|Integrated Defense Systems|
Right data Right time
Boeing approach to Precision Engagement focuses on individual decision maker
BY DARYL STEPHENSON
Imagine the following scenario: Sensors onboard a flight of F/A-18 Super Hornets, flying combat air patrol, detect incoming unknown aircraft heading toward a U.S. Navy carrier battle group. Sensors on board the ships in the battle group also detect the aircraft.
The Super Hornet aircrews and the ship commanders need to know immediately: Are the aircraft hostile or friendly? Is the sensor information about the incoming aircraft accurate enough, specific enough, timely enough and in the right format to enable warfigthers to take action, or not take action, that is appropriate, quick and precise?
That's a question that John Lockard and members of the Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Precision Engagement Strategic Business Council deal with frequently. Their task is to define Precision Engagement, one of the seven market segments for IDS, and map out strategies that IDS will use to meet customer needs and win new business.
It's a segment that accounts for 25 percent of the $24 billion annual business of IDS and generated $6 billion in revenue in 2002. Precision Engagement is the market in which tactical military aircraft like the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the AH-64 Apache helicopter, unmanned combat air vehicles, and missile systems like the Joint Direct Attack Munition are in play.
But the Boeing approach to Precision Engagement is more than just finding a home for platforms and missiles. The focus is squarely on making them effective parts of network solutions. In this sense, Precision Engagement is closely linked to another IDS market segmentthe Integrated Battle Space.
The relationship is one of environment and operation. Integrated Battle Space is the environment in which Boeing is working to create new, more effective network solutions for the U.S. Department of Defense. Precision engagement is taking those network solutions and using them effectively in the field of operations.
To boil it down to the individual soldier, sailor, marine or aircrew memberit's filtering out extraneous information and providing you with data that directly relates to what you have to do next. Moreover, the information you receive is totally correct and secureand you can rely on it to guide your decision on your next action.
That last piece is where the rubber meets the road as far as Precision Engagement is concerned, Lockard said. The Department of Defense, Boeing and industry have done much in recent years to establish communications networks that enable military platforms, systems and people to share information. But the next step, he said, is to put it all togethercommunications, information, knowledge, and actionsin such a way as to assure that everything and everyone are connected, that information is certain, that decisions are timely and that actions are fast and appropriate.
This kind of "interoperability is more than interconnectivityit's managing data as well," said Boeing IDS President and CEO Jim Albaugh. "We need network-based systems that gather data, transform it into information and knowledge and then enable decision making. We need to put the right infrastructure in place to ensure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time."
The foundation for this type of information solution is the development of a common systems architecture that provides the ability to transmit data, convert it into meaningful information, correlate information into useful knowledge to facilitate decision making, and enable decision makers to take actions that create the desired outcome.
Successfully developing such an architecture depends first on a full understanding of every aspect of the military's communications and decision-making needs, Lockard said. "We need to understand our customer and the networks our customer uses in a very profound way."
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, Lockard pointed out, is structured well to do that with its customer-facing organizations "which enable us to gain intimate knowledge of what our customer needs, and think about comprehensive solutions. We're on the leading edge in our industry in trying to address the entire continuum of network-centric operations for the Department of Defense."
And, Boeing Phantom Works recently introduced a new high-priority thrust headed by Don Winter, Phantom Works director of Network Centric Operations, that focuses exclusively on network-centric operations.
Boeing is backing up its approach with proven performance in several demonstrations that have verified systems that improve decision making, Lockard said.
In one recent U.S. Navy exercise, the ScanEagle, a Boeing-sponsored long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, relayed real-time data and provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and a live video feed to a naval command ship and to a Naval Air Systems Command test aircraft. The data enabled decision makers to develop, recommend and execute appropriate action.
In another demonstration, the aircrew of an F/A-18F Super Hornet and a ground forward air controller shared a common picture of a target. The ground FAC, equipped with the Advanced Close Air Support System, transmitted target coordinates to the pilot of the F/A-18F. The pilot used the Boeing Gateway to Airborne Tactical Data Exchange avionics system to capture a sensor image of the target and transmit it back to the controller on the ground. The controller added critical information and sent it back to the aircraft so that the pilot could complete an air strike.
And as part of a demonstration of its Weapon System Open Architecture, Boeing Phantom Works established an Internet-like connection between a command and control–type aircraft (in this case, a 737 Avionics Flying Laboratory) and an F-15E Advanced Technology Demonstrator. Aircraft operators shared and annotated target images and intelligence data in real time, using the Defense Department Link-16 tactical data link. The operators were able to respond to an emerging threat by successfully replanning the mission during flight.
Through demonstrations like these, Boeing is proving that "we can transform legacy systems and new systems into integrated solutions," Lockard said. "That puts us in good position to accelerate change in the Department of Defense."
Boeing also is demonstrating its ability to perform as the lead systems integrator on major programs like National Missile Defense, Future Combat Systems, and key network-centric operations programs like the Joint Tactical Radio System and the Family of Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals, Lockard said.
"If we do this correctly, we'll be able to show the Department of Defense that it can maximize its investment in network solutions through the power of the total systems approach that we offer," he said. "We're on the leading edge in providing interoperability solutions, and we want to become the preferred solution provider across all the military services."
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