Communicating through a new community of interest network, coalition forces from eight countries examined information-sharing issues such as language and interoperability during a recent exercise in the Pacific Ocean. This effort was part of an intensive warfighting training session that gave the national militaries a chance to expand, improve and connect their command, control, communications and computer capabilities.
Coalition interoperability and transformation dominate the challenges facing the U.S. Army-Pacific as it supports the Global War on Terrorism. Nearby wars, backyard threats and rapidly changing network-centric technologies all compete for top billing for a component command that encompasses the world's largest ocean and more than three dozen countries.
In what has proved to be a timely and prescient move, the Guam Army National Guard recently upgraded its communication system both to handle expanded mission demands and to be resistant to constant battering by typhoons. The Guard now has an Internet protocol (IP)-based system built around commercial technology and designed to survive storm elements that used to crash the Guard's old system regularly.
Calling a help desk when the computer refuses to boot up or when e-mail is blocked can be a frustrating experience. But with the help of industry, U.S. Air Force communications personnel in the Asia-Pacific region have taken steps to alleviate some of the aggravation. By employing commercial best practices and standardizing processes, the directorate in charge of ensuring that warfighters can connect is now more efficiently and effectively employing its resources. As a result, it expects to reduce the time needed to resolve technical issues by 20 percent.
The People's Republic of China is commissioning increasingly versatile destroyers adaptable for multirole missions in more distant waters. These vessels are capable of antisubmarine operations or regional air defense commonly attributed to blue-water fleets, and they feature advanced indigenous and imported weapons technologies.
The U.S. Pacific Command is weaving a web of security cooperation across thousands of miles encompassing diverse nations and territories, some of which are longtime adversaries. These efforts include engaging former foes to contain weapon and missile proliferation, spearheading coalition peacekeeping operations, encouraging multinational economic growth, and implementing new information systems technologies to increase interoperability among mixed forces.
China's senior military thinkers are clamoring for that nation to develop or acquire information and electronic warfare technologies and systems. Ascribing almost mystical qualities to the coming revolution in military affairs, these leaders are pressing for the development of advanced technologies such as missiles armed with radio frequency microwave warheads to destroy or disrupt an enemy's battlefield sensor and communication grids.
The U.S. Pacific Command is cultivating a variety of technological tools that would bring coalition partners into permanent wide area networks and support the numerous partnerships in the vast region. Enhanced connectivity within the U.S. military forces and improved links for foreign nations will support the United States' primary mission in the Asia-Pacific region-ensuring security in an area of the world that continues to build up its armaments.
U.S. military forces on the Korean peninsula are mobilizing the power of technology to nurture a partnership that has been more than 50 years in the making. The unique nature of the Korean theater of operations has prompted the combined and joint commands in that area to fine-tune information systems to meet their distinct requirements.
The Australian army is taking advantage of technology that consumers recognize as a faster way to connect to the Internet. To enhance their communications capabilities in the field, the service is collaborating with industry to design equipment that meets its specialized needs. The system has broad applications across a spectrum of other fields, including transportation and energy resources.
In keeping with its approach to incorporating blue-water-navy technologies for possible littoral uses, China is deploying a number of antisubmarine warfare systems to support potential conflicts against adversaries equipped with the most advanced submarines under the sea. As with most of China's military, these systems constitute a mix of legacy import technologies with indigenous developments.
High-resolution displays are allowing U.S. troops operating in Korea to view and share an uncluttered, near-real-time common operational picture of the region so they can monitor activity and respond to it faster than could an adversary. The images can be shared both horizontally and vertically with warfighters located throughout the command's area of responsibility, providing not only situational awareness but also situational understanding.
Arms sales in Southeast Asia are returning to levels that existed prior to the region's 1997 financial crash. Procurement plans that had been frozen because of the economic turmoil have been reactivated as area nations seek to acquire items such as military aircraft, communications systems and warships. Although these purchases reflect steady improvement in a number of national economies, some countries remain gripped by fiscal and political crises.
Almost 50 years after the end of the Korean War, Korea remains one of the world's flash points-a place where the flames of the Cold War have yet to be fully extinguished. Although progress has been made during the recent North-South summit in Korea, North Korea still maintains one of the largest forward-deployed armies in the world. Its offensive posture, coupled with its recent development of ballistic missiles, lethal special operations forces and weapons of mass destruction, causes the Korean peninsula to be very volatile.
The interception of a U.S. Navy EP-3 signals intelligence reconnaissance aircraft over Chinese coastal waters early last year highlighted the activities of the People's Republic of China coastal defense forces, which have been low-profile and largely remain so today. Such interceptions and intrusions over Chinese waters and nearby coastal areas have occurred for decades, as with the former Soviet Union. In addition to the expected People's Liberation Army Navy assets, a surprising array of non-navy units are integrated into offensive and defensive military coastal roles, in part because the People's Republic of China has no force comparable to the U.S. Coast Guard. These units include coastal air defense as well as nonmilitary naval forces from a variety of paramilitary organizations.
Communications system upgrades planned for the Korean theater will support network-centric warfare, transforming the Asia-Pacific region into a cutting-edge digital environment in both theory and practice. Armed with a vision of how information technology creates a common operational understanding of the battlespace, military leaders on the Korean peninsula are using lessons of the past to chart a new course for the future.
Already tasked with maintaining a steady menu of operations covering one-third of the Earth's surface, the U.S. Pacific Command now is fully engaged in the war on terrorism. The command is fighting disparate al Qaida groups in different countries concurrent with supporting operation Enduring Freedom in the Afghanistan region.
Warfighters may experience some frustration as well as exhilaration in the network-centric environment. Today's multinational exploration of emerging technologies has uncovered some new challenges that military forces face as they push the envelope on new capabilities. More than a decade of systematically examining technical interoperability issues has led to smoother execution of the technology demonstration and maturation process and realistic expectations on the part of both industry and the military.
As with other maritime forces, China has been seeking to network disparate assets, and to meet that requirement, it has been establishing signal stations on islands and atolls throughout the South China Sea. These facilities, which range from communications relays to radar units, both demonstrate China's expanding regional reach and provide a rare glimpse of the country's military electronics technologies.
Bandwidth and interoperability concerns have forced the U.S. military in the Pacific theater to rely on flexible communications networks to maintain connectivity across the expansive region. Because of geographical constraints and limited infrastructure in many parts of the theater, the U.S. military transports and maintains agile satellite-based networks capable of operating with local coalition units.