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Navy Plots Innovative Course

December 2000
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Changes in technologies prompt changes in doctrine.

The U.S. Navy is charting the waters of its future by exploring experimental concepts and delving into the technologies that will support network-centric operations. The Navy After Next will exploit the power of forward, distributed, sea-based forces to build battlespace depth and to project focused combat power. The pivotal change for the future Navy will be its flexible networking of sensors and forces—both joint and coalition.

Network-centric operations is the capstone concept and organizing principle that will link U.S. national security and military strategies. Work being conducted at the Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC), Newport, Rhode Island, is leading the way in warfare innovation and concept development. The command is the umbrella organization under which the Navy is examining technologies as well as the doctrine and implementation tactics that will necessarily change as the service acquires new capabilities.

Established in 1998, the NWDC identifies the capabilities that flow from successful concept development; represents the Navy in joint experimentation; and synchronizes, approves and disseminates Navy doctrine. In addition, it also designs, plans and coordinates the service’s Fleet Battle Experiment (FBE) program. In conjunction with the Naval War College and the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group, the command is plotting the course for the Navy’s future.

According to Rear Adm. Robert G. Sprigg, USN, commander, NWDC, the command plays a vital role in helping to bring the realities of today’s Navy and the vision for the Navy After Next into sharper focus.

“The big picture on our daily screen is today’s fleet, in particular the need to support and sustain our numbered fleets—our reason for being,” Adm. Sprigg says. “At NWDC, the numbered fleets are among our strongest and most valued partners in the innovation process that is our mission focus.” With the assistance of the fleets, the command conducts FBEs every six months that test and refine emerging and evolving warfare concepts.

The smaller picture is the Navy of the future, the admiral explains. “Our challenge at NWDC is to develop the concepts, doctrine and supporting data that define that picture with sufficient rigor that we can smoothly transition and transform our Navy with the greatest efficiency.

“Our fast-paced process of innovation and experimentation, including rigorous FBEs conducted with our numbered fleet partners, helps us ensure that we are building an accurate and useful picture of the capabilities required by our Navy After Next,” he says.

The command is composed of several departments. The Concepts Department develops and harvests Navy warfighting concepts from multiple areas, then identifies the capabilities that are required to actualize them. These ideas are tested and refined though FBEs, war games, and modeling and simulations, and the results form the basis to develop and revise Navy doctrine. The department works closely with joint and other service concept development organizations and is the service’s collection center for new ideas and warfighting innovation.

The command’s Doctrine Department, in cooperation with the operational fleet, administers and manages the Naval Warfare Publication Library and the Navy Lessons Learned System.

According to Capt. Robert Nestlerode, USN, Doctrine Department head, NWDC, the forward-leaning ideas and experiments explored at the command frequently identify a host of issues that must be resolved before new capabilities can be introduced into the fleet. “The goal is to make the Navy’s doctrine dynamic, responsive and interactive,” the captain offers. To accomplish this, the department spearheads a vigorous process of capturing, developing and validating doctrinal insights from proven at-sea experience and conceptual experimentation. A World Wide Web-based continuous comment system enhances interactivity and responsiveness, he explains.

The Navy’s Lessons Learned System recently underwent a significant technical overhaul. The system is being used to collect, collate and disseminate FBE-related data as well as information gathered from joint amphibious operations command and control options testing, the captain says. Four of the five U.S. services have adopted the Navy’s approach as their standard.

Technical research, analysis, modeling and simulation, and red-cell counter play and analysis are provided by the NWDC Operations Department. This group also acts as the command’s implementation conduit to the fleet commanders in chief, numbered fleet commanders, Navy systems commands and the Integrated Warfare Requirements Board in Washington, D.C.

During the last year, the Operations Department has been evaluating new capabilities that the Navy will need to successfully address the changing world security environment. Potential adversaries of the United States and coalition partners are developing area denial strategies using equipment and technology that are available in the worldwide market. These include space-based surveillance and reconnaissance; cruise missiles launched from air, land, submarines and small, fast patrol boats; theater ballistic missiles launched from fixed and mobile sites; and weapons of mass destruction.

