Wing Advances Key Machine-to-Machine Communications Tool
The Air Force’s new Spectrum Warfare Wing is charged with developing an important integration tool.
The U.S. Air Force’s 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing is leveraging the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA's) System-of-Systems Technology Integration Tool Chain for Heterogeneous Electronic Systems, also known as STITCHES. The integration tool chain, which enables machine-to-machine communications, can integrate command and control, and fires platforms quickly—an important capability for electromagnetic spectrum operations.
The government-owned, software-only middleware solution connects heterogeneous weapon systems, other platforms and subsystems that were not originally designed to cross-communicate.
“Creating a STITCH between two weapons systems or components that otherwise could not communicate creates this competitive and comparative advantage to the warfighter and is critical to the need to dominate the EMS [electromagnetic spectrum],” the commander of the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing, Col. William Young, USAF, said in a statement.
Across any domain, the solution integrates systems by auto-generating extremely low-latency, high-throughput middleware to connect machines—without any new hardware needed or having to alter existing system software. “The tool chain does not force a common interface standard; rather, it rapidly creates the needed connections based on existing fielded capabilities obviating the need to upgrade in order to interoperate,” the colonel stated.
Although STITCHES was employed by the Air Force during the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Onramp 2 demonstration in early September 2020, the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing is the first organization to operationalize the tool chain solution.
“The wing is charged to further develop and deploy STITCHES because this connection capability advances the wing’s mission to ‘deliver adaptive and cutting-edge electromagnetic spectrum capabilities that provide the warfighter a tactical and strategic competitive advantage,’” Col. Young said.
The organization hopes to advance on one of DARPA’s proof-of-concept demonstrations that involved a software-defined radio, a radar warning receiver and an air-launched munition to enable inflight updates to the munition via a composite data link capability. In that case, STITCHES enabled the electromagnetic spectrum connection to the components, which in turn created “a new composite system that was much more capable than any of the individual components,” according to the wing.
In addition, the 350 Spectrum Warfare Wing is currently organizing, training and equipping specific multidisciplinary teams at the wing that will build new STITCHES capabilities. As the wing’s STITCHES teams gain proficiency, they will be able to reconfigure and repurpose existing components and subsystems to meet emerging warfighter needs, the colonel indicated.
“The Spectrum Warfare Wing (SWW) is the initial tech transfer organization,” Col. Young announced at the Association of Old Crows annual symposium last month. “We’ve stood a SWAT, a spectrum warfare application team. The way it is going to work is that the DARPA performers are unlocking the components, and they are giving us the ‘Legos,’ [the building blocks of STITCHES] and our team is integrating and configuring them, in order to solve specific warfighter problems. I have the first five people that are trained today. We plan to deliver some of the initial capability this spring.”
In addition, the STITCHES capability will not necessarily fully supplant the wing’s need to reprogram weapon systems—expertise of which was resident in the former 53rd Electronic Warfare Group that had historically performed the reprogramming—but it will add the key software-based advancement flexibility.
“The 350 SWW will continue to support reprogramming but is adding the capability to reconfigure and repurpose, all through software,” Col. Young said.
He added that the wing will continue to partner with DARPA and Headquarters Air Force Acquisition to integrate STITCHES with internal wing systems and successfully demonstrate the capability based on the identified warfighter needs.
“By deploying STITCHES, the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing connects the Joint Force and furthers its mission to ‘provide the warfighter [...] the freedom to attack, maneuver and defend’ through enhanced connections in combat,” Col. Young stated. “STITCHES is a critical component to advancing the fight to dominate the EMS. The threats of tomorrow are here today, and they will continue to expound. We cannot wait on the ‘next thing’—so we are building it now.”