Project Riot demonstrates networked missile defense
In a demonstration of how future wars will be fought as much in cyberspace as on the battlefield, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the Missile Defense Agency, and the US Air Force connected an F-35, U-2 ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft, and a multi-domain ground station via data links as part of a missile defense exercise called Project Riot. The purpose was to show how different platforms with different levels of cybersecurity can network together to respond to threats within seconds.
It wasn't so long ago that a computerized military base meant there was an Apple II in the accounts office. But today, advanced digital systems, global data networks, and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing the face of combat for the major powers as streams of data become as important as missiles, with ships, aircraft, command centers, and even individual soldiers becoming increasingly connected to act as a single war-fighting entity.
The problem is that putting together all these elements isn't like pairing a Bluetooth speaker to a smartphone. Systems can be vulnerable to cyberattacks and the data being streamed is often sensitive, so linking digital systems means navigating many different levels of security over multiple domains that all have to work together almost instantly if they're to get the job done.
For Project Riot, Lockheed and its partners used an F-35 Lightning II fighter as a forward sensor platform to detect an incoming missile. A modernized U-2 spy-plane with onboard processing hardware then acted as a line-of-sight relay between the fighter jet and the air defense commander at a multi-domain ground station, who then used the data to decide how to respond to the threat – an exercise that normally takes minutes, but was achieved in seconds instead.
According to Lockheed, the team used commonly available technologies to keep down costs as well as complete the project's objectives within four months. These included not only linking the aircraft and the base, but also establishing a secure network that can handle 5th generation sensor data even using older technologies, as well as transmitting this 5th generation data to the Air Force's Universal Command and Control Interface and Open Mission Systems standards.
"The F-35, with its advanced sensors and connectivity, is able to gather and seamlessly share critical information enabling the joint force to be safer and more effective," says Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president, and general manager for the F-35 program. "No other fighter jet in the world has this capability – and this test was a critical step on the path to unlocking its full potential for multi-domain operations."
Source: Lockheed Martin