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Multi-Domain Integration - Joint Concept Note 1/20

techUK summarises the MOD’s Joint Concept Note 1/20 for Multi Domain Integration

To successfully adapt to the Information Age, UK Defence has prioritised the need for Multi-Domain Integration (MDI) across its operating domains and has published JCN 1/20, which examines  the potential usages and strategic imperative of MDI.

Multi-domain integration (MDI) will change the way the UK’s Armed Forces operate, war fight and develop capability. Effective integration of the domains will achieve a multi-domain effect, greatly enhancing the individual effectiveness of each domain. techUK has summarised JCN 1/20 below.

MDI offers an ambitious vision for maintaining advantage in an era of persistent competition and is founded on the Integrated Operating Concept 2025. It focuses on how to integrate across the domains and levels of warfare and provides a vision for the development of an integrated force out to 2030 and beyond. JCN 1/20 has four main aims:

  1. Define the UK interpretation of MDI beyond the current force to deliver advantage over UK adversaries out to 2030 and beyond;
  2. Outline how Defence can achieve integration across the domains and levels of warfare in the context of integration with allies, partners across government and the private sector;
  3. Present the policy question of MOD’s level of ambition for MDI;
  4. Provide a catalyst for Defence experimentation across concept, capability, and warfare development;

The Joint Concept Note is set out in four chapters and the key facts will be summarised under each chapter title.

  1. Chapter 1 – Responding to the challenge
  2. Chapter 2 – Domains and environments
  3. Chapter 3 – The core tenets
  4. Chapter 4 – Force development implications

JCN 1/20 is based on the following key assumptions:

  • MDI applies across the operate and war fight spectrum of the Integrated Operating Concept 2025;
  • Russia is UK Defence’s primary adversary and pacing threat;
  • The UK will be allied by design and NATO remains central to the pursuit of UK strategic ends;
  • Other government departments are compliant to integrating, without which MDI would not be achievable;
  • Interoperability with the US is achievable;
  • Experimentation and testing of the ideas in this concept are essential;

Chapter 1 – Responding to the challenge

The first chapter looks at the problem presented by adversaries and proposes a response constructed around MDI.

Section 1 – The Threat:

Adversary threat in general: the UK faces threats from resurgent and developing powers, state and non-state actors, and violent extremism.

  • A strategy of ‘political warfare’ is used by adversaries to undermine cohesion, erode economic, political, and social resilience, and challenge the UK’s strategic position in key regions of the world;
  • Their goal is to achieve their objectives through sub-war means;
  • Lastly the UK’s deterrence in combination with allies, is not symmetrical to this threat and is only partly effective against it;

Adversary systems thinking: The Western way of war in recent decades has been observed and studied by our main adversaries.

  • The conclusion was there is a need to counter advanced opponents by exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications systems;
  • Russia, China, Iran, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) all emphasise superiority in information as critical to success;
  • Systems thinking is prominent in adversary designs. They aim to exploit vulnerabilities in the interdependent systems of their opponents to minimise their technical advantage; in effect, to attack the UK’s cohesion;

Adversary multi-domain capability. Neither Russian, Chinese, Iranian nor the DPRK doctrine contains explicit multi-domain references.

  • However, their absence in written theory, does not mean absence of multi-domain thinking and practice;
  • While our principal adversaries do not have direct multi-domain equivalent concepts, they already interoperating military and non-military capabilities and operating with freedom across the domains, both home and away;

Sub-threshold challenge. Sophisticated operations that target systems can be combined with more conventional military operations such as proxies, coercion, offensive cyber and lawfare.

The result is a strategy for achieving objectives without the need to escalate above the threshold of armed conflict.

Differing problem sets. In developing a multi-domain approach, there is a need to consider the geostrategic differences in relation to our adversaries.

  • Russia is a land power and weighted in that domain. In competition and armed conflict with Russia, the large continental land mass affects the MDI requirement as does NATO’s considerable geostrategic land depth to Russia’s west;
  • In contrast, China likely to be centred on air and maritime domains, emphasised by new capabilities on the island chains and the relative lack of Western strategic depth;
  • There are choices about the UK’s multi-domain composition, depending on who  the country will compete alongside and against;

Section 2 – Technological Developments:

New Technological Possibilities. The pace of technological advancement has been, and remains, a driver for change.

  • New technologies that combine processing power, connectivity, automation, quantum computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence will revolutionise future conflicts;.
  • New technologies also allow the processing and analysis of large amounts of data, with the generation of a near complete picture of the environment and activity within each domain, at all levels of warfare;
  • The Space, Cyber & Electromagnetic domains, although mostly unseen, are already part of the competitive battlespace; more of the contest is virtual and involves information;
  • There is a requirement to be more dynamic, pre-emptive and, where necessary, selectively ambiguous;

Section 3 – Our allies:

The UK’s allies remain largely the same with the US and other  NATO allies being key partners. The US has published its own MDI concept.

