U.S. and allied defense industry leaders recognize that a digital transformation of the military is critical to maintaining a decisive advantage over adversaries who are trying to win the information race. The victors of future wars will gather and secure trusted information while denying it to the enemy.
Adversaries know this and many are spending more on systems that deny information than on building bigger arsenals. That’s why the U.S. and its allies must invest in game-changing multifunction mission systems that can sense, interpret and understand information in the battle space faster than an adversary. To help develop and learn how to fight these systems across domains, military exercises are playing a more important role than ever. In fact, these exercises provide an important backdrop for trials and experimentation and help establish a clear understanding of requirements.
Earlier this year, the U.S. military conducted Northern Edge 2017 (NE17), a biennial, U.S. Pacific Command-sponsored air combat exercise at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. The exercise, led by Alaska Command, involved nearly 6,000 airmen, Marines, sailors and soldiers, more than 200 aircraft, and Navy and commercial vessels.
During the exercise, defense company Northrop Grumman rolled out numerous cutting-edge digital technologies for the military brass, including next-generation air dominance, fifth- to fourth-generation communications, advanced self-protection electronic warfare (EW) and cognitive (artificial intelligence) applications to EW.
“Participation in NE17 enabled us to demonstrate emerging technologies and operating concepts in one of the most complex and operationally relevant environments currently available, allowing us to highlight ‘art of the possible’ capabilities to our warfighting customers,” said Jack Forsythe, director of airborne C4ISR mission engagement at Northrop Grumman.
NE17 enabled the defense company to accomplish several first-ever successes in key airborne capabilities. Northrop Grumman paired fire control radars with advanced imaging to develop unique kill-chain capabilities. Second, Northrop Grumman demonstrated the ability of fifth-gen aircraft to communicate with fourth-gen aircraft by simultaneously receiving F-22 and F-35 data-link messages and then re-transmitting them to fourth-gen fighters through Link-16. Finally, the company’s advanced EW team confirmed for the first time that their system blinded “enemy” threat radars using a new multi-function resource manager.
“Northern Edge is an incredible opportunity for the military and its defense partners,” said Steve Bryant, vice president of advanced strike and mission enablers, Northrop Grumman. “It provides us insight into our systems from more of the warfighter’s perspective and enables us to develop capabilities more efficiently and cost-effectively for them.”
“Northern Edge allows us to operate our sensors in a representative combat environment that our warfighters could face in a high-end scenario,” said Tom Jones, vice president and general manager, airborne C4ISR, Northrop Grumman. “Participants learned what it’s like to succeed in complex air warfare scenarios.”
NE17, and other military exercises like it, enable the participants to collect and examine data in innovative ways so allied partners can gain the decisive advantage they need to win the information race.