Essay: IT in the military

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  • IT in the military
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1. Since the culmination of the Cold War era, the use of military influence in a multi-polar world has become progressively complicated. Strategy, operational activities, and technology have become key matters in the debate over the role of the armed forces . Subscribers to this theory analyse the ways in which the Forces are deployed, notwithstanding the fact that their essential aim, to fulfil national policy, remains unchanged. In the last twenty years or so of the twentieth century and in the beginning of this century, we have seen insightful changes which altered our perception of the nature of forthcoming wars and conflicts and the structure and mechanisms for their resolution. The industrial-age wars have given way to a new kind of war revealed during the Gulf War of 1991and the operations of the final decades of the last century. Future wars will surely be dominated by information technology along with joint and integrated operations.
2. The 21st Century is witness to unprecedented revolution in the field of IT. Modern means of communication have turned the world into an integrated and seamless network of information. The recent telecom revolution has also dramatically catapulted Communication and IT fields to centre stage of national activities. Defence Services remain one of the largest users of Communication systems, spectrum and Infrastructure in any country. Each service is gaining technological advancement both in equipment and communication. However, these capabilities are working in isolation and are not interwoven together, to harmonise their full potential .
3. Joint Operations in armed forces is a well researched topic. There are a number of areas, which are common to the Services and can be developed and exploited jointly. The two basic functional areas of all the three Services are operations and its support functions. Many nations are employing integrated forces in operations and refining their operating philosophies. However not much thought has been put towards integrated communication in a joint operation. There are no concrete concepts even in the joint doctrines of armed forces of many major nations. This leads to lack of compatibility and hinders interoperability. The requirement of jointmanship is indispensable in the battle-space of the future and inter-Services connectivity is essential for conduct of joint warfare at strategic, operational and tactical levels.
4. Around the world, the individual services of many countries have excellent communication systems in place, but are generally far from a handshake with each other. The absence of a joint integrated communication network has left the Armed Forces to operate as individual arms, which is emerging as a major roadblock in moving from an ‘arm specific’ to a ‘theatre force’.
5. Successful employment of integrated forces by USA indicates that such forces would deliver a decisive punch in future conflicts. These integrated forces have a very essential ingredient for their successful employment. That ingredient is a potent integrated communication network. The requirement of such a joint integrated communication network for the armed forces seems inevitable.
6. This research thus seeks to analyse the effectiveness and importance of joint communication in employment of integrated packages by the armed forces.
7. Certain key ingredients in the successful conduct of any joint operations are the command, control, communications, computers, Information, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) of the three services. Till the recent past, achieving a fair degree of jointness was not a very complicated issue. A communication channel between the formation HQ of the services involved and the fighting unit I sub unit commanders, in addition to an understanding of each other’s battle drills was adequate to achieve a fair degree of jointness. However, with the acquisition of sophisticated weapon systems, as also development of state of art communication and computer networks in the three Services, a number of issues have emerged that have a direct impact on joint operations; absence of an integrated communication network being one of the most important of them.
8. Integrated operations envisage the highest degree of jointness wherein the three Service components are fully integrated seamlessly to form a task force for conduct of specialised operations. The key ingredient to jointness is the ability to communicate throughout the action phase without disruption at critical junctures for effective command and control, while ensuring seamless transparency of the battle field.
9. The objective of this research is to highlight the requirement of an integrated communication network for the armed forces. The research paper intends to study the level of integration in communication networks in various armed forces of the world and thus establish the viability and requirement of such a system and the roadblocks that are causing hindrances in achieving the same.
10. An effective integrated communication network common to all the three services, is a prerequisite to ensure success in future wars.
11. The basic research methodology is qualitative research which involves collection of factual data to form the hypothesis. Secondary data has been reviewed through the college library using a range of information sources such books, periodicals, academic and commercial abstracts, bibliographic databases, and Internet search engines. A bibliography is appended at the end of dissertation.
12. The dissertation has been organised under the following chapters:
(a) Chapter I – Introduction and Methodology. This chapter attempts to introduce the topic by highlighting the need of an integrated communication network in Armed Forces.
(b) Chapter II – What is an Integrated Communication Network? This chapter provides the typical requirements of an integrated communication network.
