Military

Lockheed Martin Reimagines Future Warfare with Henosis

By Nick Zazulia | March 7, 2018

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With Henosis, Lockheed Martin aims to put the U.S. military back on the tactical high ground. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Henosis is the Greek word for the concept of oneness or unity. There's an interesting juxtaposition in the fact that Lockheed Martin has chosen Henosis as the name for the new joint integrated mission system it is developing for the U.S. Air Force; it is simultaneously perfectly fitting for the omnipresent cybersolution the company has planned and seemingly antithetical to the goal of diffusing command and empowering different units to make independent, informed decisions.

Lockheed Martin believes that contrast is crucial to success in the future battlespace.

Right now, the U.S. military chain of command for battlefield decisions primarily works in a hub-and-spoke fashion, with data being filtered up to a centralized command location and then orders being dispatched from that same location to units throughout the battlefield. According to Lockheed Martin, this is no longer efficient or effective.

For starters, per Lockheed Martin VP Rob Smith, America's enemies have spent decades studying that command model and have adapted to combat it. Smith, who leads the company's command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) efforts, was at Lockheed Martin's Northern Virginia Global Vision Center Monday, when the company revealed the plans for Henosis.

Needing all communication to get to and come from one source can also create a bottleneck, slowing down operations and reactions. This is particularly an issue when operating at "the speed of relevance," which is a buzzy catchphrase guiding everyone from U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Mathias Winter to Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson. Simply put, if technology lets things happen quickly, archaic processes shouldn't serve as a barrier.

Work is needed on the cyber front, which Lockheed said it wants to go hand-in-hand with the development of Henosis. Cybersecurity is a concern for everybody and the offensive potential of electronic warfare to disrupt and deceive enemy combatants is monumental, but effective use of such capabilities requires coordination and communication.

"The cyber (situation) is like a sailor with no boat," in the words of Lockheed Martin VP of Cyber Solutions Deon Viergutz. Disparate systems need a base from which to organize; the system and neural network will house and deliver information and serve as a launching point for communications and cyber missions in the way an aircraft carrier serves as a launching point for fighters to execute their own assignments.

To that end, Lockheed Martin is comparing Henosis to the cyber equivalent of an aircraft carrier. That doesn't mean it will be housed on a specific aircraft, ship or other structure serving as a command base, though. The comparison is more abstract.

If it's hard to picture Henosis, that makes sense. Lockheed has an easier time explaining what it won't be. It won't be a specific vehicle. It's "not going to be a guy at a terminal." It won't be a centralized hub.

Some of the challenge comes from the focus on flexibility. "It has to be mobile." It will be modular to accommodate the installation of new capabilities without taking everything down. It will provide different levels of access to the systems-on-systems of information to different users whenever and wherever they access the system.

Essentially, the reason it is difficult to picture any one thing in particular is because Lockheed Martin is less focused on any one physical thing than it is on electronic system architecture and rethinking the best way to integrate how it supports command structures on the battlefield. Because its customers buy its hardware, not system architecture, those things will be baked into the products it sells, both going forward and in terms of revisions to things already on the market.

But the biggest changes may not be obvious to the naked eye when looking at Lockheed Martin products.

One of Lockheed Martin's wargaming exercises at its Suffolk, VA-based Center for Innovation. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Henosis will both strive to diffuse and enable the diffusion of the command structure. One situation often failed by the current setup, according to Lockheed, is forward-deployed units. It is in the thick of a situation and liable to need to act before it can receive orders or be cut off from reliable communication with the central command, necessitating independent action. Henosis will shine in this situation, facilitating wise, organized action because that unit would have access to everything it needs to evaluate and deal with its conditions.

A major part of the wide-ranging Henosis is automation and assistive neural networks that put mission suggestions and requirements at the fingertips of the relevant parties so that everyone is empowered to make the optimal judgments.

Readying soldiers to use a system like that will require significant training. Lockheed Martin discussed the need for persistent, across-the-board training for the military to field modern-day "cyber warriors." The training necessary for soldiers all over the battlefield to be comfortable working within something like Henosis, which aims to synthesize data and make suggestions for missions, could be a challenge, according to John Clark, VP of ISR and Skunk Works. And it's something that Lockheed Martin is spending a lot of time finding the best way to handle.

But too much time can't be spent training someone how to do a specific task because so many soldiers perform so many changing duties and are promoted or moved to different positions within the military that devoting an overwhelming amount of time to preparing for a task relevant to just one position that will later be filled by someone else makes no sense.

The solution, according to Smith, is putting most of the work on Henosis. For all its complex capabilities, Lockheed wants the system to be intuitive and demand as little as possible from its users. Soldiers will have access to only the pieces of the system that they need, and most won't have to do deep dives into its processes to get utility out of it.

Henosis is such a grand project that there isn't a specific target release date for it, but Smith said that it is already guiding the company's philosophy as it develops products and conducts its multi-domain command and control (MDC2) exercises at its Center for Innovation in Suffolk, Virginia.

The next MDC2 Wargames exercises are scheduled for late summer and Lockheed Martin expects an evolving integration of the Henosis system into its offerings that over time allow for more and more of what it ultimately envisions to a fully integrated battlefield that is also more capable of independent operation than ever.

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