AI in Europe's Command and Control - Episode 1: JEDIs and JDACs ☁️

Welcome 🇪🇺

Welcome to the 2nd issue of the European Resilience Tech Newsletter and thank you to those who already subscribed! We received an overwhelming level of responses after our 1st issue and we are excited to bring you more insights from European DefenceTech.

For the new readers - Uwe and I (more about us at the end) started this newsletter to accelerate the building of the European DefenceTech ecosystem and fill a critical gap in European Resilience. We will keep the content bite-sized, frequent and free. We also openly invite guest content creators to contribute (see below for details on how to join). Our goal is to build an ecosystem of founders, operators, investors, and industry experts who are dedicated to enhancing European resilience through technology.

You can also catch Jack in Madrid on October 19-20th for the European DefenceTech Summit!

AI in Europe’s Command and Control - Episode 1: JEDIs and JDACs ☁️

Over the next few issues, we will explore from a start-up perspective what are the challenges and opportunities in building within a not-so-far futuristic AI augmented, all domain integrated defence infrastructure that spans across Europe. However, to start things off we will share a quick recap on how the United States started their technical transformation journey and the comparative complexities of an European equivalent transformation.

In 2017, the US DoD first recognised that their existing technology infrastructure, largely made up of expensively maintained on-premise servers and sporadically pieced together cloud vendors, was not scalable enough to adopt-en-mass the next generation of platforms where data and AI will become key advantages over their adversaries. Subsequently in 2018, the DoD started the JEDI project (Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure) which they tendered a contract for $10bn USD over 10 years to a single cloud provider in the hopes of improved interoperability at the infrastructure layer across the DoD and lower maintenance costs.

Source: US DoD Public Information

What happened next sounds like TV drama - in 2019 Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure emerged as the finalists of the contract after Google dropped out of the race (Google employees did not support their work with US DoD at the time). As the then President Donald Trump and the then CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos were very much of opposite political views, the final contract was awarded questionably to Microsoft towards the end of 2019. In early 2020 Amazon sued the US government for not awarding the contract fairly due to Trump’s illegal intervention and despite a new ruling reinstating Microsoft as the winner, the entire $10bn project was scrapped in 2021. JEDI was replaced with a multi-vendor 3 year extendable contract newly dubbed JWCC (Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability) shared between Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Oracle.

Although the US DoD spent an additional 3 years in defence procurement bureaucracy, more interesting is the fact that during the same period US AI first DefenceTech start-ups such as Anduril, Shield AI, Skydio saw the most growth and all raised at an accelerated pace their Series B to D funding. Palantir also IPOed during this same period.

Our thesis is that while the cloud infrastructure transformation was halted by bureaucracy, individual departments within the DoD proceeded themselves to procure AI driven platforms that were essentially on the “edge” or “endpoints” of the current DoD infrastructure core. These platforms are on the outer most Command and Control layer which hosts their own self contained AI features (and data) and are built on the newest AWS/GCP/Azure government security certified cloud vendors. This architecture stack enables these scale-ups superior scalability and the temporary luxury of not having to fully integrate into the larger core DoD infrastructure.

With the rise of these new edge endpoint platforms within the US DoD vendor ecosystem, the department’s next big transformation project is the JDAC2 (Joint All-Domain Command and Control), which effectively integrates of all edge endpoint platforms, old and new, on top of the cloud infrastructure mentioned before. JDAC2 will then enable multiple layers of Command and Control eventually aggregating into a machine-to-machine network that will accelerate the speed of information gathering, decision making and order execution across the US military (the killchain). The success of this project is still yet to be determined and the scale of which highly complex as each branch of the military are building of their own JDAC2 platforms that will eventually have to speak to one another. In addition, most of the edge endpoint platforms which are built by large and old defence primes not known for their software capabilities will have to be connected to the multiple JDAC2 platforms as well.

Source: US DoD Public Information

While the above might sound like a implementation consultant’s dream and a system architecture’s nightmare, let’s consider the complexities for Europe 🇪🇺 if we were to build something similar to the US defence infrastructure:

  1. Every European country will most likely want their own version. This is an extra layer of interoperability above an already complex infrastructure adding an exponential amount of integration points. A NATO or European wide centralisation of Command and Control will most likely have to integrate over 40+ national systems together. It is very likely that for every interface where machine-to-machine communication is not possible, people will take its place adding further governance complexity into the system and slowing down decision making.

