The term network-centric warfare broadly describes the combination of emerging tactics, techniques and procedures that a networked force can employ to create a decisive warfighting advantage. According to John Keegan, author of A History of Warfare, it is similar to the significant warfighting developments of the industrial age and agrarian age in that network-centric warfare seeks to exploit an order of magnitude change in an underlying source of power to increase warfighting advantage dramatically. Paula Kaufman, in an article she wrote for IEEE Spectrum, agrees with this opinion. In the industrial age, power was primarily derived from mass and the sources of power for moving mass. In the information age, power is increasingly derived from information sharing, information access and speed, she says.
In the 18 months following the terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has undergone a series of structural changes. At the state and federal levels, efforts are underway to enhance communications and information-sharing infrastructures among agencies and other organizations. Public institutions also have reached out to the private sector to form partnerships designed to protect vital national infrastructures.
While the individual armed services continue their march toward change, some forward-thinking military leaders are examining transformation on a larger scale-the realm of operations. Technologies likely to be available in the future will enable effects-based operations, a concept that may not replace conventional warfare but certainly could narrow its breadth.
Move over ships, aircraft and submarines, and make room on the waterfront for the latest component in the U.S. Navy's fleet-information systems. Although information technology has long been an integral part of the Navy, the service's newest command brings an increased level of support to fleet commanders and creates a clear operational focus for its networks, space activities and information operations.
Network-centric warfare is on the fast track with the U.S. Marine Corps in operation Iraqi Freedom. After mobile operation centers received rave reviews from troops that previewed them in-theater, the service decided to field the equipment months earlier than originally planned, prior to final testing and evaluation. Commanders relate that the capability dramatically improves situational awareness and cuts decision-making time in half.
Future U.S. Air Force pilots will rely on an extensive array of sensors and interconnected platforms to detect and destroy enemy forces. Lessons learned from recent combat operations over Iraq support the service's network-centric operational concept that envisions shortened sensor-to-shooter cycles, networked weapons and increased information sharing among all echelons.
A team of researchers from industry, academia and the U.S. Defense Department is creating high-speed, long-range communication technologies that will help eliminate the fog of war and take the element of surprise away from the enemy. The secure laser-based system will offer communication uplink speeds in the multigigabit-per-second range and will improve tracking so communications can be transmitted to satellites from mobile platforms. The research also will lead to aberration-free three-dimensional imaging at distances of more than 600 miles.
A new generation of highly capable robot aircraft soon may augment and perhaps replace manned platforms in high-threat combat operations such as suppressing enemy air defenses and deep strike missions. These vehicles are part of an ambitious U.S. Defense Department program to develop and field-test an unmanned aerial combat capability by the end of the decade.
Exciting a land mine may not sound like a good idea, but developers of the Seismic Landmine Detection System are doing just that. A group of researchers from the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, has developed a land mine detection system that sends seismic waves through a minefield, slightly moving the earth and items buried beneath. A noncontacting radar sensor measures the ground displacement to identify and locate plastic anti-personnel or antitank mines.