Blockchain is heralded as one of the most important technological innovations since the advent of the internet. Its usage has far surpassed the world of finance and cryptocurrencies. Today blockchain is powering the next stage of the internet’s evolution through Web 3.0 while simultaneously laying down the foundations of the virtual economy through the metaverse. Tech analysts however suggest that blockchain’s cross-border usage may encompass much greater horizons, including military defense.
A Brief Introduction to Blockchain
Blockchain is a DLT(distributed ledger technology) application comprising a digital ledger that keeps time-stamped records of data transactions within its network. The ledger is accessible by all node members of the blockchain network. The data stored is verified through consensus mechanisms, and once entered, is immutable and permanent. In a conventional sense, blockchain operates on decentralization lacking a centralized authority. Data is stored across the network of computers instead of a single database. This boosts security, upping the difficulty for hacker penetration manifold. Information stored in a blockchain network is transparent and visible in real-time. In addition, the ledger is maintained by multiple persons.
Blockchain’s Utility in Defense
The merits of blockchain make it a revolutionary tool for the defense sector. Advantages such as resilience, immutability, and security make it useful in both operations and support roles. It is extremely useful in nullifying cyber attacks at all possible points. Whether battlefields, intelligence departments, defense manufacturers, or even government defense systems, private blockchains restrict access to external agents while shielding them from possible harm.
The real-time visibility also helps military planners, offering them an accurate overview of available resources and possible shortages/discrepancies. Blockchain is also useful in improving communication strength across armies, defense departments, and industries. The underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies is also useful in securing data confidentiality, 3D printing, soldier registries, or smart contracts.
Blockchain Applications in the Military
Major nations all over the world have already started implementing blockchain technology into their existing defense infrastructure. The US, China, and Russia have already integrated this decentralized P2P technology, while several others are undergoing R&D.
Multiple research reports indicate that most aerospace and defense executives consider technology one of the most critical emerging technologies in recent times. In fact, over 86% of the airline and defense corporations across the US and Europe acknowledged plans to adapt toward blockchain.
Blockchain can be significantly helpful in detecting and blocking hacking attempts or forced breaches in cybersecurity. Military espionage is a big issue, as the leakage of confidential data severely undermines a nation’s stability. Global digital transformation has also unfortunately led to a severe rise in cybercriminal activities, and national secrets are invaluable. Blockchain helps in preserving the integrity of data.
The applications are limitless, with improved data sharing, communication, and better control of critical weapons systems. The US Navy has implemented blockchain to enhance the existing Aegis Combat System. Blockchain, along with new-age sensors, help the system to track targets, set aim, and fire- all in under a millisecond. The Russian ERA military technology accelerator program comprises a blockchain research lab since 2018. One of the primary objectives of the lab was to build an intelligent system capable of detecting and mitigating risks from cyber attacks on databases.
Supply Chain Management
Aspects of real-time visibility and updates make blockchain an ideal platform for the supply chain management. The same is also applicable for military supply chains, arguably the most complex logistics systems with several actors involved. Blockchain ensures accurate delivery with in-time identification and traceability of defense materials like weapons, from the source all the way to the destination.
The US War in Afghanistan led to losses worth USD 17 billion. Around $150 million was meaninglessly wasted on absurd military residential accommodation. Blockchain fund traceability could have prevented such instances from occurring. A blockchain-powered supply chain can also address issues of healthcare and food safety across battlefields. NATO in collaboration with DARPA implements decentralized blockchain solutions for military logistics across 29 nations in Europe and North America.
Metaverse Training Simulations
Another blockchain innovation, the metaverse is dubbed the successor to the internet. Still undergoing development, the metaverse has already made waves in the gaming industry and is anticipated to revolutionize the education sector. Combining these two, it can be a platform for military training simulations, augmented with the use of AR/VR equipment. While this is a long shot, the potential is actually there.
The metaverse combines aspects of real and virtual worlds and builds an ecosystem built around digital assets as the functional economy. Almost all tech powerhouses are involved in its development, working individually to create an alternate environment that breaks past the limits of the physical realm. We may also witness training collaborations between allied task forces worldwide in the near future.
Blockchain Use Cases in Military Defense Systems
Shipment and Contracts Tracing
Secure supply chain systems are crucial for the military. Leaving financial accountability aside, an unaccounted shipment may wreak havoc if it falls under the grasp of people with nefarious intentions. Proper tracing of military weapons and gear is essential to preserve national security both within and outside borders. The US Department of Defense integrates blockchain for automation across back-office activities.
Secure Messaging in Government and Military Roles
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA) had previously put out requests to use blockchain for building a secure messaging system. The objective was to secure inter-departmental communication as well as potential communications between soldiers on the battlefield. The contract was awarded to ITAMCO. The parent DoD had been a latecomer in incorporating encryption for emails. Cryptographic encryption features of the blockchain can not only reduce oversight expenses but improve communication on-field and between interagency.
Defense Against Cyber Warfare
The US government signed off a military expenditure bill seeking blockchain’s application in cybersecurity. The technology’s unique infrastructure makes it notoriously difficult for external hackers to gain access. Governments around the world are reporting a gradual increase in cyber attacks, and its impact can put a nation at risk in more ways than one. The US energy grid network has been relentlessly attacked by hackers in the past with a majority of them scoring advanced persistent threats(APT). Law enforcement agencies have been able to crack down and recover most of the money lost as ransomware in the infamous Colonial Gas Pipeline attack.
Enhancing 3D Additive Manufacturing
The United States Marine Corps Shipments Command(USMCSC) acknowledged the usage of 3D printing technology for building military parts, machinery, and ammunitions. A concrete on-site barrack prototype was manufactured through 3D technology in just 40 hours. Other successful achievements include a 3D-printed submarine hull, nibbler drones, customized military meals, body armors, grenade launchers, and more.
Blockchain comes into the picture as an efficient private network system for secure data transmission, and safekeeping proprietary secrets including additive manufacturing design blueprints. The US Navy is already using the technology for enhancing the security of their 3D printing technology.
The benefits of blockchain are leading to its heavy usage and adoption in the military defense sector. The fundamental platform behind bitcoins is innovating newer ways of making the world a better and safer place.