From The Editor | July 24, 2015

Securing 21st Century Warfare's Most Valuable Asset — Information

By Jim Pomager,
Follow me on Twitter @jpomager

Securing 21st Century Warfare’s Most Valuable Asset — Information

The last decade has witnessed a virtual explosion in the development and global adoption of communications and information technology. While this era of swift, unprecedented technological advancement has conveyed innumerable benefits to civilian society, it also has ushered in a brand new set of challenges for the United States and other established military powers.

Consider these facts:

  • Communication and information technology (IT) is advancing at a faster pace in the commercial sphere than it is in the government.
  • Capabilities like global positioning, high-resolution imaging and display, and high-speed data transfer and storage are now within easy reach of most of the world’s population. (The smartphone in your pocket likely delivers all these features.)
  • The Internet provides developing countries and non-state actors with a ready-made network for coordinating forces and engaging in information warfare.
  • The incidence of cyberattacks against the U.S. is steadily increasing, and the strategy has proven effective for the offensive and defensive pursuits of the country’s foes.
  • The widespread availability and low cost of commercial devices and infrastructure are quickly leveling the technological playing field between the U.S. and its adversaries.
  • This trend projects to grow in the future, facilitated by increases in computing speed, ubiquity of sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT), and other technological and economic factors.
The widespread availability and low cost of commercial devices and infrastructure are quickly leveling the technological playing field between the U.S. and its adversaries.

With this as a backdrop, the U.S. and its allies require new approaches to fortify their communication and information capabilities in complex, rapidly changing operating scenarios. That’s why Electronic Military & Defense selected communication and information security as the theme for its 2015-2016 edition.

The articles that follow introduce emerging tools and techniques that could soon help our nation’s armed forces maintain — or even improve — their current world-leading ability to capture, share, store, and protect vital military information.

For example, the article starting on page 14 discusses recent developments in the field of integrated optical beam steering chips. Optical beam shaping and steering could play a major role in enabling secure, free-space optical communication for military applications, because the narrow beam path between sender and receiver makes the chances of intercepting such signals slim. Unfortunately, today’s beam shaping/steering systems are bulky and expensive, limiting their use to ground-based or large vehicle mounted deployments. Martijn Heck, Ph.D., of Aarhus University (Denmark), details progress in the field of photonic integration, which could equip a new generation of portable and unmanned military systems with beam steering abilities.

Another technology helping to secure battlefield information is the field-programmable gate array (FPGA). Despite their many advantages in military use, FPGAs remain difficult to tune for specific applications. On page 24, authors from Impulse Accelerated Technologies and Montana State University explain how recent improvements in high-level language (HLL) interfaces and design tools are making it easier for system architects to offload computing processes to FPGAs, freeing their systems to focus on more targeted, high-value processes.

In addition, other articles in this issue explore considerations for multichannel phase-coherent microwave measurements (page 20), improvements in polarimetric imaging for target and threat identification (page 8), and printed energy harvesters for autonomous military applications (page 40).

I hope you find these resources useful in your efforts to design the next generation of secure electronic systems, ones that will help our military protect its information-based capabilities and maintain its superiority in today’s increasingly competitive, complicated, and unstable environment.