implemented it to receive multiple messages in a single time slot. All of these things accelerate the flow of critical information, so it accelerates decision making and assures that relevant information is available at the point of relevance so the decisions can be made faster and in a more timely manner, and the speed of decision making is the critical advantage on the battlefield. Moving faster than your opponent can move, making decisions faster. Having clarity of the situation is the critical enabler to create battlefield advantage.’
One notable Link 16 upgrade effort is being undertaken by the Air Force Research Laboratory.
The Space Vehicles XVI program - named after the Roman numerals for 16 - will deliver and test the first ever Link 16 capable low Earth orbit satellite.
The XVI program is a key step towards making a global Link 16 enabled LEO satellite constellation transforming Link 16 from a line of sight to a beyond line of sight network.
This in turn will help provide US and Five Eyes military forces with ubiquitous, secure, high speed and resilient communications necessary to improve the common operating picture across the global battle space.
We spoke to the Air Force Research Laboratory and 2nd Lieutenant Sean Hamill, the mission manager for the XVI program to find out more.
2d Lt Hamel: ‘So, XVI is a commercially provided cube sat that will be hosting Link 16 from space, and what we were looking to do is show how a commercially provided bus can be integrated with the Department of Defence payload for a low-cost technology demonstration. Specifically we're looking to demonstrate use of Link 16 from low Earth orbit. Putting Link 16 into space will allow our warfighters a better communications path for information. The contract was awarded back in February, and the overall period of performance is 22 months. Currently we've gone through program kickoff back in March. In July, we went through preliminary design review and we're coming up on critical design review in October.
‘Viasat is the prime contractor for the effort with Blue Canyon Technologies and Roccor as the subcontractors. One of the main goals of our program is to show that there are no changes needed on the terrestrial terminals. Really the biggest challenge is seeing as this technology is really even viable in orbit with radiation issues, so we're really just trying to explore that and see what the use cases are for Link 16 from space. The biggest problem with this can be from radiation issues with the technology, so low Earth orbit gives us the lowest radiation levels to demonstrate this technology.
‘Some of our main milestones coming up is we're going to be having critical design review in October and following that is when we will start flat sat testing and integration and after that we will be working on the spacecraft bus itself. So, we have been looking at this concept and really digging into what it will entail, so being able to get this technology on a satellite and up in space is very exciting for us here.’
With Viasat under contract to deliver the Link 16 capable LEO satellite, the company is adapting its hybrid adaptive network satellite communications concept.
The Hybrid Adaptive Network architecture will allow users to operate across commercial and government SATCOM networks, creating an end-to-end multi-layered solution resilient to network congestion, intentional and unintentional interference and cyber threats even in highly contested environments.
Ken Peterman explains more.
Peterman: ‘And we've even implemented Link 16 in LEO small satellites, so that we're implementing range extension, so that Link 16 is no longer just a line of sight tactical data link but now has extensibility beyond line of sight to satellite communications, and it makes it part of the global satellite network, extending the range dramatically. It's a proof of concept to validate that Link 16 on an orbiting satellite at LEO with the speed of the satellite and the effects of Doppler and things like that are manageable on the Link 16 network. We've put Link 16 on high speed aircraft, but putting it on a LEO takes it to another level. There's the distance of a LEO, because it's farther from the earth.
‘There is the speed of a LEO which is faster than most of the aircraft we have... Any of the aircraft that we've implemented Link 16 on. All the math, models and simulations say that Link 16 will work in that environment. We have a contract now to implement Link 16 in a small sat and put that small sat in orbit, in low Earth orbit and actually run test to communicate with that small sat to all the different products in our portfolio to assure that that is a viable member of the network and that Link 16 fully supports that. It demonstrates the range extension, also improves the viability of that. So, we're under contract to do that and we expect to complete the contract and to see the satellite launch in the summer of 2020, and it's an exciting program that dramatically extends Link 16 from a line of sight network to a global network, and now Link 16 can become a part of this global infrastructure for all Five Eye nations.
