Boeing Frontiers
June 2003
Volume 02, Issue 02
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Cover Story


Network-centric operations are putting into focus the vision of integrated battlespace


Boeing Integration CenterThink of the Internet, and how you're able to use it.

You may have a Macintosh, Dell or IBM computer, a cell phone or a handheld personal data assistant. As long as the device you have complies with the protocols, standards and specifications of the World Wide Web, you can log on, surf Web sites, and send and receive data. You're plugged in to the network, and you can play.

Now think of one of the seven market segments for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems—the emerging network of the Integrated Battlespace. It's not yet so easy here.

Yes, individuals and weapon systems in the U.S. military can communicate better than any other military organization in the world. And U.S. military forces have demonstrated that in dramatic fashion in recent successful operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But they can't fully plug in and play in the network of the Integrated Battlespace the way U.S. Department of Defense leaders envision or the way the rest of us can on the Internet. Why? Because there doesn't yet exist a common software architecture that enables different systems—aircraft, ships, submarines, tanks, trucks, space vehicles, radios or handheld computers—to share information according to the same interfaces, standards or protocols.

Boeing is putting together a very strong foundation for developing just that type of architecture. Key programs are Future Combat Systems and the Joint Tactical Radio System that Phantom Works and IDS are working on for the U.S. Army, and the Family of Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals that IDS is developing for the U.S. Air Force.

(A future initiative that Boeing is exploring is the U.S. Navy's FORCEnet, which is aimed at developing the software and systems to allow warfighters, platforms and sensors to communicate and collaborate throughout the battlespace to achieve unparalleled situational awareness and combat superiority.)

"Taken as a whole, these programs are establishing a new concept of operating in the tactical battlefield for the next 20 years—one that relies on the network," said Roger Roberts, IDS senior vice president of Space and Intelligence Systems.

Roberts, who heads the IDS Integrated Battlespace strategic sub-council, leads the Boeing team that is creating critical elements of the intelligence network and battlefield information system of the future.

Roger RobertsCarl O'Berry, vice president of Boeing Strategic Architecture, leads the team that's developing the open architecture standards that Boeing expects will work not only in FCS, JTRS and FAB-T, but eventually throughout the DoD information infrastructure.

And Boeing engineers are verifying the ideas and concepts these teams are developing in the Boeing Integration Center. Located in Anaheim, Calif., the BIC is an advanced modeling and simulation, design, development and demonstration facility that demonstrates the possibilities and effectiveness of network-centric operations.

As defined by Roberts, the Integrated Battlespace describes the U.S. Defense Department vision of the future in which "everyone on a network shares information and operates as part of an integrated system while following the commander's intent and established rules of engagement."

It's an environment where everyone has "the ability to get access to the data he or she needs, to turn that data into information and to make rapid decisions faster than the adversary can respond," Roberts said. "It doesn't matter if you are in a submarine or flying overhead or crawling through the jungle, all members are connected through the super-network, sharing information and making decisions inside—or ahead of—the opponents' timeline."

The development of a common strategic architecture framework is a key component in fulfilling the vision of the Integrated Battlespace.

"This common architecture will have to be adopted by everyone in the network; those who fail to adapt will be left out and will be less effective," Roberts said. As a result of adopting the common network architecture in warfare, "every platform and every system (new and old) will become a network node, a medium through which data are collected, interpreted and routed. This will also enable military leadership to abandon the hierarchical decision tree that has served them in the past."

The result will be faster decision making based on the availability of real-time data, he said.

"If we go about this the right way, if we put together the right structure to provide truly network-centric operations, it's going to change everything," O'Berry said. "It's going to change everything we do and the way we do it, and the way that everyone else does things. The need for transformation in the military sense is fairly obvious to us: we need to get more out of the resources that are available to our military, and we need to put people at less risk in the performance of dangerous duties. But when you get down to the fundamentals, you find that the real requirements are common across many, many different domains of human activity. In fact, you could argue that the fundamental needs driving network-centrism apply across every single human endeavor."

Carl O'BerryWhen Boeing IDS officials speak of a common strategic architecture, they are talking about an "environment that provides the instructions for software programs to exchange data with one another," said Guy Higgins, IDS director of Business Development for Space and Intelligence Systems and Business Development lead for the Integrated Battlespace. "And our strategic architecture is aimed at doing the same thing for our IDS customer base in a hard-wired and wireless environment as the World Wide Web" has done for the public, he said.

"The world is moving to an integrated capability," Higgins said. "If we do not present our customer with an integrated capability, it doesn't make any difference how good an individual platform is—it will not be bought."

