The seamless exploitation of data has become a priority in the age of modern warfare. The US Air Force (USAF) is already making headway on its cloud migration to put its siloed data to the most effective use for optimal performance in the skies.

Considering the importance of data exploitation today, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has decided to invest further in the USAF’s data-as-a-service (DaaS) platform. The DoD has therefore awarded its continued supplier, Palantir, an $18m contract to extend its existing DaaS work.

The contract modification provides for a DaaS platform that supports three mission areas to automatically ingest data across the Department of the Air Force that informs personnel decisions, planning and operations, and space situational awareness and command and control (C2).

The three mission areas that Palantir’s DaaS continues to support include Space C2; NORAD’s Joint All Domain Command and Control transformation; and Project Brown Heron, which is an electronic surveillance programme initiated by the USAF.

The total cumulative face value of the contract is $195,724,056. Work will be performed in Palo Alto, California, and is expected to be completed by June 15, 2023. 

Data deluge

The amount of data the USAF accrues would defy belief. The observe, orient, decide, act (OODA) loop increasingly relies on a large array of sensors and other data streams, including various intelligence, from signals intelligence to opensource intelligence, to increase the speed and precision of decision-making.

GlobalData’s report on Cloud Computing in Aerospace, Defence and Security (2023) tells us that the continuous monitoring of situations is critical for command, control, communications, computer intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). This would inevitably generate a deluge of data with a high noise-to-actionable intelligence ratio.

This data is only useful once analysed, disseminated, and turned into actionable outputs for front-line users. This is no small task. As big data becomes increasingly integrated into the armed forces, militaries must develop capabilities or work with companies that can handle and draw useful insights from enormous and varied datasets.

Palantir’s DaaS

The DaaS will provide the USAF senior leadership with a continuously improving operational readiness analytics platform by integrating disparate data sources from across the service. This will improve readiness in a variety of mission-critical areas, cutting across organisational and functional silos.

“Mastering the data environment is more critical now than ever and it’s only growing more important. Tomorrow’s wars will be won – or lost – based on our ability to dominate future decision cycles and that all starts with data,” stated US Air Force Vice Chief of Staff General David Allvin in 2021 when Palantir began its services. 

“Project Brown Heron represents a significant leap forward for the Department as we transform how we create, fuse, and leverage our growing mountains of data to create true decision superiority and win against peer competitors in the digital age,” Allvin added.