‘Putting Link 16 on a LEO satellite and then extending that to a constellation of say 50 or 60 or 70 LEO satellites that implement Link 16, it effectively creates the same kind of a cellular tower infrastructure so that Link 16 terminals now have a backbone architecture, a global infrastructure that they can connect into no matter where they are. It effectively also means that a user or a soldier with a line of sight Link 16 terminal now effectively has a SATCOM terminal because they can... by communicating to the Link 16 terminal at LEO, that LEO satellite can route that information effectively globally, so it just extends the reach of the network. It extends the available information at the user level and it accelerates the information flow, creating information dominance which creates advantage in multi-domain battle space.’
With multi-domain operations the focus of so many military technology development efforts, let's look at the Canadian Army's networking requirements.
Colonel Mark Parsons is director of Land Command Information for the Canadian Army.
Colonel Parsons was in London earlier this year and sat down with us to outline how the Canadian Army is modernising its ISR and tactical communications capabilities.
Col Parsons: ‘When we look at situational awareness, that is probably one of the key components for any commander to know not only where their people are, but also where the resources and all of the elements of what they need to contribute to the battle, they need that understanding of where everything is. The interesting thing about situational awareness intelligence: it's not just one aspect, but it's every aspect. So no matter what capability is being developed, whether it be a tank, whether it be an artillery piece, there is some type of situational awareness that needs to be knit together.
‘The Canadian Army and the commander have realised very early that if you don't focus your attention on that portion of it specifically to make sure that everything comes together, then whatever you push at the end is a bit of a lost cause. So, we're putting together different portfolios inside of the Canadian Army and one of them is specifically to address that intelligence and situational awareness and bringing in surveillance, and see to if all those different things together so that we're able to provide an agile type of capability.
‘We talk about network centricity, really what it comes down to is how are we interoperable on a network level - not only amongst us ourselves, because you do have the army, navy, air force, special operations, you have all of those elements - but when you show up to an operation or to an exercise, you need to be able to share those bits and bytes with your allies and the participants. Canada's in a very unique position just on the basis that we're definitely part of NATO, we're definitely embedded inside of the Afghans, we have bilateral partnership with the US, so when you look at the priorities of those three different types organisations, we have to put together our networks and systems to be compatible in any of those three cases, either simultaneously or in a rigorous pattern.
‘To further complicate the issue is that because we are so geographically dispersed in Canada and we have three brigades that are literally thousands of kilometres apart, sometimes they aren't at the same baseline. So, when you look at that interoperability bit, it's how do we make sure we're putting our best efforts forward in an agile fashion in order to make sure that we are compatible with ourselves, but also interoperable with our allies. And that's part of the mandate of the change that we're putting forward in the projects that we're launching in the next five to six years.
‘We always have that in mind, but it is going to be definitely linked towards technology. So, how do we leverage technology to be able to do that rather than us identifying a whole bunch of stuff and trying to fit it through in order to piecemeal it together?’
Colonel Parsons also raises a theme that was frequently mentioned by the people interviewed for this podcast series.
That's the trend that in the not so distant past, the military was accustomed to developing new technologies from scratch whenever it needed a new capability.
Such military inventions have helped given the world technologies such as the Internet and satellite navigation, but when it comes to the technologies covered in this podcast series, satellite communications, line of sight data links and cybersecurity, private industry is now at the crest of the technology wave.
Col Parsons: ‘Gone are the days of the 1950s and 1960s when it was the military industrial movement that actually was influencing society. It's quite the opposite now - it's actually industry that is miles and miles ahead of the military on technology and other capabilities. So, how do we harness that in such a way that we are going to be as fast as possible to adapt? Fast as possible from a user perspective yet still live inside of a large political arena where we're given very strict guidelines as to how we can procure... the methodologies for procurement in order to be as fair and equitable to all of our industry partners and still be favourable to the Canadian industry and others? So, my message is, let the soldiers continue to be creative, give them their sandboxes, leverage the science and technology communities so that the things that we're talking about, we can actually see exactly what it is that they're going to use and move that forward to satisfy the objectives that you're trying to accomplish.’
