Breaking Barriers - The Tech Race for Multi-Domain Operations
Today's geopolitical landscape is rapidly shifting under our feet. We find ourselves spectators to the resurgence of great power competition, a drama heightened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and driven by the high stakes rivalry between the West and China. At the same time, the world's armed forces are at the cusp of transformation, marking one of the most significant changes in military history.
We're now back in an era of great power, confrontation and conflict. So that's a completely different military recipe. We know that our 1v1 physical science advantages, whether it be in air, in space, in cyber, in all of the domains, we can no longer rely on that advantage.
That return to great power confrontation is occurring at the same time as the digital age changes how we, not just how we live and fight and work but everything. The 21st century battlefield is no longer confined to land, air and sea. Military operations have evolved, extending into the realms of cyber and space. From this change emerges a new approach to warfare: Multi-Domain Operations transforming the very way we perceive and operate on the battlefield.
We're in a changing world and we now have great power competition again. So the main purpose of MDO or Multi-Domain integration, as we call it in the UK, is to ensure that all of our allies can interoperate seamlessly with us, but also to interoperate with ourselves across government and also across domains. Multi-Domain operations is really optimizing what we've always done with our Joint forces and our allies is, is we fight together. And so how do we deliver solutions that can break down the the human in the loop and the stovepipes that we realize between our platforms, between our nations, between our services to optimize the synergy and the ability to collaborate dynamically and for the best operational advantages as we fight together.
We are in the foothills of the most significant transformation of armed forces for over 100 years. Imagine a battlefield of the future. It's not just land, air or sea anymore, but also cyber, space and information.
This is the realm of multi-domain operations. It breaks down traditional silos, weaving together capabilities from all domains for coordinated action. With multi-domain operations commanders can synchronize actions across all domains, making decisions at the speed of relevance.
They can respond to threats and seize opportunities faster than ever before. In this complex web. the winning move isn't just about strength.
It's about understanding, speed and scale. Multi-Domain operations goes by many names, including CJADC2 and Multi-Domain Integration. At its core, it's about achieving decision dominance in an increasingly complex world. It's being able to integrate those five domains, which is land, sea, air, space and the cyber and electromagnetic domains.
Now, in order to do that, you must have common standards and an open architecture so that people can come and go with capabilities as they're required, as threats evolve and emerge. So it's really, it's not one specific technology, but it's being able to blend all of them at the point of need. Warfare has now transitioned to this very large scale, very complex set of operations that use precision and mass together to be able to achieve effects.
And that the challenge for militaries is if you're going to be able to succeed in both defending yourself or causing damage to the enemy, you're going to be able to need to work across domains. We are in the foothills of the most significant transformation of armed forces for over 100 years in the way that the combinations of digital age technologies change, not just how we equip but how we organize and the methods and tactics that are adopted. And this isn't something that is well understood because it's a journey of evolution with the prospect of transformation.
The core enabler of Multi-Domain Operations is interoperability between platforms and allies. Each operator must be an effective force multiplier regardless of the capabilities they bring to the field. And all our security depends on collective security, whether that's in NATO, If you live in Europe or it's in the binding together of like minded powers in Indo-Pacific. So if collective security is the only way we can be affordably big enough, good enough and sustainable enough, then when we talk about technology, collective responses, collective solutions that bind allies together has to be the first thought, not an afterthought.
When we go to war and we go to war usually with allies and some of our best allies. And what you find typically is we actually do quite well even using 20th century way of command and control. We do very, very well. I think bringing in that 21st century level of command and control and battle management extends an efficiency and resiliency that we don't typically see today. Yeah, I think every ally brings something to the fight.
They would benefit tremendously from being plugged into the the JADC2 network. They would be optimized in in whatever mission they would be allotted to do, because they know that there's a wider force that is looking at all the information available to it. And a decision maker is far more informed to deliver that mission.
