Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Navy Looks To Float ‘Tactical Cloud’ 

As government agencies edge closer to cloud adoption, one of the military services is attempting to take a more proactive approach to leveraging cloud technology to deliver tactical applications needed to handle growing volumes of sensor and targeting data in real time.

The Office of Naval Research released a request for proposals in late August soliciting white papers and full proposals for what it calls an "Expeditionary Warfare Data Focused Naval Tactical Cloud."

Navy researchers said they are attempting to put cloud adoption on a fast track by categorizing the effort as "applied research" and "advanced technology development" – in other words, moving the concept of a tactical cloud from the drawing board to deployment. The goal would be to "accelerate exploitation of all relevant data for mission planning and execution in the conduct of Expeditionary Warfare missions."

According to the navy research solicitation, "The overall objective is to leverage the unprecedented access to data afforded by cloud systems in order to enable highly capable decision support tools."

As the amount of battlefield data grows, the U.S. military has long sought a "sensor fusion" capability that would automatically collect information from all sources and all classification levels. The "fused" data would then be delivered to commanders on a dashboard, for example, as a way to cut through the "fog of war."

In the case of the tactical cloud project, Navy researchers want to know if cloud computing, big data analytics and "cross domain technologies" can deliver the "Holy Grail" that is sensor fusion. Specifically, the Navy is seeking proposals for leveraging the cloud for expeditionary missions related to amphibious operations near the shoreline along with "maritime interception operations." Amphibious operations are typically a mission for the Marine Corps, a branch of the U.S. Navy.

The effort also would support special operations like "direct action strikes" and reconnaissance, the Navy said without elaborating.

The Office of Naval Research has for the past several years been developing a software platform called the Naval Tactical Cloud Reference Implementation. The platform is intended as an environment for storing data and for hosting applications and analytics.

The latest solicitation is intended to develop the interfaces between the platform and tactical, shore-based systems. Hence, the service stressed that vendors should focus on data science, analytics, and "decision tool development" rather than underlying big data or cloud infrastructure.

Hence, the Navy's definition of a "tactical cloud" is a platform that can deliver data applications that can be used to scan the battlefield in real time to provide what the military refers to as "situational awareness."

Ultimately, the service prefers a dashboard application that would allow commanders to "predict and track the various tasks" associated with a particular mission. Put another way, it is seeking a visualization tool that would "show impacts to a mission plan due to condition (physical, military, civil) changes (which are observed in cloud enabled data streams). This will also provide the commander with execution recommendations and associated risks," the solicitation states.

Interested cloud vendors will have to step lively: The Navy research office wants to see full proposals no later than 3 p.m. EDT on September 12.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).