Here Viasat's Ken Peterman provide some additional examples of how industry is providing solutions that increase the capabilities of tactical networks and data link throughput.
Such advances help accelerate the flow of critical information, aiding military decision making and ensuring relevant information is presented to the right units in a timely manner.
Peterman: ‘Because what we're doing in Link 16 is expanding the feature set, in Viasat we're expanding that feature set and the capability well in advance of the formal emerging requirements that are being documented by the customer community. We're extending the throughput, we're providing the ability to monitor and receive on multiple networks simultaneously. We're creating the capability - and have created the capability - and implemented it to receive multiple messages in a single time slot. All of these things accelerate the flow of critical information, so it accelerates decision making and assures that relevant information is available at the point of relevance so that decisions can be made faster in a more timely manner and the speed of decision making is the critical advantage on the battlefield. Moving faster than your opponent can move, making decisions faster, having clarity of the situation is the critical enabler to create battlefield advantage.
‘It's important also that we're implementing dynamic power management, so that we're transmitting at lower power levels to avoid geolocation, work in improving interference mitigation in our effectiveness against electromagnetic interference and jamming. We are expanding the portfolio of our Link 16 products to go beyond the original exquisite terminals that are expensive and large and are inappropriate, originally designed for things like fighter and close air support aircraft, and we're creating small tactical terminals that are less expensive but just as capable so that they can be implemented in platforms like helicopters and ground vehicles.’
‘We're implementing and expanding the portfolio to include handheld devices, so that individual soldiers - like joint tactical air controllers on the ground - can communicate digitally to close air support aircraft, so that the situational awareness picture on the ground: the location of friendly and adversary forces, the locations of areas where there might be children or collateral activity that we want to avoid harming. We're now able to communicate that digitally to the close air support aircraft and the close air support aircraft can digitally synchronise their weapon system with that information so that it creates a near mathematical certainty that the weapon system understands that tactical picture on the ground, and where the friendly and adversary forces are, and it can implement rules of engagement much more effectively to avoid collateral damage or fratricide.’
‘This is critically, critically important, so we're expanding the portfolio to small tactical terminals. We're expanding the portfolio to handheld Link 16 terminals.’
The development of small tactical Link 16 terminals is one significant advance.
As one example, the Small Tactical Terminal KOR-24A, which is co-developed by Viasat and Harris, is a two channel radio designed to meet the needs of users who have size, weight and power constraints, but need the information available on Link 16 networks and tactical VHF/UHF.
This allows tactical warfighters including ground vehicles, helicopters, UAV, small boats, and light ISR aircraft to have simultaneous access to Link 16 and either wide band UHF or legacy VHF/UHF.
As Ken Peterman explains, the small tactical terminal brings real time situational awareness, location data and command and control to the tactical edge.
Peterman: ‘The large exquisite product that we sell to aircraft and ships is our MIDS JTRS terminal and that product's been around for a decade or so. Thousands have been fielded and it is perhaps the most robust and resilient tactical data link in the field today amongst Five Eye forces. It clearly is a vital part of our communications strategy for Five Eye militaries. Now, we created the Small Tactical Terminal or the KOR-24A, and the Small Tactical Terminal is a two channel device that has Link 16 in one channel and then it implements other tactical wave forms into the other channel at VHF and UHF frequency bands. It is a very viable product that advantages these platforms like helicopters and ground vehicles in a way, so they are part of the Link 16 network now - they never had been before.
‘It's been selected by Canada to be deployed into Canadian platforms and it has been selected by the UK to be deployed into the Apache helicopter that the UK utilises, but it's seeing more broad applicability. We put that device in a product we call the MOJO, which stands for move out and jump off. The MOJO enables the situational awareness picture in the air to be blended with the situation awareness picture on the ground. This has never been possible before. There was a ground SA picture and there was an air SA picture, but they were never blended. So, the ground... if you had access to a blue force tracking or some type of... if you're on the ground you could see the ground picture, but when an aircraft flew over or when a helicopter flew over, when a UAV flew over, you did not know conclusively whether that was a friend or foe.
