Battlespace Tech

ARL preparing for the multi-domain battlefield of the future

Technology being developed and deployed across the physical and virtual battlefields is proliferating at a startlingly impressive clip, and it’s not about to slow down. Ten years ago, the United States had a virtual monopoly on unmanned aircraft technology; now defending against armed drones is a critical concern. Recent cyberattacks such as the one against Sony have also many security experts wondering if this could be the new normal. And as more sensors and other nodes are added to military networks, the amount of big data they generate threatens to overwhelm.

The Army Research Lab addresses those concerns as part of its 2015 Science and Technology Strategy, which not only looks at short-term concerns within the next four years, but offers projections to the future of 2040.

ARL’s strategy puts a lot of emphasis on battlefield data and security, noting that the cyber realm is becoming as much of an active war zone as the physical. ARL maintains that the Army battlefield in 2040 will be a virtual-physical space in which cyber operations are critical to the fight and consist of a “complex dynamic heterogeneous network” that involves the integration and interaction between humans, robots and artificial intelligence. ARL’s mission for an informational sciences campaign is twofold: facilitate available information and knowledge in timely way and facilitate the development of offensive informational platforms to buck enemy command and control abilities.      

Cyber Fire and Maneuver in Tactical Battle

Quoting from the Army Operating Concept, ARL notes, “The cyberspace and space domains will take on added importance in the future. Global and regional competitors have invested heavily in all aspects of cyber and space operations.” Cyber fire and cyber maneuver will play a role in this domain. 

Cyber fires—or non-kinetic computer network attack capabilities, as opposed to traditional conventional weapons—will impact this domain by degrading, disrupting, denying, deceiving and destroying informational, computational and communication resources, ARL said. Additionally, Cyber fires also will impact physical capabilities in weapons, robots, munitions and personnel. Cyber maneuvers, on the other hand, will move and/or transform traditionally benign computational resources in order to deny enemy attack opportunities and impose additional problems for adversaries in both the cyber and physical maneuver domain. Effective cyber intelligence capabilities will enable and contribute to successful cyber fires and maneuvers.  

ARL research in cyber fires and maneuvers will support real-time creative planning and execution control of agile, daring, aggressive fires and maneuvers among automated machines, according to the strategy. Research will focus on developing fortifications that can allow effective cyber fire and maneuver operations, especially in the tactical environment. Among ARL’s research goals are near-autonomous detection and identification of malicious cyber activity, rapid response, predictive systems, and offensive methodologies to eliminate cyber assets with a high predictability and probability to kill. 

The Flash Floods of Networked Battlefield Info

Separate from cyber fires and maneuvers, ARL wants to be able to intelligently control the volumes of information among the network of humans and machines. Among the military, economic, social, political and legal implications of human-machine interactions, ARL plans to build on previous Army goals to develop situational understanding of complex environments in which enemies interact with civilian populations. It also wants to develop ways to interpret the variety, velocity and veracity of machine-generated information that is bound to surge and overwhelm humans. 

By developing a greater understanding of such paradigms, ARL believes collective intelligence can deliver beneficial and meaningful content to soldiers. Through this effort, researchers will focus on developing quantitative models of information, methodologies to create coherent information networks, partially centralized and semi-autonomous control of large networks and approaches to autonomously recognize and predict network changes in order to overcome barriers for realization of analytical approaches to understand complex networks.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

Defense Systems Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.