Global Data: An Exclusive Article by The Florida Pilot
There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about the future of strategy in global battles. Although over the past ten centuries, the players in war have changed significantly, the biggest and figuratively speaking exploding change in war is the incorporation of – and manipulation of – data. Think about a WWI dogfight between a Fokker D.VII and a Nieuport 10. In that dogfight, how much data do you think was shared between the strategists, the tacticians, and the pilots of that small one-on-one conflict? How much impact did that dogfight’s outcome have on the course of the war or even on the news cycle of that day? To characterize it as minimal would probably be an overstatement.
Then, as it does, time marched on and into WWII. So did the inherent need for tactical and strategic data. As the chronology of the growth of the world’s database grew, that growth sometimes fueled wars, and sometimes stopped them, right on up to the atomic bomb.
The world’s collective database has grown on a rapidly intensifying curve. That’s because data fuels data’s growth. Fast forward to the Viet Nam conflict, MiG-21s, F-4 Phantoms, guided missiles, and radar-guided SAM sites. It’s hard to wrap your brain around the collective global data growth that took place between WWI and Viet Nam. Needless to say, it was significant and exponential. And it didn’t stop there, by any stretch of the imagination. To get an idea of the global data growth humanity is in the midst of, please see the below chart.
Why is this significant to America’s next-generation air dominance fighter? Picture the global database as a malleable, morphing invertebrate that gloms onto things like the machinery of war and feeds it. In fact, it feeds war technology at a rate where there’s almost an information overflow. It’s a good thing for the lives of wars that man’s desire for unlimited power is, apparently, insatiable. I truly believe that humanity, as a whole, will never lose its insatiable appetite for power regardless of its ultimate use.
In this global explosion of collected and created data, and in lieu of man’s quest for ultimate power, there are specific by-products. Generally speaking, the by-products range from risen and fallen countries and societies. From the proliferation of societal infrastructures to the rise and fall of treacherous leaderships.
A more specific by-product of the union of the bitten-apple and the pigs of war would be something like the much anticipated American 6th Generation air dominance jet fighter. Picture the global data animal that fed the development of the F-16 Falcon and just how prolific and successful that jet has been. During the F-16’s remarkable career, operating in as many as 25 different countries, the data monster loomed on the horizon and was starting to get a foothold.
The F-16 first flew on January 20, 1974. The global data monster wasn’t even accurately calculated in 1974. Dong Liang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences originally calculated the total global database in 2006 to be somewhere around .16 ZB. Arne Holst from Statista, in a published article on Jun 7, 2021, projected the total global database in 2025 to be around 181 ZB. Think about it. The measured global data pool when the F-16 was developed wasn’t even on the chart. The F-22’s first flight was September 7, 1997, which was during a time period where the global data accumulation STILL wasn’t accurately measured. Fast forward to December 2006 and the first flight of the F-35. In 2006 humanity’s global data storage was finally reported and it was a modest .16 ZB.
Today, in 2021, our global data storage is estimated to be in the area of 79 ZB. The significance? The global data pool is an accumulation of data where much of it is accessible by various countries, some nefarious some friendly (for now), and a multitude of organizations like the DOD, DARPA, the NSA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman. This volume of data injected into today’s supercomputers has no choice but to offer revolutionary technology, tactical and strategic warfighting advances, and innumerable possibilities that even the most stellar engineers couldn’t dream about during the development of the F-22. And, with all of the previously mentioned universe-shattering advancements being taken into consideration in our present, and future, abilities in waging war in ways the world has yet to imagine, the A-10 Thunderbolt II still lives to see another decade.