Communications experts in the United Kingdom's Iraq War forces have paved the way for that country's force transformation. The information networks that they established to serve British forces during the war both exploited a host of new solutions and exposed a range of challenges. Many of the lessons learned in that conflict are being applied to develop a new network-centric British military.
The international community is pulling up alongside the U.S. armed forces in transformation efforts that will increase speed, agility and efficiency to defeat today's global threats. With a new command structure in place, NATO now moves on to the business of getting the doctrinal, educational and training processes into place so it is aligned with future U.S. concepts of operations and can better address the need for a more proactive approach.
The thrust toward force transformation that is redefining the U.S. military also promises to revamp NATO and its member nations. The alliance is working to evolve a new military configuration that will serve 21st century needs, which is a task that many of its members-including a host of new nations-are facing on their own. The recent successes of the U.S. military, which already is reaping some of the benefits of its force transformation, are adding urgency to both individual-nation and alliancewide efforts.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence has launched a massive restructuring of its information technology infrastructure to increase efficiency and information sharing across the entire organization. A key element of this program is dismantling individual systems and networks to create a single overarching architecture. The goal is to seamlessly move data from front line forces to those parts of the national defense structure, such as intelligence and command centers, whose analysis and decisions can then be shared within the government or transmitted back to the warfighter.
French and NATO air forces are operating components of a networked air operations center for air defense and mission planning. Designed to coordinate tactical- to theater-level operations, the components feature a number of command and control as well as data management technologies in a compact, transportable package that can be deployed in containers or installed in an aircraft. Combining several operational technologies, the center provides commanders with enhanced situational awareness via real-time links to sensors and weapon systems.
A prototype command center allows engineers and military officers to test the interoperability of new technologies and to simulate operational scenarios. Based on existing intelligence gathering and battle management systems, the demonstrator links equipment and provides commanders with real-time data collected from a variety of sensors. Data fusion and decision-making tools permit simulation participants to experience the effects of rapid processing of intelligence information-a clear picture of the battlespace and a shortened sensor-to-shooter loop.
Front line British troops soon will be able to access maintenance documentation electronically through a portal-based software system. By clicking on an icon, personnel will download data onto their laptops or handheld computers for immediate reference at flight lines or repair operations. The technology saves space in logistics chains once required for transporting paper documents and allows process or equipment changes to be noted immediately and made available across all military services.
An advanced Swedish radar system capable of rapidly detecting and tracking multiple targets provides commanders with precious additional seconds in medium- and short-range air defense engagements. The radar can quickly sweep a section of sky in three dimensions and relay data to weapons platforms or to other sensors on a network.
The French military is enhancing its global communications capabilities with a new generation of dedicated satellites designed to simultaneously link several theaters of operation. The spacecraft features multiple antennas operating on different radio frequencies that can be aimed to provide highly focused, secure links to mobile and fixed groundstations.
The increasing complexity of global geopolitics is weighing heavily on U.S. military planners as they gird for the next round of network-centric warfare. Both technological and cultural dynamics loom large in potential scenarios and outcomes.