To address these challenges, the service initiated its Capabilities of the Navy After Next (CNAN) project, which is a joint effort of the NWDC, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research. CNAN, which closely collaborates with the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group, has defined the need for a highly survivable, early access capability. The services must be able to know the enemy, dismantle the adversary’s anti-access defense, and provide enough rapid power projection to quickly engage the more robust joint power projection assets of today’s force, Adm. Sprigg says.

CNAN has identified three transformational components that, when combined with technical capabilities, will ensure access, reduce vulnerability and improve the survivability of the major power projection forces. One element is an expeditionary grid composed of networked sensors that are deployed in space, in the air, on the surface and below the surface, and are distributed across the battlespace. Tactical deployment components with distributed combat power and increased risk tolerance to deliver the sensor grid early in the conflict is the second component. These two ingredients will rely on the third item—hardware and software, which are the network-centric operations tools. This transformed fleet is predicted to be realized in 2010.

The command’s Maritime Battle Center (MBC) administers the FBE program, a key element of the testing that is needed to put this force into place. Through experiments, the center examines innovative warfighting capabilities in an at-sea operational environment. To date, eight FBEs have been conducted, three of which were executed with forward-deployed forces.

At times, concepts examined during these experiments can be rapidly transitioned into today’s operational Navy. For example, the “ring of fire”—a tactic that involves combining different types of available armaments in order to use the right weapon to hit the right target at the right time—moved from concept to fleet doctrine in less than two years.

Capt. Patrick Denny, USN, heads the MBC department, which creates and manages an aggressive six-month experimentation cycle. “Scenarios for FBEs are generally focused five to 10 years in the future, providing the flexibility to work with present challenges and future concepts to produce results that will improve both the fleet of today and tomorrow,” the captain explains. At any given time, three experiments are in various stages of operation. The evaluation of one experiment is taking place at the same time that a second experiment is in the immediate planning stages or underway, and a third is undergoing preliminary discussion.

Experiments are distinguished by letter designation. According to Cmdr. Michael Corrigan, USN, director of FBE-Golf, a combination of live forces, modeling and simulation, surrogate technologies and emulation ties the co-evolution of organization and doctrine with future technology and helps develop concepts of operation, tactics and doctrine effectively. “This assists the fleet in ensuring that today’s methods of employment [will] keep pace with available technological advances,” he says.

Operational experimentation is not intuitive, and each new FBE yields insights on the construction and execution of an experiment. Each event contributes a piece to the concept or a discovery about a process, the commander adds.

Adm. Sprigg points out that the command’s work is different than the exercises that the Navy and joint services regularly conduct. “These are truly experiments. They are not simply demonstrations of current technologies, although we must use the technology that is available. We might take three or four systems that have particular functions that would be desirable in follow-on systems. We integrate those systems horizontally, picking out the different functions that we think need to be coordinated or integrated to create a new ‘virtual system’ as a surrogate technology for concept development. Frequently, we use horizontal ‘lash ups’ of today’s technologies to validate a concept for some future system in a truly experimental environment.”

In FBE-Hotel, which concluded in September, the command furthered the horizontal integration of several systems that were aimed at improving assured access to a region and the refinement of knowledge-based situational awareness. According to Capt. Steve Black, USN, the experiment’s director, the command is exploring technologies that do not fully exist today such as the expeditionary distributed sensor grid. “FBE-Hotel was a mix of real-world systems with modeling and simulation to fill in the pieces that we don’t yet have to further develop that concept. Hotel was very successful and also one of our first steps with joint experimentation as part of the Joint Forces Command exercise millennium challenge 2000,” he explains.

According to the admiral, as much is learned from concepts that do not work as those that do. “Not all approaches succeed, and that is the nature of true experimentation. Often, because of the characteristics of our acquisitions process, [leaders of] programs that are maturing or developing have been reluctant in the past to participate in experimentation because the acquisition process is very unforgiving of perceived setbacks or failures. True experimentation needs to be better tolerated by our acquisition process if we are to gain the increased efficiency experimentation can bring.”

Some of the technologies the command is examining closely include expeditionary-tiered sensor grids that range from space and air breathers to surface and subsurface sensors that capitalize on unmanned vehicles, robotics and microminiaturization technology in a netted construct. “With that clear-cut definition of the battlespace from space to under the sea, we can unleash the immense power inherent in a truly netted force. The fundamental principle here is one of a netted force with distributed combat power [that is] much more difficult to stop because nothing contains a single point of vulnerability that can bring everything to all stop,” the admiral explains.

The NWDC is identifying and exploring the warfighting capabilities that may be required to counter the disruptive technologies of potential adversaries in the 2005 to 2020 time frame. Although the command does not endorse specific products, Adm. Sprigg says several emerging technologies could provide orders of magnitude improvement in certain areas. Robotics, microelectromechanical systems technology and biomimetics are among the areas that the Navy must aggressively continue to research so it can develop new capabilities and avoid being surprised by a competitor that may invest in these areas, he points out.

The admiral describes the Navy as the nation’s engagement and access force. He explains that the service enables the joint team to execute their missions when secure land bases do not exist, infrastructure is limited or cannot support traditional strategic deployments, and the threat is robust enough to constitute excessive risk to ground forces.

“Perhaps our greatest challenge in the not-too-distant future will be assuring access in the face of a robust, sophisticated, overlapping area-denial system. This system will be constructed of weapons that are proliferating with increasing speed today. Things like advanced supersonic cruise missiles, advanced non-nuclear submarines with ASCMs [anti-ship cruise missiles] and sophisticated torpedoes, mines of all types, robust air defenses, increasingly accurate ballistic missiles, and of course asymmetric weapons like terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and information system attacks.

“We need to revolutionize the Navy’s ability to rapidly assure access in the face of this kind of threat. We can address this by using off-board, robotic sensors, delivered by survivable delivery platforms that can penetrate the threat envelopes and retire, and are controlled by a robust warfighting network,” Adm. Sprigg states.

Miniaturization is essential to building and deploying the quantity of sensors that would be needed to cover large battlespace areas. This technology offers three benefits including smaller payload packages, the potential for lower-cost sensing devices, and the ability to place sensors close to the phenomena of interest. Biomimetics could improve the mobility of some autonomous systems and could be used to locate some objects such as mines buried under the sea floor that are difficult to find, he explains.

Other technologies also offer great potential, the admiral says. Information distribution capabilities at both the physical and network levels could rapidly move data to the warfighting decision makers throughout the system. Tools and services above the physical and network levels could assist in turning data into actionable knowledge. Information assurance technologies would help commanders understand the health and well-being of the network as well as the sensors and systems that compose the grid. At the same time, these technologies would protect and provide self-healing capabilities for the information grid, Adm. Sprigg offers.

Although many commercial and military experts are tackling the information security issue from a technical standpoint, the admiral points out that procedural ramifications also must be addressed. “How to handle information to a maximum advantage is a demanding challenge, not only in terms of multilevel security, which is a nut we must crack, but also regarding the philosophy of information access. In order to reach the operational tempo we need, we must be able to decentralize our control of information.

“Tactical-level warfighters must have direct access to the common databases that underlie the forces’ shared battlespace awareness. The manner by which we achieve this knowledge-based operational environment securely and reliably is at the heart of every war game and FBE,” he offers.

Secure information sharing is especially important during time-critical decision making. The NWDC has continued experimentation and development of the digital fires network through its last three FBEs. This net working approach would allow commanders from different services at different locations to collaborate and make weapons firing decisions concurrently rather than sequentially.

