As part of its 5G plan, in March 2022 the US Department of Defense awarded a three-year, 10 million dollar contract to Cubic Nuvotronics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of US-based Cubic Corporation. Under the contract, Cubic Nuvotronics will develop an ultra-high-performance, small, lightweight, low-power, dual-band wireless network communications transceiver (WNCT) for military applications. The simultaneous dual-band operation of the WNCT provides greater operational resilience and also ensures low latency for high-speed data without any interference with the US Department of Defence’s current operating scope. The Department awarded Viasat – a California-based communications company – two contracts in September 2021 to study the use and implementation of 5G networks on the battlefield, with the aim of exploring how 5G technology can improve operational capabilities. Viasat will leverage its 5G cybersecurity, network and wireless expertise to help the Department of Defense (DOD) understand how to best use 5G technology to enable multi-domain operations in future joint operational plans, including Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) capabilities.
The contract focuses on two areas: firstly, the improvement of command and control (C2) applications and services, and secondly, the implementation of the 5G-enhanced network for agile combat employment (ACE) operations in confrontation environments.
The US Space Force issued a request for information in March 2022 in the area of 5G technology research for the Space Data Transmission (SDT) programme. Technologies of particular interest to the US Space Force include: 5G multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO); mmWave in space and radio access network slicing (a network configuration that allows multiple, virtualized, independent networks to be created on a common physical infrastructure – a configuration which has become an essential component of the overall 5G architectural landscape); network section management; artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning; reliable autonomous networks; cybersecurity; 5G Internet of Things in Space (IoST); Multi-Tenant Edge Computing (MEC); 5G Air-Ground Networks and network topologies in space.
In September 2021 the Department of Defense also awarded Penguin Computing two contracts totalling 68 million dollars to provide two high-performance supercomputers and related capabilities for the Navy and Air Force. Funded by DOD’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP), the system and software will significantly improve DOD’s ability to solve the most computationally challenging and arduous problems. These advanced processing capabilities are available to all Intelligence Services’ and DOD’s agencies.
These computers will be installed in two US Army Supercomputing Resource Centers (DSRCs). Among them, the Navy’s DSRC at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Southern Mississippi will receive a system capable of providing 8.5 petaflops (a one-petaflop-per-second computer can perform one million billion floating-point operations per second); and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Wright-Patterson at Dayton, Ohio, Air Force Base will receive 9 petaflops of computing power.
In September 2021 the National Security Agency (NSA) awarded Hewlett-Packard a two billion-dollar, 10-year contract to provide the high-performance computing power it needs for its artificial intelligence and data analysis requirements. Under the contract, Hewlett-Packard will provide a new service that includes a combination of Apollo data storage systems and a ProLiant server. The service will capture and process large amounts of data and support deep learning and artificial intelligence capabilities. This contract will provide the NSA with a secure and flexible platform to meet its growing data management needs.
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) issued a request for information in September 2021 to search for innovative blockchain and interoperability solutions to protect highly sensitive data. The DISA wishes to explore the use of blockchain to ensure that critical data remains intact and unchanged throughout its lifecycle and to provide a warning mechanism in the event of its tampering in any way. The DISA would like to explore the issues of the industry’s ability to leverage blockchain technology in order to: 1. develop blockchain-independent schemes that are interoperable between different blockchains; 2. ensure the immutability of critical data and provide alerts on its tampering; 3. store critical data in a decentralised and distributed mode.
Engineers at the US Army’s Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) are leveraging blockchain technology to enable new data management capabilities at the tactical level. The new data management capability development is part of the center’s Information Trust programme and is one of several prototype technologies tested by the Army’s Network Modernization Experiment (NetModX) in May 2021.
The C5ISR says that the key to the Information Trust programme is to provide soldiers with a mathematical and verifiable way to review their data from producer to consumer and from sensor to shooter. The Army’s idea is to eliminate the so-called man-in-the-middle attacks by manipulating data transmissions before they reach end users, thus enabling commanders to make critical decisions and increasing trust in their information and intelligence.
