Air Force nearly ready to begin rolling out its ‘internet of military things’ |
The Advanced Battle Management System, a future system-of-systems that the Air Force likes to think of as an “internet of military things” is likely to start delivering real-world capabilities on existing military platforms as soon as next year, the Air Force’s top acquisition official said Tuesday.
ABMS crossed a significant milestone this week when Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, signed a memo saying the construct is ready to move into a “steady-state demonstration-deployment phase” and assigning a program executive office to manage future developments.
The Department of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, Roper said, will serve as an “integrating” PEO — a recognition that since every part of the Air Force and Space Force will have a hand in building ABMS, no single PEO can tackle the entire project.
“This will be something new, and something that’s new like ABMS probably needs a new construct for how we manage and execute,” he told reporters during a virtual roundtable Tuesday. “The RCO will gain the components that do not have a natural home within the Department of the Air Force, but they will also be responsible for providing the consolidated work breakdown structure, the consolidated baselines and most importantly, making funding trades when there’s not enough funding to do everything. That is something our program executive offices are accustomed to doing, and it’s the reality of this business that we are handed a budget that we don’t make, and we have to do our best job executing it.”
The idea behind AMBS — the Air Force’s main contribution to DoD’s broader vision of Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) — was born in 2008, when the service decided not to build a replacement for the Joint Surveillance Target and Attack Radar System, an aging aircraft that tracks targets and sends that information to ground forces.
Instead of acquiring a new airplane to gather and disseminate data, the Air Force shifted to a plan to connect all of its systems through an “internet” of military platforms. Roper said a team he assembled to architect ABMS over the past 18 months has now made enough progress that the service is ready to begin incorporating it into its existing fleet of platforms.
“The radio links — the command ones, the mesh ones, these are ready to go be purchased and installed, and they’ll likely all be consolidated on many platforms into one thing, where you have all of those transport functions and processing functions together,” he said. “They’re ready, but they’re not done — none of this is ever done. So we’ll document where they are, but we’ll also have to have a new form of documentation that captures the ability to continue updating, and we don’t have to look too far for inspiration. APIs from commercial industry are a really good way to keep evolving your system … I think similar things will help us document how we deliver a radio that has five waveforms today, and that may have five more in two years, and that needs to have the flexibility for waveforms we haven’t even invented yet.”
And the concepts that will be used in ABMS have already been proven, to a significant extent, in several demonstration projects over the last year, Roper said.
For example, the Air Force used the same…