Raytheon has trademarked the system of elements concept, which was described to Aviation International News by Dean Cash of the company’s Network Centric Systems. “Take a fighter aircraft,” he said. “It’s a system, but one composed of five elements: the platform itself, the pilot, the sensor suite, the weapons payload and the communications. You assign an IP address to each of these five elements. A similar set of five elements can be defined for a ship, a tank, or even a soldier. In a networked environment, the elements of each system can operate independently with one another. This creates interdependence.”
For instance, a sensor on a tank might be disabled by smoke on the ground, but substitute data on a potential target could be imported from a nearby attack aircraft. According to Cash, the Raytheon concept is for “a Google-like sharing of information, via machine-to-machine data interfaces.” In fact, this is still some way off, he admitted, adding, “a fully open-systems architecture with full plug-and-play is not going to be easy to achieve.” But the payoff is that the most effective weapon or sensor available among all the platforms in the battlespace can be selected. Such an approach can break down boundaries between military services and between coalition partners, he believes.