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Software-Defined Defense Is Necessary for Future Warfare

Digitized operations are crucial in the next decades of war.


Considered a “game-changer,” software-defined defense is vital for use by militaries today. Software will become a decisive feature of military capabilities. And countries that do not digitize their military operations will not survive on the battlefield, said Vice Adm. Thomas Daum, chief, German Cyber and Information Domain Service, speaking December 7 at AFCEA International’s TechNet Transatlantic conference in Frankfurt, hosted by AFCEA Europe.


“No doubt the firepower of any military asset will remain of importance,” Adm. Daum stated. “However, if your tank, your ship, your aircraft is not a network node on a digitized battlefield, you will not survive. You will need a faster recognized picture. You need to decide better. You need to strike earlier and more precisely, or to put in more formal terms, information superiority leads to decision superiority that affects superiority.”


Moreover, a transparent battlefield is already a reality, Adm. Daum noted.


“We have reached digitization, far-reaching digitization, with data connections possible even in remote areas,” he said. “And the creative application of smart devices, cellphones and microdrones has led to an enormous increase of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, resulting in interconnectivity. And that, combined with a decrease in the transmission time, is really reducing the reaction time for tactical leaders.”














Software-enabled warfare is crucial given how current and future battlefields require more defense as the speed of the battle has increased and the time for decision-making has decreased.

Traditionally lacking in digitization, land forces are advancing operations with software-defined radios, the admiral suggested. “The only relevant solution that I've seen over the years involving the land domain was the development of joint tactical fires support,” he explained. “Today, with digital, software-defined radios with higher bandwidth, with digital transmission waveforms, a new era has started for the land forces. And by introducing battle management systems, platforms can be connected, recognized pictures can be exchanged, targets can be assigned in a timely manner, and the kill chain in this domain can be optimized.”

Adm. Daum ventured, however, that soldiers need to be able to understand and accept the advantage of modern automated data exchanges and know how to improve their warfighting capability through the platforms.

The admiral sees further gains connecting ground warfare systems, including integrating internal bus systems and control features to leverage battle management platforms. “Then to connect the turret, connect the artillery to the command and control system in that way, and with that, we would allow third-party targeting in this land domain,” he clarified. “The turret could automatically return to the targets that were received via the networks. And this is actually where software-defined defense comes into play.”






VADM Thomas Daum, chief, German Cyber and Information Domain Service
Countries that do not digitize their military operations will not survive on the battlefield.
Vice Adm. Thomas Daum
Chief, German Cyber and Information Domain Service. Photo Courtesy of the German Bundeswehr


In his vision, Adm. Daum sees software-defined defense as the military platform. Instead of a tank having some digitization, a tank is considered a mobile computer. “Software as a specific detailed solution is no longer one of the features on the platform,” he explained. “On the contrary, the weapon platform just becomes a swimming, flying or rolling weapon carrier centered around a huge interconnected network, which is run and operated by software systems. So, in the end, ships, aircraft and tanks are just hardware around processors and operating software systems. In my view, the frigate is a data center afloat.”

To achieve this vision, militaries will need data center-connected architecture, cloud-based highly automated systems that are combined with artificial intelligence and robotics to significantly accelerate decision-making.

Adm. Daum also noted that software-defined defense will help compensate for militaries that have disadvantages in terms of personnel and material.

“It's nothing less than the start of a new era, [with shifts] in the fundamental, architectural, organizational and operational principles of modern warfare,” he stated.