By Salvatore Babones May 17, 2018
Blockchain database technologies will power tomorrow’s internet of things – and that could include the Navy’s onboard weapons systems.
Bitcoin’s meteoric rise in 2017 made “blockchain” a household word. However, Bitcoin is only one use case for the application of the basic database architecture called blockchain. A much more important application just over the horizon is the internet of things: the idea that many pieces of everyday technology will be made “smart” by interconnecting them with each other and sensors over the internet, allowing them to communicate and act in real time. For instance, a road would be able to alert a smart car about ice or snow on the ground and the car would be able to slow down in response. When the internet of things is added to the security of blockchain, more powerful technology can be built, and this could include military hardware such as the United States Navy’s next generation of surface combat ships.
How could such database technology run a battleship, and what would that look like?
A typical U.S. surface combatant ship, like the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, combines powerful radar systems with a host of different weapons systems. These weapons include ninety or more missile launch cells (each one capable of launching one of a dozen different missile types), two independent Phalanx close-defense systems, six torpedo launchers, a five-inch gun and several machine guns.
The challenge is to make all these combat systems work together without damaging the ship itself. America’s opponents have often fielded bigger, badder weapons than the United States, but the secret to naval success is systems integration. As the British proved at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, superior fire control trumps superior firepower.
For the U.S. Navy, systems integration still means the aging but effective Aegis Combat System. Now in its fifth decade of operation, Aegis is a centralized command and control system that links sensors and weapons together similar to how a boxer’s brain links his eyes and fists. But that very centralization is also a weakness; knock out the brain and you knock out the boxer.