So no more that we built this wonderful thing but is closed and the gateway’s too complicated. All of those discussions need to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Collective defense is the only way forward for nearly all of us. But what exactly is the geopolitical context for Multi-Domain Operations and why is the transformation of our militaries so crucial? Ukraine, even though it's not a world war, it still is exhibiting all these these kind of some symptoms of modern warfare. The use of the cyber tools and also electromagnetic spectrum tools to defeat enemy sensors and decision making. It's got the whole panoply of capabilities.
But the only way to succeed in that environment is to be able to employ advantages you have in one domain against threats in another domain. And that's why you see Multi-Domain Operations really rising as a feature of modern warfare. We need to, with our allies, find ways to optimize our investments, our platforms, our warfighters, to bring together the synergy that can be realized through that data integration.
Ukraine's highlighting, you know, these these new domains of cyberspace and the electromagnetic sector and space, but it's also highlighting some very basic facts about the fact that combined arms warfare still requires air power and land power or surface power to be employed together to achieve gains against your enemy. What differentiates Multi-Domain Operations from past combined arms warfare is the flow of data and the speed of decision making. The technologies that have had such an effect on our daily lives are also transforming the way the military operates. Right now, it's a lot of humans speaking to each other, and that's a good thing.
Whether it be phone calls or on chat messages. But if we can optimize how that data flows and how those decisions are made, whether it be using artificial intelligence and machine learning or whether it be just automatically giving situational awareness across allied entities, to me, that is where the advantage can be gained. When it’s fully realised, MDO will enable allies to integrate seamlessly together. So rather than having to go to theater of operations and get a log on for someone else's system, you will turn up with your systems and your technologies and through the common standards and open architectures, expect them to interoperate together quickly and easily. Perhaps not seamlessly at first, but that's the direction of travel.
All our nations are trying to move through the 21st century. A lot of folks are struggling on what that really means because they were trained in the 20th century way of battle management. And so part of the paradigm shift is not just technology.
It's about getting people out of the 20th century mindset into a more 21st century way of battle management, command and control. That could be the hardest paradigm shift. How is that data going to be protected as we start to expose it to multiple entities so that warfighters can embrace that information that they get, but also ensure that information that is shared is shared at the right levels and trusted to be exposed. And so that is extremely important. The winners will be the people who can do multi-domain integration at the speed of the digital age in creating effective military capability.
JADC2 has recently been amended by the US DOD to be CJADC2 and the C stands for combined. And the principal there is that the US recognize that allies are an important part of being successful in Multi-Domain Operations, and they want to ensure that allies are in the beginning, and that's the combined piece, and not added at the end as an afterthought, which is really refreshing to hear and will help us to interoperate more positively in the future. So the way I look at it is JADC2 is a means to a multi-domain end.
So Joint All Domain Command and Control is how do we, is the department's focus on how do we stitch together those things to make them interoperable? How do we break down those stovepipes between the services and between our allies to field the the data advantage, the the synergy of the data bring the data together for decision advantage, decision speed, and then multi-domain operations is the result of that optimized command and control capabilities that we're looking to field in JADC2. Multi-Domain Operations is going to bring with it a host of operational advantages. The reaction speed of an integrated force will reduce from a matter of hours to a matter of seconds with each ally doing their part and playing to their strengths across the chain of command and control.
As a result, coalition forces will be more resilient to the complex threat environment of the modern battlefield. In the U.K., MDI Command and Control has four constituent components, which is people, processes, technologies and structures. So on the people side, that's really about getting the culture and the training right. For the technical side, it's embracing modern technologies, the open standards, the cloud, digital transformation technologies that we talked about. And for processes,
it's taking processes that were designed for single domain operations and making sure they're applicable to Multi-Domain Operations. For structures, it's really the same thing as for processes, but on an organizational context. So organizations that were set to be single domain now have to embrace Multi-Domain as well. We think that Multi-Domain Operations also holds the promise of allowing better sharing between partners.