In early 2022, interesting discoveries were made in US Army and Air Force-funded quantum computing research, including the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which found a new way to spontaneously correct errors in quantum computing to protect quantum information from hyperthermia. The impact of errors in the guidance system can be greatly improved, thus helping to reduce the load on future computers. Furthermore, Louisiana State University corrected distorted information in the quantum system composed of photons through machine learning technology, and the results of research can be used in quantum communication, quantum cryptography and quantum sensing. Finally, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago established a new method for quantum communication by sending entangled qubits through a communication cable to connect two network nodes, thus paving the way for the use of large-scale quantum networks.
Moreover, in January 2021 the US Air Force Research Laboratory announced that the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the National Research Foundation of Korea and the Korea Institute for Information and Communication Technology Planning and Evaluation (IITP) jointly launched a tender to provide three-year grants to jointly promote quantum information science and technology. The project aims to keep on providing opportunities for scientists and engineers from both countries to mutually advance emerging technologies. The areas of future collaborative research listed in the project include quantum information processing, quantum simulation, development of new qubits, etc.
In July 2021 the Department of Defense also announced the cancellation of a 10 billion dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud procurement contract, as it plans to use a new contract, the Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC) that better fits the Department’s cloud needs. The new contract has a significantly shorter performance period than the JEDI contract, totalling five years, including a three-year base term and two optional one-year terms. In November 2021 the Department announced it had issued an appeal for a Joint Warfare Cloud Capability (JWCC) to Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, Microsoft and Oracle.
The DOD Enterprise Cloud will have cross-classified (unclassified, classified, and high classification) capabilities, cross-domain integrated solutions, i.e. global availability at the tactical edge, and enhanced cybersecurity.
In August 2021 the NSA awarded AWS a secret 10 billion dollar cloud computing contract. The contract, codenamed Wild and Stormy, is the second cloud contract awarded last year by seventeen US intelligence agencies, including the NSA. The purchase appears to be part of the NSA’s attempt to modernise its main repository of classified data, the Intelligence Community GovCloud.
Four crucial issues emerge on the subject of AI entering the scene of the Ukrainian conflict:
1. the first results show the power of AI, which has made it possible, for example, to intercept communications and reconstruct dialogues, and to select and eliminate some Russian commanders (seeing images of grey hair near transmission elements as potential commanders);
2. many of these technologies are in private hands, as in the case of Primer, and this is where the public-private dilemma arises, especially in such circumstances;
3. the problem of algorithmic bias caused by poor quality or unrepresentative training data is of fundamental importance. Machine learning algorithms often operate in “opaque” ways. Intelligence agents will need to find ways to build confidence in the conclusions drawn by these programs. An incorrectly transcribed communication could obviously have deadly consequences on a battlefield, such as sending soldiers into potential high-percentage hazards or misdirecting a missile attack that could cause “friendly” fire damage;
4. the advantage of speed in planning processes is the real dilemma for all command staffs: being faster and more accurate than the enemy in drawing up the plan will be the real value added for the battle, its cornerstone. Collecting and analysing data using artificial intelligence could therefore eventually become central to operations on the battlefield, as well as the need for leadership capable of managing “agile” processes and trained on the ethical dimension.
When we talk about AI, Machine Learning, etc., we are talking about agile methodologies, as opposed to traditional waterfalls. Waterfalls envisage the linear execution of a precise sequence of phases, each of which generates an output that is used as input by the next phase (hence the origin of the term “waterfall”). In a management and decision-making process, a real change in the leaders’ mentality is required. The military is a forerunner in this respect. In the military, we talk about war rooms, for example when agile methodologies are studied. Software is neither sufficient nor powerful enough if it is not matched by a leadership structure that is clear about the big picture, i.e. the strategic goals, and at the same time has the ability to operate with the same flexibility as the software. Besides the fact that algorithms must be used, without losing the “ethical” dimension in the decision making process.