IAI’s Battle Management Solution Changes the Rules of Combat

 In Land, Defense, Infrastructure, Air, Communications, Israel, Information

First unveiled by Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) in April 2019, OPAL is designed to allow warfight­ers to respond effec­tive­ly to combat threats char­ac­ter­ized by Time Critical Targets (TCT), and forces that oper­ate both in con­junc­tion with other units and in remote areas, away from C2 cov­er­age, accord­ing to Barak Israel, Product Line Manager.

According to Israel, mil­i­tary forces have been ham­pered by the combat platform’s inabil­i­ty to direct­ly com­mu­ni­cate with each other, this lim­i­ta­tion is evi­dent in the lack of con­nec­tiv­i­ty that exist­ed between fourth and fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­er jets. “Modern war­fare is very dynam­ic. If you don’t respond imme­di­ate­ly, the threat won’t be there,” Israel stated.

Information Sharing

The need to share infor­ma­tion among var­i­ous forces and the crit­i­cal require­ment of mil­i­taries to see the same pic­ture and speak the same lan­guage was the dri­ving force behind OPAL’s devel­op­ment. “If you see some­thing that I can’t see – I want to see what you’re seeing. Not through verbal descrip­tions, but through image and video shar­ing or data set trans­mis­sions. My phys­i­cal loca­tion isn’t rel­e­vant for this to happen,” Israel stated.

Military forces have been strug­gling with the need to acquire sensor to shoot­er cycles that deliv­er suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion in time. Traditional solu­tions for combat needs moved slowly. OPAL intro­duced a focused and afford­able solu­tion to share action­able infor­ma­tion in a very short time­frame. The end result, Israel said, is sig­nif­i­cant­ly enhanced lethal­i­ty and sur­viv­abil­i­ty for cus­tomers, as well as sav­ings on life cycle costs and time.

We took the Android con­cept and brought it to net­work-cen­tric war­fare

OPAL cre­ates net­work­ing con­nec­tiv­i­ty and enables data shar­ing among all mem­bers of a fight­ing force, irre­spec­tive of whether they are air­borne, naval or land-based. It uses soft­ware-defined radios and any exist­ing data links to share large amounts of real-time data, in line with oper­a­tional needs, enabling end-users to take swift and rel­e­vant actions.

One of the unique capa­bil­i­ties in the OPAL net­work­ing layer is that it pro­vides real­time com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Unlike tra­di­tion­al datalinks that pro­vide update rates of sev­er­al sec­onds, OPAL oper­ates in mil­lisec­onds, as it employs a real-time net­work that has been used to pre­vent mid-air col­li­sions between fight­er jets flying in close for­ma­tions.

Developed over the past 15 years using open archi­tec­ture, OPAL allows cus­tomers to pro­gram their own appli­ca­tions to match oper­a­tional needs after the ini­tial infra­struc­ture is deliv­ered by IAI.

Apps for the Strike Force

According to Eyal Yogev, Project Manager, Conversions and Upgrades Division at Aviation Group at IAI, the system is inspired by Android-like archi­tec­ture, which all relies on common infra­struc­ture, instead of the tra­di­tion­al mil­i­tary sys­tems that rely on ded­i­cat­ed hard­ware run­ning spe­cif­ic and unique soft­ware. “We took the Android con­cept and brought it to net­work-cen­tric war­fare (NCW). OPAL can be installed on any plat­form – air­craft, heli­copters, UAVs, ground forces and ships. It sup­ports any oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty though this infra­struc­ture, making it share­able by the net­work mem­bers, sim­i­lar to how smart­phone appli­ca­tions func­tion,” he said.

OPAL is com­prised of a range of dif­fer­ent hard­ware Line Replaceable Units (LRU) con­fig­ures and opti­mized for each appli­ca­tion, plat­form or end-user. This solu­tion deliv­ers an advanced appli­ca­tion mid­dle­ware with opti­mized appli­ca­tions and, where needed, advanced net­work­ing and con­nec­tiv­i­ty ser­vices. OPAL fea­tures high pro­cess­ing and graph­ic capa­bil­i­ties, and deliv­er essen­tial bat­tle­field ser­vices to the par­tic­i­pat­ing mem­bers, enabling all users to share a common oper­at­ing pic­ture in real-time and to com­mu­ni­cate in the same lan­guage.

In terms of oper­a­tional doc­trine, an impor­tant advan­tage OPAL pro­vides is intro­duc­ing new capa­bil­i­ties in a very short time

The abil­i­ty to share accu­rate real-time data among the dif­fer­ent ele­ments of the fight­ing forces sig­nif­i­cant­ly improves the effi­cien­cy and sur­viv­abil­i­ty of the dif­fer­ent mem­bers, within the for­ma­tion and among other forces, such as sup­port­ing ele­ments, air and ground forces. “The impli­ca­tions for close air sup­port, for exam­ple, are major,” Israel stated. “This rep­re­sents a new and trans­for­ma­tive capa­bil­i­ty for the mil­i­tary.”

OPAL shares local data over select­ed radio links with other users, ensur­ing that infor­ma­tion is trans­port­ed across net­work nodes in real-time, regard­less of range, loca­tion, ter­rain obsta­cles, weath­er con­di­tions, or the oper­a­tional con­di­tion.

A Network Linking All Generations

OPAL pro­vides cus­tomers with a high degree of oper­a­tional inde­pen­dence. Customers have the option of order­ing IAI’s radio sys­tems and datalinks as a part of the OPAL battle man­age­ment system or acquir­ing OPAL while uti­liz­ing exist­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions and datalink net­works. Moreover, cus­tomers can employ oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ties devel­oped by the man­u­fac­tur­er, or devel­op their own appli­ca­tions, rely­ing on OPAL’s inher­ent appli­ca­tion infra­struc­ture.

“In terms of oper­a­tional doc­trine, an impor­tant advan­tage OPAL pro­vides is intro­duc­ing new capa­bil­i­ties in a very short time,” said Israel “Once the system is installed, clients are inde­pen­dent. We trans­fer the rel­e­vant capa­bil­i­ties and tools so that users can devel­op their own capa­bil­i­ties.”

OPAL is proven and oper­a­tional on jets, train­ing air­craft, refu­els, heli­copters, mis­sion air­craft, com­mand and con­trol cen­ters, and ships as well as other plat­forms.

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