Now, that's a combination of technology and policy because oftentimes the technology's there, but if the policy settings aren’t right to allow information sharing, then some of that the potential is lost. The formation of like minded nations into military coalitions has a range of benefits. This particularly applies to the crucial Indo-Pacific region, which the Pentagon has labeled its priority theater.
Earlier this year, the head of the US Army revealed an ambitious plan to deploy not one but three multi-domain task force units into the Indo-Pacific region. This follows the signing of a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States in 2021 that's been dubbed AUKUS. AUKUS has obviously been a major announcement and much of the attention's centered on the proposal to build nuclear powered, conventionally armed submarines for Australia under pillar one. But under pillar two is a range of technologies, which hold great promise to improve our ability to work together as nations and to embrace new technology. It specifically calls out artificial intelligence and autonomy, talks about cyber and quantum. It talks about generally information sharing.
All of those things are important to coalition operations. to be able to partner more effectively for the range of scenarios that might confront us over coming decades. Let’s say a collaboration effort between the UK, Australia and the U.S.
You would want to understand the intelligence apparatus between all three of those countries to get the best information possible. One of the challenges in the Indo Pacific is you've got a lot of small nation states, some of them relatively technically unsophisticated, simply because they've got smaller economies. And I think that's where MDO and some of the new technologies can help through allowing better information sharing. If the UK is to be deployed on operations, it will be with our allies. And so we need to make sure the mechanisms to interoperate with those allies are in place. And MDO gives us those mechanisms to do that.
When all three of those countries work together, It could be extremely powerful in terms of deterrence to know that, for an enemy to know that we're all on the same page and we all are working very tightly together. To me, that that is a strong, has a strong element of deterrence that maybe we haven't seen before in a dynamic way. And with the US, in particular, and Australia, the AUKUS partnership as well as NAITO that will give us the the mass required to meet any adversaries. The intersection of technology and politics creates a fascinating challenge, a complex tapestry where industry takes center stage. Many of the enabling technologies behind Multi-Domain Operations have been developed in the commercial sector.
What we're seeing is commercial space is making a huge difference. It's leveled the playing field so that a lot of countries that maybe are allies of the United States, but were dependent upon the U.S. for their intelligence, can now go directly to a commercial provider. So future technologies would include artificial intelligence and machine learning But really, it's about how do you integrate data? How do you expose and amalgamate data from multiple entities? How do you bring information from that data to those decision makers? Future Multi-Domain operations will be enabled by key technological developments.
The most critical include cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning. These technologies work together to enable platform integration, open architecture, mission software and modernized mission infrastructure, creating a dynamic synthetic environment that will form the digital backbone of our modern armed forces. The principle of zero trust will make sure that no hostile cyberattack has the chance to move further beyond a point of failure. Tasking orders that once took hours or even days will be shortened to milliseconds, aided by artificial intelligence. This synthetic environment is designed to harness vast amounts of battlefield data order it, prioritize it, and distribute it, ensuring that the right people have the right information at the right time. One of the other inversions of this age is in addition to we used to buy a platform, stick a radio in it and try and connect it up.
Now we're going to buy a digital backbone and plug capability into it. And secondly, we can focus on the weapon and the sensor and then attach it to much cheaper, more disposable, either simpler or autonomous things in order to put them in the right place and just network them. So at the heart of this is this combination of secure data in the cloud. The only way you can manage the volumes and speed of data is to use cloud technology and to use it securely. The only way to do that is to harness the power of artificial intelligence.
And the only way to harness the power of artificial intelligence effectively is to combine it with high capacity, resilient networks. And that comprises essentially the digital backbone on which military forces will be built. The technologies required to integrate multiple domains are categorized into three distinct buckets: platform integration, open architecture, mission software and modernized mission infrastructure. The interaction of these three technologies is crucial for success.