Future Combat Systems is essentially the "pathfinder program" for Boeing's effort to develop the strategic architecture that would make U.S. platforms and systems fully interoperable, Higgins said. "FCS has instantiated the information and about 80 percent of the functionality of our strategic architecture. If you look at the communications layer of FCS, much of it is embedded in the JTRS and FAB-T programs. So, to a large extent, these three programs represent a very significant, initial deployment of our strategic architecture concept."

Because programs like FCS, JTRS and FAB-T are essentially software solutions, "they can be transported to other services or other customers almost as easily as you would upgrade the operating system on your desktop PC," Higgins pointed out.

Such upgrades, for example, could "be incorporated into an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with the hardware that the U.S. Navy is planning to build into that airplane," Higgins said.

Boeing IDS, added Higgins, "is in a very strong competitive position" in the development of a common strategic architecture, because it is in the process of developing "technically superior solutions" through the FCS, JTRS and FAB-T programs.

"But we can't wait for these solutions to propagate themselves everywhere," he said. "What we need to do is take advantage of our technically superior solutions and get out there in the marketplace and really help our customers solve their problems."

Integrated BattlespaceO'Berry has a similar view.

"We can't slow down," he said. "We've got to keep this thing going; and the way to do that is by improving day by day our focus on the objective, which is to continue to create new markets and shape old markets, and bring value to existing platforms and systems that we do so competently in lots of different domains."

The Boeing Integration Center is one place customers and industry partners can see firsthand how far along Boeing is in developing solutions—and whether those solutions work as advertised. In fact, more than 12,000 visitors, from all branches of the U.S. armed forces, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, some international customers, interested U.S. and international government agencies, and industry representatives have visited the BIC since it opened in late 2000.

"We're running 450 to 600 people through that facility every month now, and the level of people coming in there is going up, and up, and up," O'Berry said. "What we have done (through the BIC) is serve as an educational element on network-centric operations for our customers. We've worked this all across the services, and what's beginning to develop now is that we've got the customer coming to us and bringing whole staffs to sit down and write the plan for getting this architecture into their systems."

The 13,000-square-foot BIC has four labs, one dedicated to FCS and another to the FAB-T program. Visitors sit in an amphitheater-like room and view demonstrations on large projection screens. The demonstrations are often tailored to the background and interest of each audience.

John Harms, director of Business Development for the Strategic Architecture organization, often leads the demonstrations that culminate in simulated future battlefield scenarios.

Boeing has been hard at work on an Integrated Battlespace strategy for more than a decade, Harms said, ever since DoD leaders began articulating a vision of future military success based on information superiority. The leverage that Boeing has had to create a truly interoperable information network is that the company builds a significant percentage of the world's military aircraft and communications satellites, he said.

"That's the starting point for the information network," said Harms. "And what we want to create is a common communications and information architecture framework based on commercial and government interface standards that is Internet-based and allows these systems to talk to each other and share information."

Boeing Integration CenterSuch an architecture would help meet the needs of the Integrated Battlespace, which are communications (assured connectivity), information (information certainty), knowledge (timely decisions) and actions (velocity of actions).

"Connectivity is very important," Harms emphasized. "Our military customer wants to be connected anytime, anywhere."

In the BIC, visitors can see what future connectivity could be like. As scenarios unfold, icons that represent, for instance, individual soldiers, units, aircraft, weapons, tanks, ships or trucks are arrayed on maps on the projection screens. Each icon has an Internet protocol address that can readily be called up through handheld and desktop computers. Accessing an icon's Internet protocol address provides information on what it is, where it is, what it's doing, where it's going, what it's armed with, and whether or not it's friendly.

This is the type of information that battlefield commanders need, Harms said. He recalled that a three-star general once told him, during a BIC demonstration, the one question he'd most likely ask a soldier was, "Where are you?"

"That's a fundamental question, not only of soldiers, but of policemen, firemen, even parents," Harms said.

The answers to such fundamental questions are what Boeing plans to provide through the network solutions it's developing in pursuit of the Integrated Battlespace market. Battlefield decisions will still be difficult, but the ability of all systems to share information and collaborate will save time and lives and ensure mission success.

"We don't tell (our customers) how to operate, we tell them what the art of the possible is, as it applies to their particular domain," O'Berry said of the BIC demonstrations. "They walk away from the BIC sessions with knowledge they didn't have when they came in. They walk away excited, and understanding what the principles of this are all about."


Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
© 2003 The Boeing Company. All rights reserved.