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Command System Primed for Larger Role

September 2006
By Henry S. Kenyon

 
The Odin command, control and communications information system is a battle management and decision-making tool that allows commanders to share information in a coalition environment. It can operate across a variety of echelons, from corps to company level, and it can be configured to support specific units and mission types.
Danish battle management and decision making tool prepares for international customers.

Odin, the chief god of ancient Scandinavia and the patron deity of war and wisdom, used guile and intelligence to defeat his enemies. Like its namesake, an advanced command, control and communications system allows warfighters to understand the operational situation quickly and to make informed decisions.

Configured to operate in a multinational environment, the Odin system is compliant with NATO and international information sharing standards. Its designers also plan to modify Odin for use in post-combat efforts such as peacekeeping missions, coordination of humanitarian aid and national reconstruction efforts.

Odin provides commanders with decision support, communications and situational awareness capabilities. It is engineered to support the entire command chain, from corps to company level. The system’s applications and data feeds collect and distribute information and prepare and execute operational plans to control ongoing operations. Odin also can monitor communications channels between the headquarters and individual units.

Developed by Maersk Data Defence, Copenhagen, Odin consists of a number of modular components that can be assembled for a specific unit or mission. It includes a data engine, a joint replicator and a command, control and communications toolkit. The system has service-specific applications for missions such as intelligence, artillery and engineering.

Odin features a graphic interface with a standard set of command and control iconography used by all Scandinavian armed forces. Capable of operating on laptop and desktop computers or on battlefield servers, the system provides commanders with tools for selecting and directing units for specific missions.

Odin is in service with the Danish army, where it is known as the Danish Army Command and Control Information System (DACCIS). The latest version of the system, released in December 2005, offers enhanced interoperability for units in coalition operations. According to Hans Christian Andersen, Maersk Data Defence’s international business manager, the Danish army rarely operates alone when deployed abroad, almost always serving in a joint coalition with other nations. The new capability increases information exchange with allied forces and is NATO compatible, he says.

Andersen also notes that the system’s new functions allow it to potentially coordinate with civilian organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Maersk Data Defence also has produced a homeland security variant of Odin that can be used to support and coordinate national emergency and security assets in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The current version of Odin uses the latest NATO joint command, control, communications and intelligence data model (JC3IDM), which enhances the system’s interoperability. Adopting JC3IDM is important because it represents several years of development by NATO nations, says Andersen. In this context, he adds that the cooperation within the alliance is unique because the nations must agree to all of the model’s specifications.

Odin is currently configured to support land force operations mainly. But the new data model will allow the system to connect with naval and air units. “Because we have the new data model, it is possible to move in this [joint] direction. But what is the future for such a system? The future is that you’ve also got to use it in the post-combat period,” he says.

Andersen explains that recent conflicts such as in Iraq and the Balkans consisted of a combat phase followed by a chaotic ground situation. He notes that the military is often the only force present to restore order to support the rebuilding of a nation. Ignorance of national infrastructure assets such as railroads, hospitals, water supplies and electricity grids can threaten the success of any attempt to stabilize a country and begin rebuilding. Andersen believes that future command and control systems will have broad applications from the battlefield to homeland security or reconstruction efforts. He thinks that command systems such as Odin will be required to support rebuilding programs to protect NGOs, to secure supplies and to protect areas against insurgents.

 
When Danish troops deployed to the Balkans in the early 1990s, they lacked a modern command and control system. Odin was developed to meet this requirement and to interoperate with other NATO nations’ systems.
The system’s current version cannot directly support  all possible post-combat operations, but Andersen notes that Maersk Data Defence is working to further develop this capability. Besides providing for the security of their own troops and the areas they hold, military commanders may have to provide both access and protection to NGOs and civilian groups. This access can take the form of information about the situation. He suggests that one solution would be for the system to support an Internet portal to access nonclassified information about areas where unexploded ordnance is present or where there is still a threat presented to noncombatants.

Odin is designed to interoperate with all NATO command and control systems. Although it uses a shared iconography with Nordic equipment, Odin is not entirely interoperable with Scandinavian equipment because not all of the region’s nations meet NATO standards. “If you want to interoperate, then you need a common standard at both ends,” Andersen says.

Andersen is hopeful that the Scandinavian nations will adopt the NATO JC3IDM standard in the next few years. He believes that the process of accepting the new rule will be relatively fast compared to the years of negotiation required to develop it.

Odin originated from a Danish army requirement for a command and control system in the early 1990s. Andersen explains that when Danish units deployed to the Balkans to support NATO operations, they did not have any modern command and control systems. “Before, Danish forces were not seen going farther than the outskirts of Lubëck in northern Germany. That was the old Cold War scenario,” he says.

Denmark had been involved in peacekeeping operations before. Andersen notes that he served as a U.N. peacekeeper in Sinai, Cyprus and the Congo in the 1960s. But he adds that forces used in these operations were lightly armed. “Peace was there already, and it was more or less in a static area with static functionality—only observation and small patrols. Suddenly with the fall of the Berlin Wall you had a new world order. But out of that came a lot of risks,” he says.

Andersen describes the NATO Balkan deployments as peace support and peace enforcement operations more so than peacekeeping. It was during these missions that Danish army officials realized that the army needed a command and control system similar to those already in use with the larger European armies.

The Danish military began developing a prototype system in the mid-1990s. In early 1997, a tender was issued for DACCIS. Maersk Data Defence won the bid in 1998 and began developing the system in close cooperation with the army.

The army had several prerequisites for DACCIS. It had to be easy to use and to learn; it had to be based on commercial products; and it had to operate from platforms such as laptop computers. Other key requirements were easy maintenance and compliance with NATO standards. “Denmark is such a small country that it could never afford to develop its own standards, so we were looking for NATO standards,” he explains.

The first generation of DACCIS entered service in 2003. Andersen describes the new version as a massive improvement because it is compliant with a variety of multinational standards, including the NATO technical architecture and the Multilateral Interoperability Program.

Odin was chosen as the name for the system’s export version. Andersen notes that Maersk Data Defence is currently marketing it to other Nordic nations, and that Sweden and Finland have shown interest in the system.

 

Web Resources
Danish Ministry of Defense: http://forsvaret.dk/FMN/eng
Maersk Data Defence: www.maerskdata-defence.com