Seeing the Big Picture

Dec. 12, 2017
I recently attended the 54thAssociation of Old Crows Annual Symposium. For those interested in the technology of Electronic Warfare, this event is somewhat of the place to be. I had many conversations with customers and saw some amazing technology and concept demos. One booth had a demo that used virtual reality to simulate and visualize a coastal battle scenario. The scenario included many types of systems and vehicles including naval vessels, UAV/ISR, satellite communications/imaging, and air/ground attack vehicles.

The video gamer in me thought it was a very cool tech demo. The US Navy Veteran in me had to pause to realize the challenge and complexity of such a battlefield scenario. As I watched the demo unfold, I had time to discuss and reflect on how critical computational technology is to such a distributed system capability.

In the simulation, the allied forces had no fewer than 40 assets on the battlefield. Every asset has a key role to play and includes some form of sensor, jammer, communications, or video capability. The engagement started with the enemy attacking a single ship and led to a full-scale EW campaign to support safe delivery of munitions to disable key air defense and threats from the enemy. The step by step methodical dismantling of the enemy defenses made me glad I’m with the good guys.

Working together

As I watched the battle unfold, it was interesting to see the different assets work together in a distributed network to first jam and disable threats, such as surface to air missile systems, then to defeat that threat with kinetic action from a platform such as an F-18F, and then to verify with a video feed from Global Hawk. In each step along the way, the computer scientist in me was thinking: “that jammer has to have a lot of FPGAprocessing capability; that video system must leverage a rugged embedded GPU; that command and control communication link needs to have a rugged high-performance CPU system.” A key takeaway from the engagement was that, with all the coordination, no wonder cybersecurity is such a hot buzz word: hardening communications for security is extremely important.

The goal of the simulation in the end was to show how this prime contractor has technology across the battlefield. As a supplier to such customers, it reminded me how the work we do as a COTS provider of rugged embedded computing is more than just a tough computer or DSP board - it’s a force multiplying technology element that keeps our service members safe and a step above the enemy. It made me particularly proud to consider how we at Abaco are enabling such advanced system technology and just how important Electronic Warfare is to the modern battlefield.

To learn more about how Abaco is enabling the next generation of Electronic Warfare capability, go to our web page.

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