In this three part series, I will be discussing the operational problem of integrated air defense from the perspective of its inherent cognitive, data and knowledge management processes, and the middleware tools that support and automate those processes.
Part One, published below, discusses the nature of the integrated air defense problem, introduces the associated cognitive processes and collates them within the knowledge management process.
Part Two, which will be published on Wednesday, 23 January 2013, discusses middleware tools applicable to integrated air defense systems and sets out a notional architecture for a middleware powered integrated air defense system.
Part Three, which will be published on Friday, 25 January 2013, discusses available middleware options, provides illustrations of real world integrated air defense systems and offers some concluding thoughts.
Recently, the BBC published this article discussing Rheinmetall's 50kW anti-aircraft laser. Fascinating, Star Wars kind of stuff. However, what's more interesting is what the article DIDN'T say: Given the capabilities of modern anti-aircraft gun and missile systems, the core of anti-air warfare (AAW) is all about data, and the ability to rapidly and efficiently process and derive meaning from that data.
The problem is that the simplicity is deceptive. There are multiple sensors, of multiple types. They are sending huge volumes of data, constantly. The data has a temporal dimension, and while it goes stale very rapidly, historical data points are vitally important. The data must be acted upon according to predefined rules governing the prioritization of targets by threat, engagement permissions, which shooters engage which targets at which times with what weapons, which command nodes receive what updates - and it must be processed and acted upon RAPIDLY. The cognitive and computational requirements are significant, requiring specialized software dedicated to processing these tactical events in a manner reflective of complex cognitive activities.
The IADS Cognitive Puzzle
The exercise of command and control requires interactions between three discrete cognitive activities: Identifying the relevant information from a deluge of sensory data, making sense of the information within a given operational context and the application of organizational wisdom (i.e., given a series of events, identify an optimal course of action).
In the IADS context, each information object represents a real world event, and these events trigger the series of cognitive activities. The first cognitive activity, identifying relevant information, revolves around deriving situational awareness (SA) from a constantly, and rapidly, evolving environment. Rapid environmental evolutions comprise huge numbers of discrete events. SA derivation requires that each event be vetted against predefined filtering rules that reflect organizational priorities in order to identify those that are of interest. Due to the rapidity with which SA information becomes stale, vetting and filtering activities must be conducted in as close to real-time as possible. The vetting process creates a subset of events that, collectively, yield SA.
Taken individually, each event lacks context and meaning. For example, the fact that a Flanker-G was at a given latitude, longitude and elevation at a given point in time may be interesting, but it is also essentially meaningless. However, when taken in combination with other events such as a number of positions/locations/altitudes over time and a negative response to an identification friend or foe (IFF) interrogation, an operationally relevant meaning is derived – in this case that a hostile aircraft is approaching your command and control facility at 18,000 feet at a speed of 956 knots.
The cognitive process of deriving useful contextual meaning from SA is referred to as “sensemaking” by the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems and Intelligence (C5I) community. While SA informs about relevant events that are taking place, sensemaking attaches an operational context and value to the events through the use of operational business rules (e.g., “more than ten aircraft of type A, moving at speed B, in direction C, at altitude D means equates to a hostile penetration of national airspace”). The final piece of the cognitive puzzle, the application of organizational wisdom, naturally follows from sensemaking activities. Once we know what’s going on and why it matters, we use collective experience to determine an optimal course of action. A simple example may be useful here:
|Knowledge Management Pyramid|
The knowledge management process can also be readily applied to the IADS context: