AFRL develops a RIPL in communications to drive future fight through science and technology
NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland (AFRL) – One of the technologies the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, showcased during the 2023 Air and Space Force’s Air, Space and Cyber conference Sept. 11-13, at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center here, connects warfighters at the edge with a RIPL.
The Robust Information Provisioning Layer, or RIPL, is a cybersecurity tool that manages information across a network. It allows seamless and secure access to content for all network users, overcoming limited and intermittent connectivity in contested environments.
“For the warfighter in the field, this means they won’t have to worry about what network they’re on,” said Brian Holmes, RIPL program manager from AFRL’s Information Directorate at Rome, New York. “If they need to get information from Point A to Point B, RIPL will take care of that. It allows different systems that don’t normally communicate with each other to pass information back and forth.”
Engineers at AFRL’s Information Directorate initially began RIPL development in 2018 along with industry partners Raytheon/BBN to advance this new information management networking technology. RIPL has since transitioned to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, or AFLCMC, where it is being integrated into another system called the Common Tactical Edge Network, or CTEN, with a program office at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts.
RIPL satisfies the Operational Imperative for the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS, and Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2.
The Department of Defense is working to digitally connect its space, air, land, sea and cyber assets to help military commanders better communicate and share information in real time. This effort will depend on contributions from all military services.
The Advanced Battle Management System is the Air Force’s contribution to this effort. It is a secure communications network that allows commanders and warfighters to share meaningful data from the field faster.
JADC2 is a long-term effort to connect military assets across space, air, land, sea and cyber domains. The Department of Defense intends for JADC2 to analyze warfighting data across these domains to allow decision-makers to identify, execute and monitor operations more effectively.
RIPL allows seamless and secure access to content for all network users, ensuring users receive only what they request and are authorized to see.
“Using high-capacity tactical data links, RIPL allows for these seamless, multi-domain communications which is a necessary capability in any future fight with a near-peer adversary,” Holmes said. “We also have disruption tolerant mechanisms built in so that we can cache information throughout the network in anticipation of these types of links going down.”
RIPL also enables the Air Force Combat Cloud vision, which, in turn, will be a key enabler of ABMS, the service’s overarching effort encompassing technologies, operational requirements and warfighter integration efforts, Holmes added, and will allow commanders and warfighters to share more and better information faster.
“It also aligns with the Department of Defense’s JADC2 vision and approach for identifying, organizing and delivering improved Joint Force C2 capabilities and accounting for adversaries who have closed many of the capability and methodology advantages depended upon for operational success,” Holmes said.
Moving forward, Holmes said research continues in this area which will help AFRL continue to “Drive the Future Fight” through science and technology.
“We’re now developing an applied research program as a follow-on to try to implement machine learning into the system and allow RIPL to be interoperable with other types of data links such as Ultra Low-Capacity Data Links,” Holmes said.
AFRL makes informed science and technology investments driven by the Department of the Air Force Operational Imperatives with critical input from its warfighters. The lab ensures alignment of these investments through careful planning processes and by organizing the lab’s portfolios by Functional Capability Areas, or FCAs, which address the unique requirements of tomorrow’s capabilities.
RIPL is part of AFRL’s Command, Control and Communications Functional Capability Area, or FCA, which focuses on timely and effective distributed, multi-domain battle management command and control.
This FCA employs multi-domain effects across the kill webs by demanding the ability to anticipate required information, organize necessary secure data and resilient communication links and position nodes to deliver desired effects for Joint and Coalition partners.
With a fierce focus on the warfighter, AFRL will continue to drive collaboration and strategic foresight to pursue technologies that will give our warfighters asymmetric advantages into the future through science and technology advancements such as RIPL.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.