Data Fabric Weaves Modernized Fires Mission Thread
As part of their efforts to modernize the mission thread for fire, the US Army is revising two systems that are critical to providing sensor data for weapon systems in order to be able to combat battlefield targets more effectively.
These two systems are the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) and the Joint Automated Deep Operations Coordination System (JADOCS), which is being replaced by the Joint Targeting Command and Coordination System (JTC2S). The updated systems will provide weapon systems with critical information about the data structure developed as part of the Rainmaker project.
AFATDS offers fully automated support in the planning, coordination, control and execution of fires with mortars, field artillery cannons, missiles and missiles, close air support, attack aircraft and naval fire support systems. It interoperates and integrates with more than 80 different battlefield systems, including naval and air force command and control weapons systems and some international fire support systems.
AFATDS is a decades-old system that uses multiple computer languages, including Ada, which is almost extinct. “It uses about 15 different programming languages, all stacked on top of each other, many millions of lines of code to enclose Ada. We’re rewriting all of the AFATDS code in a modern software language, ”says Col. Matthew Paul, USA, the new Project Manager for Mission Command in the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical. “It takes quite a lot of effort to rewrite all this code, to go back in time – 20 years and more – and to understand the architecture and to reverse engineer what has been achieved so far and to integrate it into a clean architecture with Java-based software. ”
The AFATDS overhaul is expected to be completed in 2023 and will require a lot of analysis and testing. “With an endeavor like this, we wouldn’t wait until the end to test. You do a little programming and then do a little testing to make sure you got it right. That determines the schedule, ”explains Col. Paul.
JADOCS, on the other hand, is a command and control tool that helps with strategic coordination and situational awareness on the operational and tactical level of combat. The system provided real-time tracks, target databases and service-specific fire information in a single software application.
Col. Paul’s team is in the early stages of replacing the system with the more modern JTC2S. The Army published a request for information in July seeking ideas from industry on capabilities, system requirements, and cutting edge technology.
“We are still in the process of reviewing the requirements with Fort Sill, and we expect these requirements to be approved by the summer,” reports Col. Paul. “As soon as we can agree on the financing requirements, we will start the program.”
JTC2S will offer about 20 or 30 percent more options than its predecessor, Col. Paul estimates. “JADOCS is based on old software technologies and is therefore not very scalable from a data point of view. It was data-centric in its time, but not anymore, especially when we deal with competitors, a lot more data in the ecosystem, and a lot more goals that need to be prosecuted. “
The biggest difference will be the ability to quickly couple the most appropriate and readily available weapon system to a target. “That is very data-intensive. We want to do this automatically or almost automatically, and on a large scale. This is something that JADOCS is quite limited to today, ”explains Col. Paul.
Both modern systems will feed sensor information into the data structure being developed as part of the Rainmaker project under the direction of the Army’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center.
Data Fabric technology brings together a variety of sources of information and unique data formats, ranging from modern sensor arrays to legacy systems that army documentation says were designed for specific functions such as logistics or aviation. It overlay them with common interfaces and services using open standards so that the systems can exchange information without custom translators. In this way, the fabric creates a larger pool of data that is enriched, synchronized, and more transparent, and forwards the right data to the operator who needs it.
For the second year in a row, the data structure will be included in the Army’s Project Convergence learning campaign, which includes experiments and exercises designed to help define what technologies will be used and how they will be used in future wars. The data structure could be transferred from the laboratory in 2023.
“The value proposition that Rainmaker brings to PC 21” [Project Convergence 2021] is to enable that sensor-to-shooter thread. Rainmaker will play a big role [joint all-domain command and control] to discover data in the ecosystem and distribute it where it is needed to enable the kill chain, “offers Col. Paul.