It's the amalgamation of those three buckets that I think is the key to, through non proprietary, Open architecture means, bringing those solutions in a rapid, dynamic way to warfighters’ hands so that they can realize those operational advantages. You know, how do you across heterogeneous environments, whether they be bare metal compute to hyper elastic clouds, whether they be B-52s to the new B-21 to undersea entities. And then how do you bring in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities through our software deliveries that can optimize the human decision maker's ability to achieve that operational advantage. At the tactical edge, one of the key ones will be resilient communications and high bandwidth.
So we can mitigate that to an extent by having edge processing, particularly cloud edge processing, and so that less will have to go back and forth over what are fairly thin pipes. We also will have security challenges, particularly from cyber threats that we need to mitigate against. Resilience can be built through redundancy as well.
So how do you have backup systems and backup networks and backup comms, or how do you have self-healing capabilities within those networks and communications that that is, you know, widely software driven capabilities. And if a node goes down, the network automatically heals itself so that it finds an alternate route to pass the information to where it needs to go. Military processes are becoming increasingly digital, driven in large part by advancements coming from the commercial sector. As daily life is transformed by such technologies as artificial intelligence, our military is undertaking a comparable journey. They are constructing what could be termed as the military Internet of Things.
We need to recognize that the the military is embarked on a parallel and need to create the military Internet of Things. And this is based on the application of technology that is being developed at the expense of billions of dollars in the civil sector for civil purposes. It's talking about how a span of things like data in the cloud and AI and robotics and autonomy and cyber resilient networks and synthetics all combine to change how the military operate. So cloud has a huge role to play and that provides some element of standardization, but it's also ubiquitous. Everybody has access to it and also it's easily extensible and it's flexible as well. So if you need more cloud in a theater of operations, that's easy to provide.
Whereas in the old days you would have had to have flown over another rack of servers. Fundamental to all of this, MDO and JADC2 business is open architecture and non proprietary frameworks. There needs to be the ability to horizontally integrate across the domains, the services, the nations, as well as OEMs. And so if there can be a delivery of open architecture nonproprietary frameworks that can rapidly integrate new capabilities to advance beyond threats. That to me is extremely important.
And also software development to be able to integrate things that are ready to integrate but just need plugging up on the fly. So if there's a new sensor feed available, that your able to quickly integrate that into your systems, in that theater of operations, rather than have to wait several months for it to be integrated. These systems operate on a principle known as zero trust.
The zero trust approach introduces a new paradigm. We almost assume a potential breach and design our defenses accordingly. Imagine a castle where not only the gates, but every door within has a lock. This model aims to minimize the potential damage of any intrusion, restricting the scope of compromise.
Zero trust is a principle that we use when it comes to information technology. You almost have to assume that an adversary can penetrate that computer. And so then if they're in that computer, how do you ensure that the ability for them to effect things is minimized? So as opposed to gates, guards and guns around your castle, each door within your castle has a lock on it. That's zero trust, is you almost assume that an adversary will be within your system, and then you prepare accordingly. It's easy to focus on technology as a silver bullet.
However, a lot of the promise and realization of Multi-Domain Operations comes from, if you like, the human factors or soft skills. So we need to firstly build trust. Where possible, we need to break down information sharing barriers. Today's military operations are fueled by vast quantities of data. The speed, scale and variety of this information can be overwhelming, even for the most seasoned decision makers as we step into a new age of warfare, a critical ally has emerged from the realm of technology: artificial intelligence.
So we have huge amounts of data and it's only increasing. And we need to be able to analyze that quickly using machine learning algorithms and then AI as well to provide insights on that data. We need to that at machine speed. We won't have time to read it or analyze it all with humans. I think the promise of AI is it can remove some of the drudgery, some of the routine work that has to happen within military organizations. Particularly think of a headquarters staff where they're getting a lot of information from different sources and trying to make sense of it.