  2. Europe is behind in cloud transformation. For example, the UK Ministry of Defence published their full stack cloud strategy only in February 2023 with the goal of delivering in 2025. Positively, the UK MoD incorporated foundational requirements for an JDAC2-like infrastructure in their strategy and therefore offered a more holistic plan than the US DoD started with. Furthermore, UK MoD conceded that only hyperscale cloud providers (i.e. AWS, GCP, Azure etc.) qualify for tier 1 suppliers for the core infrastructure, in-turn meaning that Europe is not likely to have / need sovereign cloud platforms for defence. Lastly, the UK MoD talked about the opportunity for tier 2 suppliers building on edge endpoint AI platforms and encourage adoptions of solutions built by start-ups.

    Source: UK MoD Strategic Cloud Roadmap for Defence Feb 2013

  3. Europe does not have enough talent (yet) in DefenceTech. For example, part of Helsing’s strategy is to retrofit AI capabilities to existing edge endpoint platforms, i.e. the Eurofighter, by partnering with European industry primes like Saab and leverage the existing core infrastructure connectors without building it themselves. But Helsing is still just one company working with a handful of platforms for a handful of countries at most. Europe’s core infrastructure transformation will occur over the next 5 years, which creates a great opportunity for founders to build these edge endpoint platforms and own a significant portion of their respective markets.

Overall we expect independent countries within Europe to reach an equivalent infrastructure capability to that of the US within a shorter amount than it took the US, however integrating each country’s respective platforms on an European wide level will take significant additional time.

If you like what you read and you are a founder building edge and endpoint platforms (or if you are brave, the core infrastructure too) then please do reach out to us - we would love to chat!

News That Caught Our Attention 👀

  • Sarnoic Technologies raised $55m USD for their Series A by Caffeinated Capital to build unmanned ships - DefenceOne link.

  • Mach Industries closed a $79m USD Series A led by Bedrock Capital with participation from our friend sat Marque to develop a suite of hydrogen powered platforms for the military, including UAVs and hydrogen generation systems - TechCrunch link.

  • Castelion Corporation closed $14m USD Seed round led by a16z and Lavrock Ventures to build next generation hypersonic systems - TechCrunch link.

Source: Castelion

  • For the 1st time there was a DefenceTech panel at this year’s Sifted Summit in London drawing more attention to this sector for European Tech - Sifted Link.

  • Paddy McCormick at Not Boring Capital wrote a great piece of content (as all his pieces) on the M&A strategy for Anduril which have came to match M&A activities to that of traditional defence industry primes - Link.

  • Anduril is also looking to raise an additional $500m USD in funding - Crunchbase link.

  • Microsoft just released their annual Digital Defence Report. Not surprisingly AI powered cybersecurity defence is expected to play a larger role in the very near future - report link.

and lastly…

Shout out to Nathan Benaich & the Air Street Capital team for their 2023 State of AI report which includes some amazing research on future sovereignty of AI and defence applications.

Featured Jobs 👷

Every week we feature a list interesting roles in European DefenceTech start-ups and scale-ups for readers seeking their next challenge in their careers.

If you are a founder and would like to promote your open roles, please get in touch with us!

Passionate and want to contribute? 👩🏻‍💻

The European Resilience Tech Newsletter is always looking for regular and guest authors, writers, reporters, content creators etc. If you like what you read, you are passionate about improving European resilience regardless of your background and want to contribute, just reach out to us!

European Resilience Tech Newsletter Team

Uwe Horstmann co-founded Project A Ventures in 2012 as General Partner and has built Project A to be a leading European early stage investor with over $1bn USD under management and having backed 100+ founders. In addition to Project A, Uwe serves as Reserve Officer in the German armed forces and advises the German Ministry of Defence in digital transformation issues.

Jack Wang is a software engineer turned product driven tech investor and joined Project A in 2021 to lead the firm’s deep tech investing, which have grown to include DefenceTech. Prior to joining Project A, Jack worked in a variety of organisations such as Amazon and Macquarie Group across Australia, US and UK / Europe. Jack holds a MBA from London Business School and Bachelors of Engineering (Bioinformatics, 1st) from UNSW, Australia.

Project A Ventures is one of the leading early-stage tech investors in Europe with offices in Berlin and London. In addition to 1 billion USD assets under management, Project A supports its 100+ portfolio companies with a platform team over 140 functional experts in key areas such as software and product development, business intelligence, brand, design, marketing, sales and recruiting. Project A have backed founders of Trade Republic, WorldRemit, Sennder, KRY, Spryker, Catawiki, Unmind and Voi as well as founders building in European Resilience: