SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The U.S. Navy is releasing little information about its Project Overmatch progress or upcoming milestones, and it’s purposefully remaining mum so China can’t steal its work.
Navy leadership has touted Project Overmatch as key to its ability to conduct distributed maritime operations in the future. The development effort is meant to yield a network that can get the right information to the right users quickly, reliably, and on a network that’s resilient to efforts by an enemy to destroy or disrupt it.
Though the Navy has said it intends to conduct a first deployment of an initial capability on a carrier strike group in 2023, little information has been revealed about whether the Navy is on track to meet that goal.
Rear Adm. Doug Small, the commander of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command and the lead for Project Overmatch, was asked to connect the dots between the kickoff of Project Overmatch in October 2020 and the achievement of an early deployment in 2023, since other leaders have been short on details.
“I’m glad to hear that, because we’ve been very deliberate about keeping a low profile and not a huge internet presence on ‘here’s all your facts on Project Overmatch,’” Small responded during a question-and-answer session at the WEST 2022 conference, cohosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA International.
“Our competitors steal everything, and frankly they’re not ashamed of it.”
Project Overmatch is the Navy’s contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, an effort to seamlessly share data across the joint forces. According to the Pentagon’s vision, JADC2 would enable the military to take data collected from any domain by any service, fuse and process it with artificial intelligence to create a common operating picture, and then send data on any perceived threats to the best weapon system to respond with.
Each service has pursued implementation of the JADC2 concept independently, leading to different approaches in developing technologies and discussing those efforts publicly. While Project Overmatch involves classified spending and Navy leadership has been loathe to elaborate on the initiative, the Army has been far more willing to publicly discuss its own implementation — Project Convergence — briefing reporters and documenting their efforts in budget proposals. The Air Force has also been far more open about its effort, the Advanced Battle Management System.
Small declined to break the Navy’s relative silence on its JADC2 efforts, while insisting that the service was making progress.
“We have been working at a fever pitch to deliver on those goals, and I won’t go into any of the specifics on those things, but in general what we’re doing is bringing the best of world-class commercial technologies, how the best companies in the world deliver capability to their users, and we’re just bringing that into the Navy and doing it at speed and scale,” Small
He also bristled at how Project Overmatch gets characterized — with Navy officials, lawmakers, media and more referring to an “any sensor, any shooter” capability the Naval Operational Architecture will bring, such that any ship, aircraft, unmanned system or deployed sensor could share target-quality data in real time and allow the best-positioned missile launcher to take a shot at the target.
That’s part of it, Small said during the Q+A.
But “it’s also being able to send emails and do other things” to share data across the force.
“Overmatch is not necessarily just about connecting weapons and sensors. A lot of people try to summarize, whether it’s [Joint All-Domain Command and Control] or Overmatch or whatever it is, as any sensor, any weapon. It’s really not — Overmatch is about decision advantage,” he said.
He called for a culture change that embraces the networks, tools, data analytics, data architectures, and the infrastructure to move and understand data faster, allowing for decision-superiority in all things the Navy tries to do.
This isn’t the first time the Navy has been tight-lipped about Project Overmatch. In announcing the service’s fiscal 2022 budget request, the Navy noted just that Project Overmatch was covered by three research and development funding lines that were all classified.
Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.