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Northrop, AT&T partner to develop ‘internet of things’ battle network for DoD

WASHINGTON: Northrop Grumman and AT&T are teaming up to develop a digital battle network that will support the Pentagon’s vision for Joint All Domain Command and Control, the companies announced today.

The companies have entered into a joint research and development framework “to deliver a cost-effective, scalable, open architecture solution that will help the DoD connect distributed sensors, shooters and data from all domains, terrains and forces — similar to how smart devices connect and share data in our everyday lives,” according to a Northrop Grumman press release.

The digital battle network will be powered by Northrop’s advanced mission systems and AT&T 5G and will bring together high speeds, low latency and cybersecurity protections of private 5G networks to support DoD’s JADC2 vision.

Kathy Warden, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman, speaking today at the Axios What’s Next Summit, described the network as the “internet of things” for federal assets and military applications. The network is intended to allow interconnectivity with every platform, sensor and weapon.

The companies are “working on the ability to connect and interface — so build communications capabilities — that allow that interconnectivity to happen without having to change all the platforms,” she said.

Warden added Northrop expects to be prototyping technology for the effort within a year.

Though Warden likened the digital battle network to an IOT for military applications and smart devices used every day, military services like the Army have been vocal in the past about potential vulnerabilities caused by civilian IOT technologies, which collect data about people and machines and then make that data accessible.

Last year, the service started exploring how data-driven “smart cities” networks could make bases more efficient. Andrew Nelson, director of the Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s International Research Office, said as the Army incorporated more technology and smart-cities infrastructure, it is also introduced potential cyber vulnerabilities to installations.

At the same time, Northrop is hardly the first defense firm to partner with a commercial vendor on a similar concept. Lockheed Martin partnered with startup Omnispace in March last year to develop a “hybrid” communications network, using both satellites and ground-based wireless tech intended to support DoD’s JADC2 vision.

Then, in February this year, Lockheed announced it was developing a prototype 5G testbed for the Marines that aims to advance the JADC2 concept by addressing high bandwidth and low latency.

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