The Navy Fires Network (NFN) and Horizontal Integration are two Navy research and development/acquisition efforts that follow the experiment lead. The NFN leverages U.S. Army technology—the tactical exploitation system—as the sensor fusion capability that has been effective in the experiments. It would comprise all of the other elements of the digital fires network that the FBEs are exploring. Horizontal Integration is a parallel effort to build the digital fires network capability into software and hardware modules integrated in the global command and control system–maritime. Both efforts will be examined in future FBEs.

Command experiments also are investigating the Navy’s role in theater ballistic missile defense. FBE-Golf, which took place in April, was one of the command’s initial explorations in this area, and work will continue in FBE-Juliet in Korea and FBE-Mike in Europe.

Information from NWDC experiments is distributed and used by a range of customers throughout the national defense community. The commanders in chief and numbered fleets; national intelligence, research and analysis organizations; program executive offices; and centers of excellence are sent the data. In addition, many other organizations receive this information including type commands, systems commands, training commands, joint commands and schools.

Real and Virtual Worlds Converge for Battlespace Experiments

Although the U.S. Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) shoulders a heavy responsibility for exploring this particular service’s future, it does not work in isolation. The command is keenly aware that the success of missions will depend heavily on the coordinated efforts of joint forces.

Next year, the command’s Fleet Battle Experiment-India (FBE-I) will be part of a larger event called the Kernel Blitz Experiment (KBX). This effort will bring together the Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps to examine both technologies and doctrines that will have to be in place for new capabilities to be introduced in the field. The forces will examine environments that they anticipate encountering during the next several years.

The FBE-I will be executed on ships and through shore commands during KBX, and at the same time the Marines will participate through their Capable Warrior and Extending the Littoral Battlespace (ELB) initiatives, explains Kevin E. Boner, program manager for Capable Warrior, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego.

Modeling and simulation will be among the technologies used to conduct the experiment. In addition, teams will examine both the usefulness and the doctrinal ramifications of providing end user ter minals (EUTs) to marines in the field.

According to Ron A. Keter, program manager for modeling and simulation systems, KES Incorporated, San Diego, computer-generated personnel and equipment play a key role in these types of experiments. Participants can experience operations that involve a larger number of entities, such as ships, tanks and troops, without the personnel and financial investment of bringing them to the area of operation.

The company’s technology enables the connectivity between simulated and actual command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems. A result of using the middleware that the company developed is that experiment participants will not be able to distinguish between live and simulated entities when they look at the computer screen. Up to 50,000 entities can be simulated at one time. In addition, as decisions are executed, the computer-generated forces will react accordingly, allowing the commander to see results and determine if tactics were effective or current doctrine would need to be changed.

Computer-generated forces are acquiring appropriate attributes through the integrated marine multiagent combat and control system (IMMACCS), explains L C. Durham, USMC (Ret.), senior systems engineer, Visicom Services, a division of the Titan Corporation, San Diego. “As an example, the spell check on your computer can tell you if you’ve spelled the word ‘tank’ correctly, but it does not know what a tank is. We are trying to get the computer to understand what a tank is,” Col. Durham offers. “One of the keys is that the object model holds both the data and the relationship between the data.”

Smarter systems will be critical to decision making on future battlefields. Although military leaders agree that the person must not be taken out of the decision-making loop, the extraordinary amount of data that will be available could overwhelm a commander.

Technology will assist in this process as autonomous software agents react to the information by sifting through it, identifying relationships and prioritizing data for the commander, the colonel explains.

To assist in decision support, the experiment’s ELB component will examine the doctrines that must be in place as marines acquire the capability to carry a plethora of information with them into the field in the palms of their hands, Boner states. By examining projected capabilities in an experimental environment, military leaders can determine how to proceed from a doctrinal standpoint.

“Can we get the information to the right people? Do we want to do this? If we do a call for fire, for example, do we pass the information to all levels at once and let them do all the discussion and then issue the single decision? All of these questions affect how we train today. We want to have a chain of command in place, so we have to determine how to re-train the people,” he points out.

KES is supporting experimental activities in a number of ways. The firm conducts software development, systems engineering, cabling and the integration testing prior to experiment commencement.