Nowadays, the interconnectedness of systems is becoming more important than the systems themselves. Fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, with their ability to penetrate enemy air defenses, bring much in the way of stealth, lethality and survivability; with their advanced sensors and datalinks, they bring even more as the forward "nodes" of a networked, airborne force of new and legacy platforms.
The U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) is another example of the preeminence of the system over its individual components. FCS consists of new, manned ground vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles and aircraft — specifically Honeywell’s Micro Air Vehicle and Northrop Grumman’s Fire Scout — along with the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System and Unattended Ground Sensors.
"Working together, these systems will help soldiers share real-time information across the battlefield," the Army says. "Overall, FCS will provide soldiers vastly increased situational awareness, survivability and lethality, ensuring they can take the fight to the enemy before the enemy has time to react." The first full FCS brigade should be equipped by fiscal 2015.
Even closer to fielding, the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) offers perhaps the best example of the importance placed on networking. By producing a family of interoperable, software-defined radios across air, ground and sea platforms, JTRS will extend the power and reach of the Department of Defense’s Global Information Grid to "the last tactical mile" where battles are won or lost.
Last March, Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract valued at $766 million for system development and demonstration of the Airborne, Maritime and Fixed Station (AMF) piece of the JTRS effort, bringing interoperable, software-defined radios closer to fruition.
These and other major programs described in this supplement play into the evolving concept of Network-Centric Operations, a concept that demands instantaneous, uncorrupted, shared data across multiple platforms and rapidly moving forces. Increasingly, these requirements are borne by avionics, tightly coupled with technologies on the ground, at sea and in space.
We hope you find this supplement instructive.