Shephard’s Messenger

Tempest (Leonardo) – The UK’s planned BAE Systems Tempest combat aircraft could be one of several platforms that not only benefits from the MD4IA but informs its design.

A quintet of companies have formed the Team Novus consortium in response to the UK’s Ministry of Defence’s Mission Data for Information Advantage (MD4IA) requirement.

Announced in early August Team Novus includes BAE Systems, Leonardo, MASS, Meta Mission Data, Sigma and Thales. MD4IA focuses on UK military intelligence and platform mission data. It plans to streamline and accelerate the mechanisms by which Communications and Electronic Intelligence (COMINT/ELINT) is shared as mission data to platforms and personnel.

The MOD has already overhauled the UK’s Electronic Warfare (EW) database via Project Shephard which was launched in 2008. The EW database, housed at the Joint Electronic Warfare Operational Support Centre (JEWOSC), is the clearing house for all UK military COMINT/ELINT. This intelligence is collected by UK and allied assets like the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Boeing RC-135W Airseeker SIGINT gathering aircraft. COMINT/ELINT is analysed at the centre and used to populate electronic orders-of-battle developed by the JEWOSC and is distributed throughout the UK’s armed forces to ensure that electronic support measure threat libraries have the latest information. The JEWOSC is based at the Air Warfare Centre, RAF Waddington airbase in eastern England.

MD4IA is focused on linking the EW database with the platforms and personnel who need this intelligence to support their missions. The programme will ensure that this information is shared in the most efficient and expeditious way possible. Timely information can give friendly forces an information advantage over their adversaries. Conversely irrelevant or outdated intelligence can cost lives.

Project Janus

Mark Hewer, Leonardo’s vice president of integrated mission solutions, told Armada that the MD4IA effort is split into several strands: “At the highest level, the programme is trying to achieve an information advantage through better information sharing among the intelligence communities and the armed services. Therefore, a true collaboration approach across industry and working in a joined-up enterprise approach with the MOD is the only way to achieve this transformation.” He stresses that “all the intelligence which is gathered needs to get to the operator as rapidly and efficiently as possible. Whoever can do the dissemination quicker will have the greatest advantage.” The Project Janus strand of MD4IA will automate the process for generating and sharing relevant mission data, such as threat parameters regarding a ground-based air surveillance system, for example.

Software is at the core of the MD4IA approach. Mr. Hewer says that Team Novus will create standardised software architectures to provide “a common standard to share threat information and programme mission data by working with MOD and using the unique capabilities in the team.” While software will be vital, so will having the SQEP, Suitably Qualified and Experiences Personnel, who can use the software to its full potential.

Project Janus is expected to be the first element of the MD4IA undertaking formally contracted. This could happen in the first half of 2021. Project Janus could take up to five years to deliver a set of smaller developments. Mr. Hewer emphasises that MD4IA will not stop once Project Janus is delivered: “(MD4IA) will be an agile programme as the wider threat, platforms and technologies are constantly changing. This will be an ongoing journey.”

by Dr. Thomas Withington