If we can use AI and create the tools to separate out the key information from a lot of background noise, that's critical to the staff and in particular command are getting those crucial pieces of information that allow them to make best decision making they can at the time. AI/ML has been has been resident for a while. There's many capabilities resident in our force today that use, you know, machine learning capabilities to optimize how decisions are made.
The ability to to lessen that cognitive burden, rely on the technology that's available to us today and have that dial based on whatever stage of conflict or whatever requirement that decision maker has to be able to lean on that, on those computing capabilities in a more dynamic way is extremely important. There's the promise there that over time we can free up the limited brain space, if you like of the humans in the headquarters and the commander, by allowing them to focus in on the the really important information to make the optimal decision. With the advent of artificial intelligence and its integration into military strategy, a pivotal question arises: What becomes of the human role in decision making? As we usher in the era of AI, we find ourselves shifting to the idea of having a person on the loop. It’s a conceptual shift that allows AI and machine learning to take the lead in processing and analyzing vast volumes of data. But crucially, humans are still involved, not sidelined.
All too often in the 20th century, we had a man in the loop, so to speak, and I think where we should go and we see this today even in our personal lives, you want to be the man or person on the loop. To some extent, there's always going to be humans making decisions, certainly. And then how they're carried out can be can be dialed on that AI/ML application. But there's always, you know, there's going to be developers developing the the rules that that AI observes as it does its mission. So yes, there will always be humans involved. And so the idea is you don't take the person out.
You want to have that human intervention. But imagine this, is instead of that poor human having to crunch the data themselves manually and sort through a lot of complex data and complex scenarios, you allow the data to be crunched with the right applications and you apply a little bit of a AI and ML required to actually help that individual make decisions and offer that individual, which in most cases the commander, offer them solutions across a vast variety, if you will, of options. The aim of these technologies is to reduce the cognitive load that will inevitably prevent operators from doing their jobs effectively. Picture a military commander who has to process an avalanche of data from intelligence to operational and logistical data.
The sheer volume and complexity can be daunting, even paralyzing. So imagine this. You've got a little bit of machine learning and artificial intelligence on all of the data that's coming in.
So now all they have to really do is choose and make a decision. That to me is really going to enable folks to actually do 21st century conflicts. And especially as we start to expand the aperture again, to include information coming from multiple entities.
How do you filter that out and provide to that decision maker at the tactical edge the information that is most important for their decisions. And so there's going to be a lot of development necessary to optimize our ability to give the information that the decision maker wants and filter out what they don't necessarily want to see at that time. As we stand on the cusp of this digital revolution, we find ourselves asking what comes next? How will these advancements in Multi-Domain Operations continue to shape and redefine the battlefield? I think for the government, it's really breaking down those stovepipes between different government departments. And it's the same actually within the military.
It's all about breaking down silos and stovepipes so that everyone thinks to integrate first. So one of the paths to restoring military competitiveness on most Western nations, which spend a lot of money but money is tight, is to evolve a manned-unmanned, autonomous network mix, the military Internet of Things in order to restore mass and effectiveness and all of that grounded on a digital backbone. So that we can take advantage of all of the capabilities that we’ll bring to the fight so that we can make better use of the limited resources we have. MDO offers that promise to make better, smarter decisions, to use the resources we have, more effectively. This is a technological race.
So we could feel comfortable if we thought we were on top of AI, cyber at the speed of AI, the evolution of manned unmanned autonomous capability in a way that overmatched what our actual and potential opponents in the world are capable of doing. And neither of those things are proven. Unless we can integrate those technologies to meet that threat, and by that, I mean digital transformation and cloud and machine learning and AI, then we'll be on the back foot and we'll still be plugging things together when the threats arrive. How quickly can you make that decision, And then how quickly can those decisions be carried out with all of that data. I think we're in the beginning of the journey to making it fully digital and at machine speed, And that's the way we will do it with our allies, is work together as a team and deliver the digital solutions that will enable that optimized team to work.