Behind the abstruse notions of “system of systems” or “operational bubble” emerges “another way of fighting”, “centered on connectivity” between the means engaged more than on their own capacities, deciphers a high-ranking French under covered with anonymity.
At the heart of the collaborative fight, data and information sharing. “We are moving from a mode of operation in silos to a horizontal and vertical operation where we give the soldier, whatever his level, the ability to give information, to make decisions”, explains Cyril Dujardin, boss of digital security at Atos, on the occasion of the major international military exhibition Eurosatory, organized north of Paris this week.
The French computer giant provides the French forces with SICS, an information system embedded in new generation French armored vehicles (Griffon, Jaguar, Serval) as part of the Scorpion program.
The positions of the friendly forces are indicated in real time and the orders transmitted via this terminal, with which both the command post and the platoon leader in his vehicle are equipped.
“Today, it is centered on vehicles, the idea is to integrate the infantryman, to disseminate the information much more widely in order to have a better knowledge of the tactical situation”, explains the general engineer of Armament (IGA) Delphine (the French army forbids the publication of the surnames of its members), architect of future land combat systems at the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA).
The idea of the connected battlefield germinated in 1999. “You had to be daring when you see what mobile telephony and the internet were at the time”, relates the high-ranking Frenchman. “This gave the Scorpion weapons program with the first deliveries in 2019, it takes 20 years”.
The program has allowed France to be a pioneer and to be today “5 to 10 years ahead in collaborative combat” compared to other countries, except the United States, according to a French industrialist.
“But Scorpion is the prehistory of what we seek for 2040: an interconnected joint battlefield”, according to the senior officer.
The Future Air Combat System (Scaf) as well as its land equivalent, the Franco-German MGCS, should see the light of day on this horizon.
– Avoid “infobesity” –
In the long term, the sensors on board the vehicles must, for example, allow by communicating in an automated way to triangulate and therefore to locate the enemy forces. A drone that spots an enemy tank could transmit its position to a tank better equipped to destroy it.
“For the moment, we are only displaying the information, the idea is to switch to a prescriptive and predictive collaborative combat depending on the situation on the ground”, abounds Cyril Dujardin.
All of this presupposes powerful means of communication. The defense and technology group Thales must therefore begin to deliver the 25,000 Contact software radios ordered by the French army in 2023 and must supply NATO with the first examples of “deployable cloud” systems by the end of 2022.
Concretely, this will make it possible to operate all the IT of a NATO command post in a theater in “cloud” mode, i.e. by allowing the pooling of computing and storage resources of the servers. present on site.
Faced with this all-technology, the risk of “infobesity” awaits. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the operator only receives what he needs for his mission and that “communications are more frugal”, observes the IGA Delphine.
It is also a question of taking into account the risk of jamming massively used during the conflict in Ukraine.
When a radio frequency is jammed, automatic mechanisms already make it possible to switch to other frequencies.
We also need a “network mesh”, if a link is cut, we go through another node”, we observe at Airbus.
And provide for operation in “degraded mode”. For this, a track which should lead to around 2025 plans to inject artificial intelligence into network management. In the event of disturbances linked to jamming, they will be able to reconfigure themselves to give priority to the most essential data flows.