America's troops have very awesome tactical gear, even through all the teething problems that systems like the F-35 Lightning II have had.
That said, all that gear can't win a war unless you can come up with a good plan.
During a walk-through demonstration given by Lockheed Martin at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo held at National Harbor, Maryland, the company explained how the technology and capabilities of mission planning are set to take a huge step forward.
But what's it like now?
The present state of integrating the air, land, maritime, space, and cyber components in the military was described as a series of stovepipes by Kim Ponders of Lockheed Martin's famous Skunk Works.
Hiccups with this integration sometimes means that different components go after the same target.
Lockheed concept art of multi-domain command and control (MD2C). (Graphic from Lockheed)
In essence, a JDAM dropped from a F-35 could very well hit an SA-20 command vehicle that was already fried by a cyber attack, and the site then gets hits by Tomahawk cruise missiles, even though the missiles are useless without a command vehicle.
While there are times that overkill can help, there are circumstances — like a target-rich environment or when you are short of munitions — where overkill can be a problem.
Skunk Works seeks to change that by using open-systems architecture to create a multi-domain command and control system. One key component called the Einstein Box was tested during Northern Edge earlier this year.
In essence, this helps network 4th-generation fighters with the 5th-generation fighters without compromising the stealth of the F-22s and F-35s. During that exercise, the Einstein Box was placed on one of the early successes of the Skunk Works, the U-2 Dragon Lady.
This is an "Einstein Box" at the MDC2 booth at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo from Lockheed)
This merging of systems ranging from the F-22 Raptor to destroyers and cruisers equipped with Aegis to the control system for the Tactical Tomahawk cruise missile to the Space-Based Infrared System will eventually make it a lot harder to the bad guys, largely because American (and allied) troops will be able to pass information to each other much faster than before.
From this angle, you can see some of the displays used for planning in the cyber, space, and air domains. (Photo from Lockheed)
By being able to pass the information faster, American troops will be able to rapidly pair platforms with targets. This will help them make the most of their assets on the scene. Lockheed even has teamed up with Raytheon and SRC to design a new JSTARS that could carry out MDC2.
A look at some of the consoles in a mockup of Lockheed's proposed replacement for the E-8 JSTARS. (Lockheed photo)
This means that in the future, the pilot of a F-35 could detect a radar emission, and other assets (either special operation forces on the ground or a satellite) could very quickly tell that pilot whether the emitter is real or a decoy, how far it is from the van, and the pilot can then address the threat, or be told that another asset will handle it. Rapidly getting that information to everyone will eventually help save the lives of American troops, and that's a very good thing.
Lockheed has a video on the MDC2 concept below.