IoT is Transforming Modern Warfare

The U.S. military is adapting to a world in which adversaries are getting more sophisticated. As we continue to see a rise of Internet of Things (IoT), the military’s ability to quickly correlate, evaluate and create value from data is key to have an edge on the battlefield. 


 

TURNING DATA INTO ACTION

Today, the military gathers data through sensors on a range of platforms, including aircraft, weapon systems, ground vehicles and even troops in the field.

The data gathered is fed through Command, Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems that process and disseminate the most mission-critical information, such as the position of an inbound threat. 

To interpret the incoming data in real-time, companies, like Lockheed Martin, are using their knowledge in machine learning to increase automation when it comes to decision-making. This in turn leads to faster intelligence collection and swifter identification of threats.

Machine Learning Scenario

Let’s assume that the military can capture every mobile communication in a specific region. The challenge is finding the manpower to look at all communications and detect suspicious ones.

This is where machine learning comes into play. Instead, machine-learning programs can filter through conversations, find suspicious ones, and identify threats in real time for commanders to make strategic decisions on the ground.

IoT allows this information to be linked across platforms and weapon systems, developing an intricate warfighting network. 


 

CREATING A WARFIGHTING NETWORK

The military is moving toward an integrated warfare approach.

Using 48,000 miles of classified communication network lines, the Missile Defense Agency’s Command, Control, Battle Management and Communications System, known as C2BMC, is one example of an IoT-enabled warfighting network.

This C4ISR system connects the different elements of the U.S. military’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) into a single system-of-systems to counteract threats across the globe.

“C2BMC is the translator for the BMDS,” explained JD Hammond, director of Command & Control. “It takes data from hundreds of sensors, radars and satellites and translates that data into a common language for the missile defense systems to interact and engage the threat.” 

C2BMC Scenario
Let’s say an enemy missile is approaching and is detected by ground-based sensors. C2BMC obtains this data, which in turn, cues radars to track the threat. C2BMC is able to distinguish if it’s a threat and where its targeting.

While a commander ultimately decided whether to engage, C2BMC provides the information required to intercept and destroy the threat.

As C2BMC is the “wiring” that connects all the elements together, it’s crucial for the military to secure the network from intrusions. 


 

SECURING THE NETWORK

IoT-connected sensors and radars collect and transmit data on the position and movements of U.S. troops and adversaries, supplies, and inadequately secured networks can provide the enemy with this intelligence.

“The benefits of IoT that make it attractive to the military also make the framework vulnerable to malicious cyber attacks,” said Hammond. “Our challenge is ensuring that the adoption of IoT does not create an opportunity to manipulate a device or network, steal secure information or disrupt the flow of data.”

Hammond cited regular “audits” of the system, which includes a team of internal hackers infiltrate the system to assess how the current tools and capabilities would respond to an attack, and adjust as needed to strengthen the defense.

To mitigate threats, the defense industry is “cyber hardening” its networks, systems and sensors from attacks. Hardening involves increasing the difficulty of accessing or exploiting a system by layering multiple cyber techniques—such as adding detection systems, training personnel and collecting data on adversaries. 

Cyber Attack Scenario
Revisiting the scenario above, let’s assume a hacker tried to disrupt the missile intercept by infiltrating the network. Because the system is cyber hardened, the attack is detected and blocked, and eventually evaluated to determine the intruder’s objectives.

By fully understanding an intrusion, the military can predict the characteristics of future intrusions with greater confidence and evolve its techniques and cyber infrastructures for future attacks.

At the end of the day, it’s not the IoT devices themselves that will deliver the biggest breakthrough—it’s the ability to maintain a secure environment that supports safe exchange of information and timely delivery to the end user. 


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