Prepare to Profit from the "Combat Cloud"

Let’s begin up in the clouds, so to speak.

Here’s a photo of an F-22 “Raptor” aircraft, as seen from the “boom” position of a refueling aircraft one night as U.S. forces prepared to bomb targets in Syria.

F-22 "Raptor" as Seen from the "Boom" Position of a Fefueling AircraftOnly thing more difficult than doing it by day…
…is doing it by night.

Pretty slick, eh?

The downside, though, is that we’re looking at 1980s and 1990s technology.

In other words, the F-22 is certainly an advanced weapon system. Yet it’s “old tech,” as I’ll explain in a moment.

As you can imagine, people who run the Pentagon view “old tech” as a problem, and they’re searching for a solution.

In fact, the Defense Department will soon start spending big bucks to fix things.

I’m looking for ways to help you invest ahead of the news…

We’re at the cusp of a new set of Fifth Domain of War programs… [called] “Combat Cloud.”

First, let me give you an example of what I mean when I say that F-22 is “old” tech.

Within the avionics of a Raptor are computer processors — called “common integrated processors” (CIPs). Their speed is rated at 700 MIPS (million instructions per second).

That’s about the speed of a late-1990s vintage Intel Pentium III chip.

Heck, the iPhone in your pocket is built around a chip that can process signals about 50 times faster than that.

Of course, F-22 CIPs were designed 20 years ago, and they were very much state of the art back then. On the other hand, raw CIP speed isn’t everything.

These fighter jets have to work in tough, rugged environments — high “G loads,” rapid acceleration, vibration, wild swings in temperature, air pressure and humidity.

Those are things that your iPhone doesn’t have, or need.

In the end, builder Lockheed and buyer Air Force settled on a mix — call it “architecture” — of hardware and software. At some point, they froze the design and started assembling airplanes.

So what happens when combat commanders have to do their work with “frozen” designs based on relatively old tech?

Well, they usually salute smartly and carry on, but they also ask for a workaround. Indeed, that’s where we are now. We’re at the cusp of a new set of Fifth Domain of War programs, which top-level Pentagon guys call “Combat Cloud.”

Combat Cloud is a new vision for sharing data between aircraft, ships, ground points, satellites, undersea and… whoops — I better stop there (I can’t say too much).

Recently, the Naval Research Lab (NRL) released a request to other government labs, contractors, services and academia to come up with concepts for tying everything together.

Why?

Well, one key issue right now, per NRL, is that many high-end, expensive, stealthy systems cannot link up with many other legacy systems.

For example, F-22s can’t effectively share data with, say, F-15s or F-16s, let alone with, say, B-52 bombers. Without cross talk between platforms, combat effectiveness is diminished.

So what’s the plan?

The goal is to create an overarching, data-dense network that can access each platform.

In other words, each airplane, ship, satellite, etc. becomes an information-node — and signal processor as well — that both downloads and contributes to the cloud, even in the heat of battle.

“Old” CIPs are supplemented by new CIPs somewhere far away. Data become a “cloud”-like substance, as is the case with, say, global positioning, if not simply air.

Right now, individual services each have “baby step” programs to accomplish this end.

For example, the Navy is moving to connect forces with a program called NIFC-CA — Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air. The idea is to network ships and aircraft to protect assets from attack. (Imagine a ship commander taking control of a distant aircraft, sending a targeting/firing solution and remotely shooting the airplane’s missiles.)

At Air Force, the task is shaping up even larger than that for Navy.

That is, in recent years, the USAF has picked up innumerable new missions based on processing 24/7 streams of data from satellites, drones, airborne control, ground control and more, but overall battle management is simply inadequate to make use of the mass of raw data.

It’s bad enough now, but looking ahead two decades and more? In the future, it’s almost inevitable that F-22s and F-35s will fight in the same airspace as legacy platforms like the F-15, the F-16 and even the old iron workhorse B-52. Yet there’s no comprehensive program in place to connect everything and “deliver effects” down on the battlefield.

So the future sounds great, but… right now, all that super-duper tech is a stand-alone capability with each F-22 airplane. There’s no way (no “secure” way) of integrating that hard-earned knowledge into the overall battle plan.

Over the summer, I heard a talk by then-head of Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage. Gen. Hostage stated that he was “professionally appalled” to learn that fifth-generation platforms — F-22 and F-35 — “can’t talk to each other.” With money issues as they are, he opined, the Pentagon simply lacks the funding to buy and build a new fleet of aircraft up to “fifth generation” standards. Thus, the less expensive step has to be “fusion.” This drives a “fourth-to-fifth/fifth-to-fifth solution,” per Gen. Hostage.

Combat Cloud is coming, and it’s going to be a big, important program.

It all feeds into the “cloud” concept. It’s still early, and definitely in the research stage. But right now, we’re looking at a holistic approach toward development, involving all elements within government and outside, certainly the contractor community. Still, it’s so important that it has to happen; it can’t not happen.

Not only will it happen, but we’ll see the need to develop all manner of security and defenses along the way as well. That’s because one drawback to Combat Cloud would be if the system were hacked or corrupted.

According to one senior USAF official, “I need certainty of information. The adversary is going to blunt it, to try to knock it down, but [I don’t want] the adversary to change the information [in the cloud]. That’s worse than turning it off.”

At the same time, U.S. warfighters already operate every day under cyberattack. They deal with, say, GPS being jammed or altered, or other network intrusions. The idea is to build a cloud system and then train to react in case it’s degraded.

Combat Cloud is coming, and it’s going to be a big, important program.

I’ll have much more to tell you about Combat Cloud — and the investment opportunities — in future issues. That’s all for now.

Best wishes…

Byron W. King
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: Byron has actually prepared a full briefing on how to invest in the “combat cloud” as well as other advanced security systems. The information is too sensitive to share right here. But a unique opportunity to view it was just released to readers of the FREE Tomorrow in Review e-letter. You can join them by clicking here and signing up for FREE, right now. Once inside, you’ll see several opportunities just like this, every single trading day. Don’t miss another issue. Click here right now to get started.

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