Section 4 – Regaining Advantage:

The UK must respond to the actions of its adversaries, and the new possibilities afforded by technology. The UK should increase the range of capabilities that can be brought to bear beyond maritime, land and air force deployments, including non-military capabilities, and synchronise their employment for best overall impact.

Everything Defence does should be in support of the overall national objectives, and should be integrated within the fusion doctrine framework of National Security Strategy Implementation Groups.

  • Orchestration of military strategic effects (OMSE) describes how Defence delivers its outputs in support of national objectives as either a supporting or supported actor to other departments of government;
  • JCN 1/20 recognises these relationships and the need to work as a system with the instruments of national power; equally it recognises that Defence will not have full freedom of action across the domains;

Integrating across the levels of warfare.  As MDI must consider partners across government, MDI automatically spans the levels of warfare.

  • Integration is about synchronising as much of the timing and tempo cycles as possible;
  • The UK will need to orchestrate strategically tasked space and offensive cyber assets working at the speed of light with physical tactical manoeuvre;

Key points

  • The UK’s principal adversaries are already operating in all the domains all the time. They will use the full spectrum of capabilities to undermine cohesion, erode economic, political, and social resilience, and challenge the UK’s strategic position in key regions of the world.
  • The potential of new technologies and the competitive arenas of Space, Cyber and Electromagnetic domains are blurring the traditional boundaries between military forces, compressing decision times at the higher levels of command;
  • The UK needs to increase the range of capabilities that can be brought to bear beyond the maritime, land and air domains;
  • JCN 1/20 proposes how to integrate the domains and levels of warfare but also recognises the vital importance of being integrated nationally and with allies and partners;
  • MDI is about more than actions in one domain supporting another; it is about the synergy of capabilities and activities in and from multiple domains and levels of warfare;

Chapter 2: Understanding Domains and Environments

To understand how MDI can deliver advantage, there is first a need to consider what constitutes an operational domain.

Relationship between the domains.  The operational domains are useful as a mental framework for planning.

  • The use of domains serves to emphasise the importance of thinking laterally about the full range of capabilities at the UK’s disposal;
  • Cyber and Electromagnetic activities overlap, and are inextricably linked, while Cyberspace and the Electromagnetic environment are where activities happen;

Unequal domains.  The five operational domains are not equivalent or equal.

  • There are significant differences when considering the relationship between the Space, Cyber and Electromagnetic domains;
  • Space is a constant in relation to the air, land, and maritime domains beneath it, as well as being a domain in which discrete activity is also possible;
  • The UK is reliant on Space for critical services e.g., position, navigation etc;


  • Environments provide the settings, or surroundings, for military activities and they exist prior to, during and after military activity. Each is unique and therefore has an influence on how different headquarters and formations conduct their activities;
  • The detailed practical business of MDI comes down to orchestrating activity in these environments. Advantage is most likely to be gained where an activity or capability is impacted unexpectedly from the adversary’s perspective and exploits a vulnerability;

Key points

  • The ‘traditional’ domains of maritime, land and air broadly map across to the Single Services, but boundaries are ambiguous and are not clearly delineated;
  • The five operational domains are not equal: space is global and encompasses the air, land, and maritime domains while the cyber and electromagnetic domain permeates and pervades all the others;
  • The aim of MDI is not to use as many domains as possible; rather it is to create and find opportunities for exploitation, by extending the range of activities and capabilities that can be brought to bear;
  • When it comes to the practical execution of activities and the realisation of effects, it is environments that should be the focus of integration and not domains;

Chapter 3 – The Core Tenets of MDI

Core tenets – an overview

a. Information advantage.  Enabling and effecting orchestration through comprehensive and persistent sensing and understanding of environments and audiences, which must be common across government and with allies;

b. Strategically postured.  The global, domain-centric arrangement of capabilities;

c. Configured for environments.  Readiness for multi-domain activity in operating areas and environments to influence the behaviour of selected audiences;

d. Creating and exploiting synergy.  Generating, timing, and exploiting windows of opportunity for relative advantage by creating synergy;

Section 1: Tenet 1: Information Advantage

Enabling and effecting orchestration through comprehensive and persistent sensing and understanding of environments and audiences, which must be common across government and with allies.

