New Combat Systems with New Connectivity Options
Joint All-Domain Command and Control systems are improving communications in every branch of the military through advances in combat systems connectivity.
Today’s entertaining real-time-strategy (RTS) games and virtual-reality (VR) headsets are being transformed into combat systems for the real world. All four U.S. military services have embarked on a joint warfighting concept called Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) that is taking advantage of rapid developments in digital technologies.
What is Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2)?
JADC2is an initiative by the Department of Defense (DoD) to connect sensors from all branches of the military into a single network. One of the many benefits of
this initiative will be improved communication between services and a more
rapid response time to situations that require immediate decisions.
How to Connect Multi-Domain Combat Operations
The connectivity challenges in implementing the JADC2 concept are immense. JADC2 aims to network every soldier, intelligent device and weapons system from all domains: air, land, sea, space and cyberspace. The goal is to enable a distributed command that fulfills mission goals using any available resource, anywhere. For example, the United States Army is training soldiers with helmet-mounted heads-up displays (HUDs) that use augmented reality to sharpen their situational awareness.
Integrated Visual Augmentation Systems (IVASs) Provide Soldiers with New Sights
A militarized version of commercially used mixed-reality smart glasses, these
headsets provide an Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). This new technology displays thermal and 3-D images, directional compass waypoints and weapon crosshairs — all while letting the soldier see terrain through the lens without smartphone-type distractions.
Imagine being on the battlefield and flipping down a transparent screen from your helmet, scanning the landscape to identify friend or foe. And it’s not just
identification and location: The visual scan also determines the health and
readiness status of the squad. Biometric sensors embedded in the uniform and
other wearables gear can detect much more than just vital signs.
Commanders located on the battlefield or remotely can obtain a wealth of soldier information, including:
- Amount of rest/sleep
- Blood sugar
- Metabolic status and energy reserve
- Altitude adaption
- Ammunition amount
- Battery levels
- Potential exposure to toxic chemicals and materials
Algorithms can take data from the environment coupled with data from biometric sensors and extrapolate the need for supplies and other reinforcement criteria. Also known as HUD 3.0, IVAS also benefits the larger battlefield by supplying tactical information, such as recognizing an enemy aircraft missile launcher and then transmitting coordinates to the network so friendly assets can quickly destroy it.
Every Soldier Is a Sensor
Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products are typically not designed for rugged
environments or for demanding application size, weight and power (SWaP)
requirements. Therefore, they cannot meet the connectivity challenges of these
new applications. To function as an integrated combat platform, IVAS will
utilize the U.S. Army’s new Adaptive Squad Architecture (ASA). Not an open
architecture, ASA specifies how components interconnect in a network where
large-scale, secure data exchange is used to prevent enemy access.
Supporting “any sensor, any shooter” network communications, ASA also aims to optimize the SWaP of soldier gear, which often tips the scales at over 120 pounds. To inform data-driven decisions at mission speed, several cloud-based infrastructures are in the works, such as the proposed Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) and the U.S. Air Force’s Cloud One enterprise cloud solution.
Connecting with a DoD cloud for data analytics using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can provide real-time answers to questions such as: Where is the adversary? Where are my troops? Are my troops prepared to engage with adequate armaments? Do they have sufficient supplies?
Joint All-Domain Command and Control Challenges
JADC2, JEDI and IVAS all create significant bandwidth and SWaP challenges that are driving major improvements in combat system connectivity products. Batteries, cables and devices must all interconnect with other soldier components. That includes the increasing number of sensors and computing devices embedded in soldier gear that function in an Internet of Military Things (IoMT) or Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT).
Connectivity Ready for Advanced Combat Systems
From pedometers in boots to heart-rate sensors in chest armor, the sensors and computing devices worn by soldiers can supply valuable context-aware biometrics about a soldier’s physical condition. Yet, the sheer complexity of enabling individual, squad, command and cloud connectivity during combat presents daunting challenges to military electronics designers.
To support these advanced applications and enhance the next generation of battlefield technologies, a host of advanced antennas, sensors, interconnects, wire and cable and harnessing accessories are now available. To begin, consider the connectivity components used at the physical layer of the data transmission link.
The ruggedized design employs a push-pull breakaway coupling mechanism that enables quick connections and single-action disconnections. O.C.H. Micro Circular Connectors meet the rigorous mechanical and performance requirements of MIL-STD-810G. Robust aluminum shells are available with both all-over electroless nickel plating and selective anti-reflective black zinc/nickel plating, thermoplastic inserts, and six or seven gold-over-nickel-plated copper alloy contacts. Plus, they have multiple keying options to ensure proper mating in demanding battlefield environments.
Moreover, the aluminum shell and thermoplastic insert provide a small, lightweight package for soldier-worn gear. Connectors are rated for operating temperatures extending from -18°C to +71°C when crimped to a 22AWG wire and are also resistant to shock and vibration, as well as intermateable with many other Nett Warrior products.
Lightweight Connectivity for Soldier Gear
For instance, O.C.H. Micro Circular Connectors from TE Connectivity (TE) address a variety of connectivity challenges, whether the electronic devices are worn on a human or fastened on ground combat vehicles. Originally developed for the U.S. Army’s Nett Warrior program, these small, lightweight connectors were designed for future soldier gear, including:
- Soldier vest cables
- Communication systems
- Power hubs
- Military vehicles
Reducing Cable Bulk by over Half with Single-Pair Ethernet
High-speed data link cables for combat systems must transmit signals and data with high fidelity, supply power to connected devices, and withstand harsh environments. Of course, Ethernet protocol makes it easy to route data with nearly everything, everywhere. But for soldier gear, bulky eight-wire Category 6 cables are out of the question. Fortunately, the Ethernet physical layer (PHY) can use two wires in a single-pair Ethernet (SPE) configuration, commonly known as 100BASE-T1.
Size and Weight Savings for Aviation and Combat Applications
Robust SPE cable is being positioned as a platform for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). To meet aviation electronics reliability requirements, TE recently introduced the Mini-ETH SPE system that references the soon-to-be issued ARINC 854 standard. Using only one pair of wire, Mini-ETH assemblies offer substantial size, weight and cost savings over traditional custom designs, using three or four pairs of wire per Ethernet cable.
Mini-ETH cable is qualified for 200MHz and 100Mb/s operation at 15m (49ft) link lengths. In addition, TE has a roadmap to support 1Gb/s and 10Gb/s data speeds at 40m (131ft) link lengths and frequencies over 750MHz, as well as new connector designs to support higher frequencies and speeds.
A Power-over-Data-Line (PoDL) version is also planned.
Originally introduced for screens, sensors, data hubs and other electronics on aircraft, compact Mini-ETH cables and connectors are also candidates for new combat systems where size and weight reductions can be beneficial.
For back-end military and defense applications, such as missile warning, radio communication, remote weapon and fire control systems, a new Category 7 Ethernet cable has been developed, offering 100Gb/s speeds over 15m (49ft) links and reverting to 10Gb/s at longer distances. TE Raychem Cat 7 cables are individually shielded, four-pair cables that comply with IEC 61156-6 requirements and use 26 AWG wire as required in certain military and aerospace applications.
Preparing for Future Combat Systems Today
In today’s and tomorrow’s world, dismounted soldiers in the field rely upon instant informational superiority on the battlefield. The connectors, cables and accessories for these soldier systems are available and in production now.
Experienced manufacturers can also engineer products that meet evolving needs and assist the defense industry to develop solutions that will conquer both current and future challenges. Learn more about TE Connectivity’s soldier systems and wearables.
- New battlefield strategies that network dismounted soldiers for “any-sensor, any-shooter” tactics are driving technological changes in digital gear, enabled in part by advanced interconnects.
- Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) systems will make it easier for military personnel to make informed decisions at a rapid pace.
- Lightweight, wearable soldier gear provides valuable biometric insights for each individual, improving safety on the battlefield.
- Ethernet solutions originally designed for aviation applications also meet the connectivity, reliability and weight requirements for combat in harsh environments.