(c) Chapter IIII – What is the Status of Integrated Communication Network in Various Armed Forces of the World and available doctrines? This chapter provides an insight into the level of integration of communication networks achieved in various armed forces. It also analyses the communication doctrines of various countries and their focus so that it provisions integrated operations in the prevailing structure of the armed forces.
(d) Chapter IV – Application of Integrated Communications and the Need For it in Joint Multinational Operations. This chapter provides an insight on the use of integrated communication systems in various global wars undertaken by the NATO forces and analyses its use for the multinational operations.
(e) Chapter V – Conclusion. This chapter aims at summarising the previous chapters.
(f) Chapter V – Conclusion. This chapter aims at giving some recommendations towards implementation of a joint communication network.
1. An integrated communications system is comprised of the networks and services that enable joint and multinational capabilities. The objective of the joint communications system is to assist the force commanders in command and control (C2) of military operations. Effective C2 is vital for proper integration and employment of capabilities. The Armed Force’s end-to-end communications system supporting the force commanders is the Armed Force’s Communication Network (AFCN). The AFCN is the set of information capabilities, and associated processes to collect, process, store, disseminate, and manage information on demand to warfighters, policy makers, and support personnel. The network can be interconnected or stand alone, including owned and leased communications and computing systems and services, software (including applications), data, security services, other associated services and national security systems. The AFCN conceptually unifies the Armed Force’s information and communication systems and networks into a real-time information system of systems that provides increased information capabilities to the joint force. Communications systems are more than electronic boxes, wires, and radio signals, and the AFCN is more than a collection of information networks. The interdependence of the parts, as well as the processes, policy and data on these systems, permeate daily life and preparation for and execution of operations. An effective communications system helps commanders maintain the unity of effort to apply their forces’ capabilities at critical times and places to achieve objectives.
Command and Control
2. Elements of the C2 System. The first element of a C2 system is people, who acquire information, make decisions, take action, communicate, and collaborate with one another to accomplish a common goal. Human beings—from the senior commander framing a strategic concept to the most junior service member at the tactical level calling in a situation report, are integral components of the joint communications system and not merely users. The second element of the C2 system is comprised of the facilities, equipment, communications, staff functions, and procedures essential to a commander to plan, direct, monitor, and control operations of assigned forces pursuant to the missions assigned. Although families of hardware are often referred to as systems, the C2 system is more than simply equipment. High-quality equipment and advanced technology do not guarantee adequate communications or effective C2. Both start with well-trained and qualified people supported by an effective guiding philosophy and procedures.
3. Quality of Information. There are two basic uses for information. The first is to help create situational awareness (SA) as the basis for a decision. The second is to direct and coordinate actions in the execution of the decision. In one way or another, effective C2 is inherently dependent on information: getting it, evaluating its accuracy, judging its value, processing it into useful form, acting on it, and sharing it with those who need it in the most expeditious, secure manner. The C2 system must present information in a form that is quickly understood and useful to the recipient at every required level of warfare be it strategic, operational or tactical.
4. Information Management (IM). Managing and maintaining the quality of information is as important as other military tasks. Good IM makes accomplishment of other tasks less complex. Automation and standardisation of communications system processes and procedures improve IM and assist the commander’s effectiveness and speed of C2. Improved technology in mobility, weapons, sensors, and communications continues to reduce reaction time, increase the operating tempos, and generate large amounts of information. If information is not properly managed, the abilities of commanders, decision makers and ultimately, the joint force may be degraded. It is essential that the joint communications system complement human capabilities and reduce or eliminate anticipated or known limitations to mission accomplishment. A well-crafted and coordinated set of integrated procedures and interoperable systems is important to operating in a joint, multinational, and interagency context of current and future operations. The value of technology, organisation and strategy is diminished in the absence of a professional force to leverage their value. A comprehensive and thoroughly rehearsed set of operational procedures is crucial to developing that required degree of proficiency. The communications system must be of sufficient scale, capacity, reach, reliability, resilience, survivability and robustness to support evolving operational and training missions. Additionally, the communications system should integrate new technologies to facilitate delivery of the right information to the right location at the right time in an actionable format for the intended user.
Role of Communication Network
5. A secure, robust, and reliable communications system gives the force commanders the means to assimilate information and to exercise authority and direct forces over large geographic areas and a wide range of conditions. A communications system that provides connectivity throughout the operational area from the strategic to tactical levels is vital to plan, conduct, sustain operations, and enable information superiority. The force commanders should maintain reliable, resilient, jam-resistant, and secure communications with higher, supported, supporting, and subordinate commands during all phases of an operation and in all types of degraded environments. Operations at all levels routinely require long-range, mobile communications. Consideration must be made for en route, intra-theatre and inter-theatre communications. In addition, the communications system must be prepared to interface mission partners. This same standard and rigor of communications must be maintained throughout the supporting and subordinate commands. This requirement supports information security as well as a positive flow of information.
6. The communications system is the force commander’s principal tool to collect, monitor, transport, process, protect and disseminate information. Given the criticality of information, the security of the communications system is paramount to ensuring the force commanders can trust the information it provides. Effective C2, through the exchange of information, integrates joint force components and allows them to function effectively across vast distances, in austere or complex environments and in all weather conditions. The mission and structure of the joint force drives specific information flow and processing requirements. The location and information requirements of the joint force drive the configuration and capabilities of the communications system. The goal is to rapidly achieve secure information sharing to facilitate a common understanding of the current situation throughout the operational environment. It also ensures information availability and access across the operational environment and facilitates the following :
(a) Joint and Multinational Operations and Interagency Coordination. The communications system facilitates joint and multinational operations and interagency coordination by providing the means to share operational area visualisation manage information and facilitate collaborative planning, rehearsal, execution and assessment with mission partners.
(b) Strategic Agility. The communications system supports the rapid deployment and employment of task-organised forces anywhere in the world. Rapid information sharing around the globe permits simultaneous, interactive planning from widely dispersed locations, thereby allowing the use of remote staffs to develop and coordinate an operation plan and execute an operation order. It provides force commanders, the ability to reach back to data repositories, thereby increasing deployability, reducing footprint and enhancing access to global intelligence assets. The communications system supports collaboration that assists force commanders in conducting detailed, concurrent and parallel planning.
(c) Operational Reach. The communications system supports the synchronisation of military capabilities, allowing commanders to locate and identify friendly forces in the operational environment and support the conduct of over-the-horizon operations with beyond line-of-sight communications and communications on the move.
(d) Tactical Flexibility. The communications system allows the joint force to enhance SA and timely decision making to rapidly and positively identify and engage targets and to develop and conduct a wide range of military operations. The communications system supports the development and dissemination of the commander’s intent and planning guidance, fostering decentralised execution. Timely delivery of information concerning targets, movement of forces, condition of equipment, levels of supplies and disposition of assets, both friendly and adversary to the joint force enables more effective decentralised execution.
(e) Network Enabled Operations. The modern communications system allows the interconnection (networking) of geographically separated forces, which permit network-enabled operations. Network-enabled operations are military operations that exploit information and networking technology to integrate widely dispersed human decision makers, situational and targeting sensors, forces and weapons into a highly adaptive and comprehensive system. Network enabled operations exploit the combat power derived from the networking of well informed and geographically dispersed forces. A securely networked-force can increase operational visibility and combat power thus achieving greater speed of command decisions and increasing the lethality, survivability and responsiveness of the force. Network connectivity is mission critical and can determine mission viability during planning and execution. The loss of network connectivity can put the force at risk, threatening lethality and survivability. The inseparable link between tactical communications, force capability and C2 should be continually addressed during planning and execution to mitigate the adverse impact of unforeseen consequences. Since a significant portion of any communications system relies upon wireless transmissions, access to the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) must be a consideration when planning network connectivity. Today, all joint force operations depend on assured EMS access throughout the operational environment. The joint force’s growing dependence on the EMS is a critical vulnerability that any adversary will seek to exploit. The joint force’s ability to use the EMS is a key to success in the future operational environment.
(f) Information Superiority. Information superiority is the operational advantage derived from the ability to collect, process and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying an adversary’s ability to do the same. The communications system must facilitate information superiority and information management. Information superiority and information management lie at the core of every military activity. Information superiority is more than just having an information edge over an adversary or sustaining the information needs of our own forces. It also involves denying an adversary’s ability to do the same. This mandates the requirement to develop doctrine, tactics, techniques, procedures, organisational relationships and technologies to win the information fight. The quality of information depends upon the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, usability, brevity, security, and completeness of information from all sources.
7. Functions of a Communication System. The communications system supporting the military forces must anticipate and adapt to changing demands and provide information that meets all information quality attributes. By meeting these fundamental objectives, the communications system enables joint forces to seize opportunities and meet mission objectives. The communications system facilitates information sharing and decision support and is an essential building block in the operational environment. Information system components that make up the communications system normally have the following capabilities:
(a) Acquire. The introduction of information into the communications system.
(b) Process. Specified sequence of operations performed on well defined inputs to produce a specified output.
(c) Store. Retention, organisation and disposition of data, information or knowledge to facilitate sharing and retrieval.
(d) Transport. End-to-end information exchange and dissemination in a global environment.
(e) Control. The function of directing, monitoring, and regulating communications system functions to fulfil operational requirements within specific performance parameters.
(f) Protect. Information integrity, secure processing and transmission with access only by authorised personnel.
(g) Disseminate. Distributing processed information to the appropriate users Present Information provided to the user in the method that best facilitates understanding and use.
8. Joint Communication System Principles. A force that is linked and synchronised in time and purpose is considered networked. The joint force capitalises on information and near simultaneous dissemination to turn information into actions. An effective communications system helps the Force Commanders to conduct distributed operations. Joint force employment decisions are influenced by the communications system’s ability to network the force. This inseparably links network control to C2 prioritisation and decisions. Networked joint forces increase operational effectiveness by allowing dispersed forces to more efficiently communicate, manoeuvre, populate, access and share a common operational picture, and attain the desired end state at all levels of command. To provide the flexibility to dynamically meet mission objectives, the communications system must follow certain basic principles. These are as follows:
(a) Interoperable. A system is said to be interoperable when information can be exchanged between communications systems/equipment directly and satisfactorily between them and/or their users. It is facilitated by common equipments, compatibility of equipments, standardisation and liaison.
(b) Agility. In order to provide it the right kind of agility, a system should have the following qualities:-
(i) Responsiveness. The ability to react to a change in the environment in a timely manner.
(ii) Flexibility. The ability to employ multiple ways to succeed and the capacity to move seamlessly between them.
(iii) Innovation. The ability to do new things and to do old things in new ways.
(iv) Adaptation. The ability to change work processes and to change as per the organisation.
(c) Trusted. Trusted communication attributes are survivability, security and sustainability. Security includes physical security of the communications system components and facilities, personnel security of individuals authorized access to the communications system and operations security procedures and techniques protecting operational employment of the communications system components.
(d) Shared. The system should be able to facilitate information, services and capabilities.
(e) Low probability of intercept (LPI) and low probability of detection (LPD) capabilities and techniques designed to defeat adversary attempts to detect and exploit the communications system transmission media.
(f) Robustness . It is the ability to maintain effectiveness across a range of tasks, situations, and conditions.
(g) Resilience. It is the ability to rapidly recover from or adjust to misfortune, damage, or a destabilizing event in the environment.
1. The pace of development in the field of communications has been astronomical. Communications have broken all barriers and brought in the concept of global village. Two terms commonly used to indicate the degree of synergy amongst the three Services is joint operations and integrated operations. Integrated operations envisage the highest degree of jointness wherein the three Service components are fully integrated seamlessly to form a task force for conduct of specialized operations. In either case the key ingredient to jointness is the ability to communicate throughout the action without disruption at critical junctures for effective command and control and transparency of the battle field. Tackling these inter Service communication network boundaries to enable a force to conduct joint operations becomes a technical interoperability challenge -expensive in terms of time, finances and quality of service. Many nations have realised the importance of integrated communication network toward success inter as well as intra theatre operations and have either formulated or are in the process of formulating comprehensive document in support of integrated communication.
2. United States (Joint Publication 6.0). This publication, “Joint Communications System (Joint Publication 6-0),” is the keystone document for the communications system series of publications. It provides the doctrinal foundation for communications system support of joint operations across the range of military operations. The objective of the joint communications system is to assist the joint force commander (JFC) in command and control (C2) of military operations. While C2 alone will neither destroy an adversary target nor accomplish emergency resupply, no single activity in military operations is more important. This publication provides a comprehensive approach to the support of joint force command and control through the integration of joint communications and information systems across the range of military operations. It further amplifies that the integrated communication system supports and provides assured flow of information to and from commanders at all levels during all phases of an operation. The communications system must be disciplined, flexible, interoperable, responsive, mobile, survivable, secure, and sustainable in order to enable common awareness, speed decision making, and to integrate actions of the joint force. In a fast-paced and highly technical environment, it is critical that the communications system also accommodate information exchanges both at operational and tactical levels.
3. United Kingdom (Joint Doctrine Publication (JDP) 6-00). The JDP 6 – 00 Communications and Information Systems Support to Joint Operations provides guidance for the planning and execution of Communications and Information Systems (CIS) support to Joint operations. This document is based on the deployment of a Joint Task Force and is equally valid under other operational constructs and different scales of operations. The generic principles contained within this document should however be adapted for specific operations. The Doctrine states that, CIS are ‘the assembly of equipment, methods and procedures, and if necessary personnel, organised so as to accomplish specific information, conveyance and processing functions’. In the modern battle space, effective information management and subsequent information superiority is only achieved with properly deployed and managed CIS. CIS are an essential part of military operations and provide commanders at all levels with the means to exercise Command and Control (C2) and disseminate vital information. CIS are also an essential prerequisite for Network Enabled Capability, which allows increased situational awareness, supports better decision making and greater operational agility for an Effects-based Approach. The doctrine clearly lays down the CIS process in four parts. These are:
(a) Lay down the fundamental elements and principles governing CIS support.
(b) Outline the roles and responsibilities of those organisations that contribute to CIS planning and capability.
(c) Detailed information services planning process.
(d) The processes and activities that provide communication and information services support to the conduct of joint operations.
4. China. China has not released any formal document on integrated communication, however the white paper released in Oct 15 clearly states that China sees C4ISR and Information Technology as critical aspects of its strategy and this is reflected in its military modernisation efforts. China has placed an increasing importance on C4I capabilities so that its integrated communication systems can allow the PLA to execute fluid joint operations . The PLA is investing heavily in the enhancement of all communication and ISR capabilities, drawing on resources of the civilian computer and high tech industries. Given that military modernisation is virtually impossible without comprehensive, modern and integrated communication capabilities, the success of China’s efforts in this regard will be a key factor in determining the success of China’s modernisation strategy. The PLA increasingly relies on modern IT applications. The evidence for this includes the PLA’s increased efforts to create an advanced communication network among the PLA branches and services, IT enabled weapon systems, the proliferation of information warfare units and efforts to recruit highly qualified civilian IT experts. PLA leaders understand that conducting “integrated joint operations” is virtually impossible without effective, communication networks, and they have identified the PLA’s deficiencies in this sector as a key stumbling block to efforts at joint operations.
5. Israel. Israel commissioned its integrated communication network for the military forces in 2014 that links all three Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) branches to one another as well as to Military Intelligence branch . The network was operationalised following an ambitious drive by the IDF’s Hoshen Unit, a part of the C4I Corps, which is responsible for all IDF communications. Owing to the integrated network, Infantry soldiers and tank crews can communicate with fighter jets in the air, with General Staff in Tel Aviv, or with navy ships at sea. The various units can share visual intelligence, the location of enemy targets and their own positions, while also coordinating their firepower. The network is a key component of the IDF’s push to decentralise the Ground Forces, and create autonomous battalions that can look after their own battlefield needs. It has created channels for video calls and the sharing of all forms of intelligence among units.
6. India. Air Force Net (AFNET), an advanced communications system commissioned by Indian Air Force (IAF) is a fibre optic based network on which the Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) rests. With AFNET in place, IAF is in a position to link up all its ground, air and space based assets to have a complete situational awareness of the area it wants to secure and dominate. The shared awareness that AFNET facilitates would increase synergy for command and control resulting in superior decision making and the ability to coordinate fighter jets for complex military operations over long distances for an overreaching war fighting advantage. On similar lines the Indian Army and Indian Navy have also developed their communication networks called as the Akash Teer and Triguna. Eventually, the Akash Teer and Triguna air defence networks will be integrated with the IACCS to form a integrated communication network. Network Centric joint operations capability has already taken a quantum jump with operationalisation of IACCS and improvement in communication network. With the planned integration of Akash Teer and Triguna of the Army and Naval AD networks with the IACCS, exploitation of the ‘Maritime Domain Awareness’ capability of the Navy, ODL of the Air Force and Space-based systems will provide formidable NCW capability to the Indian Defence Forces.
7. The battlefield of today requires transverse communications. Not only is interoperability imperative intra-Service and inter-Services in the military, it is also necessary across the entire Security Sector that include unconventional warfare, asymmetric threats and hybrid warfare in contrast to classical conventional battlefields. Communication systems need to meet multi-mission requirements, functioning through cyber and electronic warfare environment while engaged in battle. There is increasing overlap of communications and information systems in militaries across the world, optimising Information and Communication Technology. This has led to many other nations, including India, to put serious efforts in developing integrated communication networks and look forward towards optimising these networks in support of joint operations. Such System not only provides great operational advantage for the defence establishment but also act as a force multiplier for commanders at all levels.
“A networked Joint Force is able to maintain a more accurate presentation of the battlespace built on the ability to integrate intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, information and total asset visibility. This integrated picture allows the commander to better employ the right capabilities, at the right place and at the right time. Fully networked forces are better able to conduct distributed operations.”
1. Throughout the twentieth century, advancements in technology have coincided with significant developments in the way militaries of the world wage combat. From the use of cavalry units at the outbreak of the First World War to the deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Operation Allied Force, technology has allowed the way in which military operations are conducted to evolve considerably. As we look into the twenty-first century, technology continues to play a greater role in the way these militaries operate. However, it is not simply new weapons, aircraft or warships that are transforming the militaries of today. The way in which forces communicate, disseminate intelligence, are issued orders, and report back to their commanders has been revolutionised through the use of networks. More specifically, computer, radio and data networks link nearly all military assets at a state’s disposal to each other and to the decision makers. From the nuclear ballistic missile submarines lurking under the oceans to the commanders on the ground, the network centric warfare gives a military the ability to ‘to attain a high level of shared battle space awareness that is exploited to achieve strategic, operational, and tactical objectives in accordance with the commander’s intent. This includes not just joint warfare in a specific theatre of operations, but also the coordination of dispersed forces on a global level.
2. Another key advantage of the integrated communication network is, the ability for Command & Control (C2) of forces spread over a large geographical area (perhaps in different theatres) in a more expeditious and efficient manner. Networks harness the power of geographically dispersed nodes by linking them together into networks that allow for the extremely rapid, high-volume transmission of digitised data. The ability to disseminate instructions, information and intelligence to assets dispersed across the globe is particularly vital for those forces which are likely to be involved in expeditionary warfare, such as those of the United States and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom, who at present have a global reach.
3. Gulf War. Integrated communications became a ‘living’ concept in the Gulf War of 1991 and the role of this technology in warfare was amply proven. Communication technology had given the edge in battlefield intelligence, targeting and command and control. Integrated air and ground unit communications kept up with a fast-changing battlefield area. The expansive desert terrain called for flexible use of multiple spectrum channels and constant command-and-control links made possible by increasingly digital equipment. The importance of data over voice communications became immediately evident, supported by use of more than sixty military satellites. At the same time, Iraqi communications were steadily interdicted, with immediate impact on the battlefield. The Iraqi Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) was a composite system which integrated European and Soviet search and acquisition radars, and a range of Soviet and European SAM and AAA systems, all tied together with a French built Kari C3 (Command/Control/Communications) network. Geographically the national IADS was split into several large zones, in each of which were located central local C3 facilities, one or more large hardened airbases and a network of communications links to fixed radar and SAM sites. Control of the whole network was centred in hardened facilities in the vicinity of Baghdad. While microwave links were used extensively for communication integration, these were backed up by landlines. This was by all means a formidable air defence system connected with a robust communication network and if used properly, had the potential to inflict substantial attrition if not dealt with properly. The Allied response to address this system on priority reflected in the inability of Iraqi forces to subsequently put up a formidable defence against the Allied air forces.
4. The real-world experience of partially networked U.S. and coalition forces during the combat operations in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001–2002) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003) has provided preliminary, yet powerful, evidence about the value of joint communications and the conduct of Networked operations.
5. Operation Enduring Freedom (2001–02). The network-centric capabilities of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) elements during the conduct of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan proved vital to the defeat of Taliban and al Qaeda forces throughout the country. U.S. forces conducted operations in a mountainous, landlocked country the size of Texas that presented an extremely challenging environment. The long-sought goal of networking weapons platforms with sensor platforms came to fruition in this austere environment where both the need and the advantages were readily apparent. USCENTCOM employed Special Operations Forces (SOF) teams on the ground working directly with our Afghan allies. These SOF elements were networked with other friendly forces on the ground and U.S. aircraft capable of delivering advanced precision-guided munitions. This combination proved extremely effective. Networking the sensors and the shooters in real time was only part of the requirement, however. Taliban and al Qaeda targets during Operation Enduring Freedom were often fleeting and weapons platforms had to be updated very quickly while in the air. In the case of B-2 bombers flying from bases in Missouri and B-1 bombers flying from other bases far from the theatre of operations, this required a capability to change mission-tasking enroute to the target area in Afghanistan. Carrier-based aircraft needed a similar capability to deal with the dynamic nature of their targets. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were used to a greater degree than ever before. The ability to pass information gathered by Predator and Global Hawk UAVs to ground commanders in Afghanistan enabled near-real-time battlefield situational awareness. The geographic location of the combatant command headquarters presented some 3, challenges for network-centric operations. Nevertheless, the USCENTCOM headquarters in Tampa was successfully networked with a forward headquarters in Kuwait and a subordinate forward headquarters in Uzbekistan. Satellite communications and related technologies enabled this networking capability to a degree not previously achievable.
6. Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003). The impressive network-centric capabilities of U.S. forces on display during OEF in Afghanistan were clearly evident during the conduct of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Many significant improvements in these capabilities were apparent by the time OIF began in March 2003. Network-centric capabilities provided, without question, a major contribution to the decisive victory of U.S. and coalition forces over Saddam Hussein’s forces during major combat operations in Iraq during March and April 2003. Network-centric capabilities evident in U.S. forces during OIF included not only the technology and systems that enabled the effective conduct of NCO, but innovative new concepts for the employment of the technology and an enhanced understanding of the human side of the NCW equation as well—highly trained, motivated Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines fighting as part of an integrated, networked joint force. The implementation of NCW is, after all, about human behavior, not just new technology. The effectiveness of NCO as conducted by U.S. and coalition forces during OIF has been strongly praised by senior commanders, including General (Ret.) Tommy Franks, Commander of the CENTCOM and coalition forces during OIF, and other commanders at all echelons of command down to battalion and company level. Most of the groundwork for the information network and other network-centric capabilities that empowered our forces during OIF was actually completed during OEF. After the success of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2001–02, the gradual buildup to the war in Iraq allowed careful planning and positioning to provide the necessary technologies and systems that enabled commanders to conduct high speed, non-contiguous NCO and, when necessary, to change plans as rapidly as the situation required. According to Brigadier General Dennis Moran, then CENTCOM/J-6, “The rapid sharing of information at all levels of command was possible because of the technology we had in place. The ability to move intelligence rapidly from the sensor to either an analytical decision maker or directly to the shooter was the best that we have ever seen … We validated the concept of network centric warfare and the need for communications, C2, and ISR systems to be hooked up to, and interoperable with, the Global Information Grid and to be adaptable to whatever circumstances are on the battlefield.” One of the biggest challenges during OIF, according to General Moran, involved sharing information with coalition partners. “Our ability to take information drawn predominantly from systems on the U.S.-only network, and then being able to rapidly, seamlessly move those into a coalition network, was extremely challenging. We had some workarounds that were less than fulfilling, but one of the biggest challenges we faced was sharing timely information in a seamless manner with our coalition partners. That’s one of the key take-away of this conflict.
7. Moving away from surface warfare, another example of NCW’s success in operations is Link 16, and the advantage it gives to the air forces that make use of it. Link 16, also known as TADIL-J (Tactical Digital Information Link J) is described as a communication, navigation, and identification system that supports information exchange between tactical command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems. The system uses encrypted messages and transmissions which are jam resistant to provide the user with a whole host of possible applications. These include surveillance, electronic warfare, mission management/weapons coordination, air control, positive friendly identification and network management. The RAND Corporation’s National Defence Research Institute (NDRI) conducted a case study to determine the impact of using Link 16 in an air-to-air combat situation. NDRI summarised their findings by stating that when Link 16 was used the quality of information available to individual fighter pilots was increased significantly and that pilots were on average able to make better decisions and make decisions earlier in the opening gambits of tactical air-to-air engagements. This resulted in greatly increased force effectiveness. Link 16, combined with the Eurofighter Typhoon’s long range radar provided pilots with exceptional and unrivalled situational awareness of the operating area during Operation ELLAMY over Libya in 2011. The system has also seen operational use over Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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