Using Social Network Analysis to Quantify Interoperability and Versatility in the U.S. Air Force Network of Systems 2018-01-6000
The Department of Defense (DoD) faces a similar challenge to the broader aerospace community in that they must integrate and operate a range of systems developed independently over a long period. It has proved difficult for the DoD to manage this network of systems and they must explore other options for analyzing and managing their systems. This paper explores the application of social network analysis tools and metrics to a network of aerospace systems within the U.S. Air Force. The structure of the network includes over one hundred U.S. Air Force systems including, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, munitions, satellites, and command and control systems. The paper describes two separate networks based on direct connections and shared activities between these systems. For each of these networks measures of centrality, degree, closeness, betweenness, and eigenvector, quantify both the interoperability and versatility of the U.S. Air Force systems. These metrics appear to provide valuable insight into the network of systems and the results of the analysis align with general perceptions of the most interoperable and versatile DoD systems. In the interoperability network, the GPS III system, that provides information to nearly every other DoD system, ranked highest among the Air Force Systems. Also, in the versatility network, the A-10 and B-52, very versatile aircraft, scored very well based on the social network analysis metrics. Overall, social network analysis tools and metrics have the potential to provide systems engineers with valuable insights into the analysis, management, and design of systems. Although the initial results appear to be promising, future work should focus on validating the approach of applying social network analysis metrics to networks of systems and expand the work beyond the DoD realm to include other networks of systems.