NATO Networks Drones For Wide-Area "Kill Web" War Preparations

Kris Osborn

Video: Army Research Lab Scientist Describes Human Brain as Sensor Connecting With AI

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

(Washington D.C.) Expanding the surveillance reach afforded by interoperable NATO-aligned drones throughout Europe, the Baltics and areas bordering the Black Sea is an effort fast-gaining momentum in light of the Air Force’s progress engineering, refining and testing new interconnected warfare network technologies to support an integrated “mesh” of intelligence nodes.

Having made new strides with its Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) on-ramps designed to demonstrate growing technical levels of combat interoperability, the Air Force is also widening its collaborative military data-sharing networks to include more NATO allies. ABMS, referred to as an Air Force contribution to the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control, is intended to expedite real-time sensor-to-shooter timelines through multi-node and multi-national information exchange.

For instance, Air Force leaders refer to a recently enabled NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force to achieve networked surveillance continuity between and among allied countries working to gather, analyze and transmit data.

“We have achieved a much greater level of flexibility, and fostered partnerships which demonstrate how committed our European Partners are to the security of the region. An example of this is our operations with NATO AGS. We have a strategy called the ISR 2030 Game Plan that looks at capabilities we have today and what we will have in the future,” Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe, Africa, told reporters during the 2021 Air Force Association symposium.

Through connection with the U.S. Air Force RQ-4D Phoenix Global Hawk variant, the now operational NATO AGS utilizes advanced computer algorithms to receive, pool and organize relevant surveillance information.

“The wide area surveillance of the RQ-4D Global Hawk and the fixed, mobile and transportable ground stations will support a full range of missions, including protection of ground troops and civilian populations, border control, crisis management and humanitarian assistance in natural disasters,” a Northrop Grumman statement says.

In some instances, the system will likely evolve toward new abilities to leverage AI-capable technologies able to bounce new data off of an existing and seemingly limitless database to perform analyses, draw conclusions, find moments of combat relevance and effectively layer and prioritize crucial time-sensitive information.

“Well it’s all the data that goes into that. It’s what you’re seeing. And that’s the beauty. We just did the Advanced Battle Management System demo number two. It’s all about the data, and how you break that data, and package that data, and use some of our AI capability to lay out options for a commander,” Harrigian said.

High-speed, AI-enabled computing can help mulit-national coordinated air attacks reach new levels of proficiency and precision, a tactical circumstance informing the deployment of NATO’s AGS technology connecting Air Force Global Hawks to allied air and ground nodes.

NATO AGS relies upon a connection with the U.S. Air Force RQ-4D Phoenix Global Hawk to gather, organize, analyze, process and transmit crucial ISR data among partner nations, using common technical standards for interoperability.

“We have a strategy called the ISR 2030 Game Plan that looks at capabilities we have today and what we will have in the future,” Harrigian said.

AI-empowered systems can instantly identify targets and objects of relevance and compare potential response scenarios against what has worked previously to optimize combat operation effectiveness and present possibilities to humans performing command and control. The concept, as articulated in a Northrop essay, is to enable continuous 24-7, uninterrupted in-theater operations among NATO allies.

Part of the increased allied collaboration, made more possible with emerging systems such as NATO AGS, rests upon a successful ability to safely and effectively manage airspace.

“Many nations are much more supportive of our ability to operate over their territories and in their airspace, in part because we ensure that they are comfortable with the deconfliction. We help them understand how we are going to operate and what we are going to do,” Harrigian added.

Allied interoperability, particularly as it pertains to rapid warfare decision-making, is something heavily emphasized by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown as well, who reminded people of the famous “OODA” loop in an interesting presentation at the 2021 Air Force Association Symposium.

“We need to take a different approach, we need to make decisions at the speed of relevance. Those decisions need to be informed by analysis, and they need to be made in a timely manner to outpace our competitor’s decision cycle. Remember John Boyd and the OODA loop? We need to do that at the strategic level,” Brown told an AFA audience, according to a transcript of his remarks.

Certainly, as referenced by Brown, Boyd’s well known Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action Loop process not only applies to air-to-air combat as conceived of by Boyd, but also introduces wider-spanning strategic dynamics as well, given that NATO AGS and other surveillance technologies will enable faster, more precise and combat-relevant information sharing between NATO-allied countries.

“It’s really about how we move data. And that’s the key aspect. And we already do that outside, you know, outside of the Air Force, outside of the Department of Defense,” Brown said.

Certainly moving analyzes and organized information in near instantaneous fashion could bear heavily upon the OODA Loop process, given that its successful competition to achieve victory in air-war engagement relies upon the “speed” of decision-making.

-- Kris Osborn is the Managing Editor of Warrior Maven and The Defense Editor of The National Interest --

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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