US Air Force and Raytheon Are Studying How Distributed Ledgers Could Help Command the Skies

The $500,000 contract continues USAF's recent history of blockchain investments.

AccessTimeIconSep 3, 2020 at 8:09 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 9:52 a.m. UTC

The U.S. Air Force's (USAF) continuing series of blockchain investments is entering the realm of battle management systems with a nearly $500,000 contract award to defense giant Raytheon.

  • Raytheon BBN Technologies won a $495,039 contract titled: "Characterizing the applicability and relevance of DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) in Air C2" (CARDIAC) from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
  • The contract's title indicates that Raytheon's advanced tech researchers will consider how DLT can benefit commanders' ability to keep their eyes on the skies and their pilots safe and lethal. That's the gist of C2, Pentagon shorthand for Command and Control.
  • Other than the title, the parties, the funding and the date, the CARDIAC viewed by CoinDesk Thursday had little to reveal. Raytheon BBN did not immediately respond to a request for comment and neither did AFRL.
  • But Lt. Col. Neil Barnas, who has studied blockchain's military potential, told CoinDesk DLT could be an asset for the USAF's C2. He said distributing otherwise centralized C2 systems makes them less vulnerable to enemy attack.
  • "If you have the one command and control system to rule them all you’ve really just created a target," he said, speaking to CoinDesk in a personal capacity.
  • The USAF has made clear this year that it is preparing to spend millions of dollars on modernizing C2. "Highly advanced and lethal tools" help airmen "to prevail in the high-end fight," officers wrote in their FY2021 budget overview.
  • That document requested $435 million for an "Advanced Battle Management System" that links USAF and Space Force's war-fighting capacity.

Update (9/3/20 22:14 UTC): This article has been updated to include comment from Lt. Col. Neil Barnas.


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