Advantage in MDI is achieved through being better at sensing and understanding than the adversary, enabled through the means of a C4ISTAR system.

a. The first two Cs in C4ISTAR are command and control. Command and control are orchestration, which covers integrating, planning, and executing; it thrives on decision advantage;

b. The second two Cs are communications and computers. This enables a single information environment (SIE) which connects the orchestrators with the understanding. The SIE will connect the force elements of the UK with those of its allies and partners across government. The SIE is likely to include a ‘digital backbone’ and cloud-based capabilities.

c. The final part – ISTAR is intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. It is an overabundance of data, which will apply processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) capacity, to convert into insight and foresight. This will then be shared among orchestrators via the SIE.

Section 2 – Tenet 2: Strategically Postured

The strategic posture relies on the following key themes:

1. Domain balance.  At the grand strategic level, the UK could decide to seek an overall domain balance in its force structure; alternatively, it could deliberately design in an imbalance or a selective domain(s) bias.

2. Burden-sharing arrangements.  The UK already burden-shares with Five Eyes partners in strategic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence analysis, but could apply the idea of burden-sharing by domain in a systematic way.

Section 3 – Tenet 3: Configured for the Environments

Operating environments represent the composite of local conditions and circumstances in which military and non-military capabilities must be orchestrated to achieve influence. Operating environments are the surroundings or settings for military operations, and they will be specific to that portion of the battlespace, depending on the relationship with the sub-environments within them.

There are several sub-environments MDI needs to be suited for, including:

a. Human sub-environment.  The system of individuals, groups, organisations, and their beliefs, values, interests, aims and interactions. It should be possible to categorise people into audiences, actors, adversaries and enemies  A3E to plan the cognitive influences required upon each;

b. Physical sub-environment.  The surface, sub-surface, above surface and space where physical activities take place, where the A3E live, where objects and infrastructure exist, and weather and atmospheric conditions affect operations;

c. Information sub-environment.  The data, information, media plus the information systems, cyberspace and electromagnetic spectrum that convey information and influence A3E must be configured for outcomes across the levels of warfare.  MDI is likely to gain advantage in the immediate operating environments where effects are created, especially advantages of an operational or tactical nature;

Section 4 - Tenet 4: Creating and Exploiting Synergy

Generating, timing, and exploiting windows of opportunity for relative advantage through the creation of synergy.

Synergy: achieved through the interaction of two or more agents to create a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate parts.

Cross-domain synergy: MDI specifically seeks advantage through cross-domain synergy.

Windows of opportunity will be created or sensed within the combination of human, physical and information sub-environments.

Key points

Tenet 1: information advantage: This tenet is about enabling and effecting orchestration through comprehensive and persistent sensing and understanding of environments and audiences, which must be common across government and with allies.

  • In MDI, the sense, understand, orchestrate functions are enabled and expressed through a C4ISTAR system;

Tenet 2: strategically postured: The global, domain-centric arrangement of capabilities.

  •  Successful MDI is only possible if the right capabilities are in the right places to integrate with others. This comes through setting the strategic stage: posturing;
  • Posturing should make use of domain balance arrangements;

Tenet 3: configured for environments: Readiness for multi-domain activity in operating areas and environments to influence the behaviour of selected audiences.

  • The operational level will help to integrate multi-domain capabilities that may be controlled at the strategic level, such as Space and Cyber, with the tactical;
  • Operating environments represent the composite of local conditions and circumstances, including the physical surroundings and the A3E they host;

Tenet 4: creating and exploiting synergy: Generating, timing, and exploiting windows of opportunity for relative advantage through the creation of synergy.

  • Tempo in MDI should be calibrated to be optimal rather than as high as possible;
  • Cross-domain synergy will be most exploitable in windows of opportunity. They are identified or engineered within the combination of human, physical and information sub-environments according to relative domain strengths;
  • Planning should identify sequences of windows of opportunity, timed for most advantageous effect;

Chapter 4: Force Development Implications

The joint functions are related capabilities and activities that assist commanders to integrate, synchronise and direct joint operations. They are normally used as a planning checklist in tactical and joint headquarters; however, JCN 1/20 proposes a more fundamental adoption of these functions.

Section 1 – Command and Control

  • Command and control -  the exercise of authority and direction by a commander over assigned and attached forces to accomplish the mission;

Section 2 – Intelligence

  • Intelligence - to contribute to a continuous and coordinated understanding of the operating environment;

Section 3 – Fires, Information, Manoeuvre and Outreach

  • Fires - means to realise physical and cognitive effects;
  • Information - the use of information to influence an actor’s perceptions, behaviour, action, and decision-making;
  • Manoeuvre - physical, virtual and cognitive manoeuvre to gain advantage in time, space, and multiple domains;
  • Outreach - includes stabilisation, support to governance, capacity building and regional/l
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