‘We're solving that with this product we call the MOJO because we're blending the air ground situational awareness picture, and you can imagine that if you're the pilot of a helicopter or you're the pilot of a close air support aircraft, that it is critically important for you to know whether that's a friend or foe in that foxhole a thousand feet below you. So we're able to deliver that capability for the first time and we're doing that kind of thing proactively because we're partnering our veterans who have worn the uniform with our engineers and technologists, and proactively bringing forward these capabilities like small tactical Link 16 terminals, handheld Link 16 terminals like our BATS-D and the MOJO device that blends the air and ground situation awareness picture.
‘We're bringing these capabilities forward proactively because we're trying to bring a better way for our warfighters to perform their mission safely, and we want to bring this accelerating technology, this cutting-edge technology to our young men and women in uniform as fast as we possibly can. So, in many ways we are not waiting for the acquisition system, we're just moving out.’
One further consideration here. As military networks and tactical data links become more capable, young soldiers, sailors and airmen find themselves in operations with connectivity they take for granted in the civilian world.
Ken Peterman explains that having access to next generation military networks allows the creative energies of military personnel to be unleashed.
Peterman: ’What we need to do is push the relevant information to the point of relevance. We need to determine what information the cloud or the sensors can see and who that information is relevant to, and then push the actionable relevant information to the point of relevance, so decision cycles can be accelerated. That's what's critical, and it's especially important among the Five Eye countries because in the Five Eye countries, our young people have grown up in a connected world. They've grown up developing decision processes and cognitive behaviours that depend on connectivity, and depend on cloud access. It's routine to see a young person asking Siri where their friends are or what's the best route to get to here, what movie's playing at the theatre or what's on the school lunch program today.
‘Our young people access the cloud on a routine basis as a normal part of their day and their cognitive decision processes and their decision making behaviours have become increasingly dependent and increasingly reliant upon that kind of cloud connectivity, that kind of cloud empowerment and when some of those young people put on the uniform and go into the service of our nations, whether that's in the UK or Canada or Australia, the United States or wherever… When those people put the uniform and go into the service of our respective nations, it is unfair for us. In fact, some would say it's irresponsible for us to take that connectivity and cloud empowerment away. For many of them, we take it away for the first time in their lives, okay, and so they're forced to go into some of the most stressful difficult situations of their life with effectively one arm tied behind their back, because for the first time in their life, they don't have the cloud, they don't have assured connectivity and they don't have this trusted source that provides a cognitive decision aid. So it's critically important and at Viasat we are absolutely passionate about making sure that our young people in uniform have this kind of conductivity, assured trusted conductivity so they have, in the same way that they do in the civilian life.
‘It unleashes their creative energies to be innovative and to exploit the talent that we have among these Five Eye countries, that our young people have in order to be creative and be innovative and much of that is what comprises the strength and the advantage that our forces have. It's important that we enable that and preserve that, so that when they move from the civilian world to the uniformed world, that that capability is still there for them.’
Next time on Five Eyes connectivity, we turn our attention to the cyber world and consider the paradigm that as militaries become ever-more connected, the threat of cyber attacks from adversaries becomes a serious reality.
We hear from two major military services, the US Navy and Canadian Army, about how they're shaping their organisations to better deal with the new cybersecurity challenges.
And we speak to our sponsor Viasat on how the private sector is stepping in to assist militaries as they further develop these technology areas.
So, that's episode three, next time on Five Eyes connectivity, available now wherever you get your podcasts.
The Five Eyes connectivity podcast special was created by Shephard Studio and produced by Tony Skinner in partnership with our sponsor Viasat. A big thanks to everyone who gave their time to support the project. Until next time.
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