While all this is going on, the fighter jet’s autonomous wingmen establish an ad hoc, high-bandwidth mesh communication network that cuts through the jamming by using unjammed frequencies, aggregating signals across different radio channels, and rapidly switching among different channels. Through a self-organizing network of communication nodes, the piloted fighter in the air connects to the special forces on the ground.
As soon as the network is established, the soldiers begin transmitting real-time video of artillery rockets being transported into buildings. The fighter jet acts as a base station, connecting the flying mesh network of the UAVs with a network of military and commercial satellites accessible to commanders all over the world. Processors distributed among the piloted and unpiloted aircraft churn through the data, and artificial-intelligence (AI) algorithms locate the targets and identify the weapons in the live video feed being viewed by the commanders.
Suddenly, the pilot sees a dot flashing on the far horizon through his helmet-mounted display. Instantly, two of the four teammates divert toward the location indicated by the flash. The helmet lights up a flight path toward the spot, and the pilot receives new orders scrolling across the display:
New Priority: SEARCH AND RESCUE
Downed Pilot, 121 miles NNW
Execute Reconnaissance and Grid Search, Provide Air Cover
The two UAVs that have flown ahead start coordinating to identify the location of hostile forces in the vicinity of the downed aircraft. A Navy rescue helicopter and medical support vessel are already en route. Meanwhile, with the fighter jet speeding away on a new mission, the two other UAVs supporting the special forces squad shift their network configuration to directly link to the satellite networks now serving the base-station role formerly played by the fighter jet. The live video feed goes on uninterrupted. The reconfigurations happen swiftly and without human intervention.
Warfare has always been carried out at the boundary between chaos and order. Strategists have long tried to suppress the chaos and impose order by means of intelligence, communication, and command and control. The most powerful weapon is useless without knowing where to aim it. The