The Cutting-Edge Technologies That Are Redefining Air Dominance
Raytheon Intelligence & Space is at the forefront of aerial battlespace advances thanks to its technological expertise across domains. Michelle Moholt, Raytheon Intelligence & Space's technical director for Network Information & Connectivity Solutions within the Surveillance & Network Systems strategic business unit, discussed some of the cutting-edge technologies in the business's air dominance portfolio, and how these are addressing the complex challenges currently faced by warfighters.
How would you characterize the nature of the air dominance field?
The threat environment is dynamic and evolving at a rapid pace. Our adversaries are investing in advanced technology, specifically in integrated air defense systems. They are rapidly erasing some of our technological advantages, but we are working to make different solutions available that ensure that pilots and operators can successfully complete their mission.
RI&S has a reputation for building world-class technologies, such as airborne radars and electronic warfare systems. We've built upon those capabilities to extend our presence on air platforms – we've moved into providing land guidance, sensing and mission computer solutions as well.
That's where we're seeing the next generation of our air dominance growing – equipping air platforms with end-to-end solutions.
Could you pinpoint a couple of examples of new-technology products that are being brought to market?
One is the Raytheon Distributed Aperture System, or RDAS, which leverages our Electro-Optical DAS – or EODAS – on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Both offer 360-degree situational awareness, but RDAS is based on an air-cooled chassis, so it doesn't require any cooling from the platform.
This is a huge differentiator for us because it allows us to not only offer reduced size, weight and power, known as SWaP, but its scalability and modularity allows us to engage new customers since it is platform-agnostic. RDAS has even gone a little bit further by adding laser and inertial measurement unit functions.
Another program is COSMC, our Common Open Secure Mission Computer, which again is platform-agnostic. We achieved that by using model-based systems engineering to architect the computer in a way that allows us to apply it to different platforms without having to recreate the mission computer again and again, eliminating the need to go through the costly cycle of development every time. Using that approach we're able to design and deploy it onto different platforms, and quickly – we've almost cut our delivery time in half.
What platforms are you targeting with these programs?
Unmanned aircraft and rotary platforms are two of our main target platforms for RDAS. The air-cooled chassis is ideal for these SwaP constrained aircraft.
For COSMC, we see application for this technology on a wide range of aircraft, from light attack, to transport, to unmanned, to rotary-wing. We are currently on contract for the Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, C-130 mission computer, with production deliveries to start in October 2022. We're also on contract to upgrade the mission computer for the A-10.
Raytheon has been a major player in electronic warfare. What are the developments you're seeing in this field?
It's how quickly our adversaries are able to develop these electronic warfare threats, so our allies are being challenged in a way never seen before. We're seeing the need to provide a suite of capabilities that allows our allies to detect threats and deter them in a timely manner.
We've been focusing our development of electronic warfare solutions around electronic attack and self-protect systems, like radar warning receivers and decoys. Within electronic attack, we're working to provide force-level high-power offensive systems that rapidly and precisely detect EW threats and allow pilots to apply the right level of energy to deny use – ultimately allowing them to successfully execute their mission. Our radar warning receiver solutions is another area we're focused on. The modular and open-architecture systems allow us to swiftly adapt to the ever-evolving threat from different adversaries.
We're constantly striving to innovate and improve upon our EW, radar and sensor solutions – ensuring our customers get the best possible product.
How crucial are artificial intelligence and machine learning to developing air dominance capabilities?
AI/ML is really what's going to take our air dominance capabilities to the next level.
Right now, we are employing these technologies to offload work from the pilots while providing them with actionable data. By integrating smart intelligence across all our solutions, we can help pilots and operators make sense of the complex battlefield space that they're in.
This is a big game changer – enabling pilots and operators to truly own the skies
What are the main challenges to introducing these kinds of technologies?
The two main challenges that we are seeing are the ever-evolving threats and trying to make sure that we are staying ahead of them.
Some of the ways in which we're tackling this is to look for disruptive innovations. Areas where we can push the envelope in new capabilities. We are also looking at our existing and legacy systems to see how we can adapt them more rapidly.
It is simply making sure we can field the capability at a time where we can ensure pilots will maintain that battlefield advantage.
What do you see are the differentiators that Raytheon brings to the table that other companies don't?
Raytheon Intelligence & Space's biggest differentiator is having access to a vast range of knowledge and being able to collaborate with different experts within the Raytheon Technologies organization.
This is what sets us apart.
The bringing together of four aerospace companies with backgrounds in defense and commercial provides us with a huge advantage in how we understand the battlespace – enabling us to see a fuller picture. This allows us to more thoughtfully develop and evolve our technologies, which in turn allows us to deliver exactly what the customer needs.
How would you sum up Raytheon Intelligence & Space's overall approach to air dominance?
We aim to develop and deliver the next-generation technologies needed to dominate in the air. Our disruptive technologies, which can be integrated together, provide unprecedented combat power. Also, by incorporating AI/ML and employing digital twins, we can deliver these technologies to the customer faster. Our portfolio of air dominance solutions ensures that pilots and operators own the skies today and into the future.