Video Above: Air War in 2050 - Air Force Research Lab Commander
Attacking and destroying an enemy warship in the expansive waters in the Pacific requires air, surface, undersea and even ground sensing, targeting, precision weapons and, perhaps most of all, high-speed, reliable multi-domain information sharing.
While the ultimate success of an offensive operation of this kind would likely pertain to the effectiveness of the explosive, or “effector” used to destroy the ship, execution of the mission would unequivocally rely upon multi-domain data analysis, organization and transmission.
These kinds of modern warfare nuances are exactly what the Department of Defense sought to refine, verify and ultimately enhance during its recent Valiant Shield operation in the Pacific. The exercise conducted a live-fire mission called “SINKEX” in which a Joint Task Force tracked and destroyed the decommissioned ex-US Vandergrift (FFG). Clearly the exercise, deemed a success by Pentagon observers, sought to assess and solidify the technological envelope of possibility and refine the kinds of emerging tactics necessary to prevail in a high-threat, high-speed modern maritime warfare environment.
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“SINKEX featured a tightly synchronized sequence of live-fire events, demonstrating the joint forces' capability to deliver fires and effects in the maritime environment. This SINKEX provided the Joint Task Force the opportunity to test new weapons and communications technologies and rehearse the integration of cyber effects to conduct long-range, precise, lethal, and overwhelming multi-domain strikes against a surface target at sea,” a US Navy essay on Valiant Shield described.
From both a conceptual and operational perspective, a joint, multi-national, multi-domain live-fire exercise such as this aligns entirely with the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative intended to network the Joint Force through high-speed, AI-enabled targeting and data sharing at the “speed of relevance” to get ahead of an enemy’s decision cycle.
The idea is to link stealth fighter jets, surface ships, drones, satellites and ground forces to one another in near real-time to massively expedite the often referred to “sensor-to-shooter” curve between otherwise separated domains such as air, sea, land, space and cyber.
Surveillance, countermeasures and defensive responses would of course be need to counter enemy weapons used, such as a laser, anti-ship missile, submarine-fired torpedo, air-to-ground weapon or air-dropped bomb. However, any success in an operation of this kind would rely almost entirely on data sharing, networking and a need for a robust, multi-domain information transmission apparatus. This is the principle thrust of JADC2, and part of why the US services partnered with various industry weapons developers to push the realm of the possible with respect to real-time maritime warfare sensor data sharing.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. 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.