Multi-Domain Operations: Becoming Today's Swiss Army Knife
January 25, 2019
Defense News recently released their annual Outlook . If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a great read consisting of a few dozen essays by world leaders looking at the trends and issues, like multi-domain operations, that will most impact the global defense industry.
This year, one essay in particular jumped out at me. General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, wrote an insightful article about multi-domain operations. His analogy of lanterns from the Revolutionary War is very apt, and it helps put into perspective the challenges we face today. Perhaps this quote from his essay is most concise:
“Whoever figures out how to quickly gather information in various domains and just as quickly direct military actions will have the decisive advantage in battle.”
When General Goldfein talks about multi-domain, he is referring to the military's work on land, at sea, in the air, in space and in the electromagnetic and cyberspace realms. Traditionally, most defense forces have focused on one domain at a time – in silos. Hence, why we have the Army (for land), Navy (for sea) and Air Force (for air). But domains are not mutually exclusive. They need to work interactively in order to gain the most benefit. As was quickly discovered as early as WWI, air supremacy can significantly improve land operations.
Today, you can add in the complexity of electronics and how they have changed the battlefield. You quickly realize why the multi-domain initiative is so important. Communication and coordination between historical “domains” is critical.
One way to break down these traditional silos of information is through data fusion at the tactical edge. Battlefields now have a plethora of sensors collecting data and information. The challenge is to take all that data and make sense out of it – quickly. Doing this requires powerful software algorithms and the secure hardware systems that can deliver cross-domain answers.
Over the past few years, through R&D and acquisitions, I have seen Mercury Systems continue to invest heavily in developing the hardware needed for data fusion enabling multi-domain applications at the tactical edge. For example, our solutions help an unmanned surveillance aircraft take radar, SIGINT, location and visual sensor feeds, combine them into a comprehensive picture and quickly communicate that to ground forces.
In order to do this, we take the latest commercial innovations in technology and integrate them into systems that can perform and survive in defense applications. Partnering with firms like Intel, NVIDIA, Xilinx and others, we leverage their latest products to manufacture electronics specifically designed for use in rugged environments. Examples include:
- AESA radars in the nose cone of jets
- Rack-mounted cloud servers in ships and submarines
- Mobile EW systems in land vehicles
To accomplish this, we design and manufacture many of our systems in our trusted and DMEA-certified facility in Phoenix, Arizona. To learn more about how we do this, read our whitepaper, Next Generation Integrated Defense Electronics Manufacturing – Deploying innovation at the speed of technology.