First ‘Integrated Warfighting Network’ to Go Live in 2022 for Troops Serving in the Field

Small teams of Airmen serving in far-flung situations will be able to start taking their work laptops on deployments this summer—and expect them to be useful.

The Department of the Air Force’s Chief Architect Officer Preston Dunlap revealed in a webinar Feb. 1 that the first “integrated warfighting network” will boot up in the summer of 2022. The department’s former chief software officer Nicolas M. Chaillan interviewed Dunlap on LinkedIn.

The new network is designed for troops engaged in agile combat employment (ACE) operations, Dunlap said. 

“Whether you’re in a conflict with Russia or China, having a handful of operating locations—or one or two operations centers or intelligence centers—is not going to win the fight,” Dunlap said, describing ACE from an IT perspective. “It’s just too risky with too many weapons pointed at you.”

Instead, the department wants troops to be able to take all those activities on the move. 

“We want to be able to break up the ability to do intelligence, and break up the ability to do operational … [command and control], to even small echelons and small units,” Dunlap said. The integrated warfighting network, or IWN, “will tie together two things that have been almost totally separated,” he explained—enterprise IT and “warfighting IT.”

“And this summer, they will become the same thing.”

Dunlap pointed out that separate systems means, “I have to train for a different IT system, different communication links, different applications, different C2 approaches. And only certain units can have access to it.”

The IWN, on the other hand, “is the composition of the equation of enterprise IT plus edge IT, and together you have integrated warfighting that allows you to be able to go to various strips in Europe or various islands in the Pacific, take that same mobile-computer-laptop-slash-tablet that you’ve got in your office—which we don’t currently have, generally, but we want to make this pervasive on the enterprise level—and that’s the same device that you use at the classified level going out to operate with in the field.”

Multiple connectivity pathways, including wireless connectivity, are also part of the design; and DOD data environments will be added later.

“So the real cool thing that we’ve been in stealth mode making is an integrated warfighting network,” Dunlap said.