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Tactical Operations

Inexpensive Solutions Emerge for the Modern Battlefield

March 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

The defining images of the opening stages of the 2001 Afghanistan invasion were of bearded U.S. Special Operations forces on horseback talking with invisible air assets high overhead. Ancient transportation technology melded with cutting-edge communication protocols created an odd but appropriate scenario in the midst of a wholly unanticipated conflict. The synergy of high- and low-capability technologies likely will define 21st century conflicts, especially with foes we cannot currently imagine.

As our official defense posture pivots to the Pacific, this strategic imperative calls for specific procurement decisions and military kit. Yet, what if we are wrong? Does the greatest threat to our national security truly come from Asia? What if in preparing for a low-probability, high-cost conflict, we end up facing an enemy who intentionally and subtly maneuvers around our complex systems?

It seems more than coincidental that our perceived threats also mesh with status quo, high-cost technological solutions. Intentionally or not, we are preparing to fight only the types of wars we currently are best suited to fight. Our military is built on emphasizing the physical aspect of warfare, especially when it comes to fielding advanced technology.

However, pouring precious time and scarce resources into incredibly complex, expensive technology, inhibits our ability to buy capabilities more suited to higher-probability, low-intensity, prolonged conflicts. These more difficult challenges, like rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, are not going away, even if we hope they will.

The argument for high-cost, high-complexity weapons systems in all circumstances claims that by countering the most capable threat, these systems necessarily will be suitable for every contingency. They can be “degraded” with equal effectiveness for a lower-intensity conflict. This, however, is simply not always the case.

Not Your 
Father's J-6

October 1, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman

The newly reconstituted Joint Staff office is not just picking up where the previous version left off.

A U.S. Navy information systems technician troubleshoots network equipment onboard the USS Carl Vinson. Future U.S. military platforms may be designed with space designated for communications equipment, which would be incorporated after the platform rolls off the assembly line.

After a two-year organizational hiatus, the Joint Staff J-6 billet is back with a new focus on interoperability and enterprisewide networking capabilities. These new authorities come as the military seeks to exploit commercial mobile communications technologies to an increasing degree with results that could change the nature of defense networking as well as its procurement.

All of the issues that have defined defense information technology utilization—interoperability, security, rapid technology insertion—are part of the thrusts being launched by the new J-6. Even the very nature of requirements may change as industry adopts the new approaches being endorsed by the Joint Staff’s new information office.

“This is not the same J-6 that existed before,” declares Maj. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers (C4), J-6, and chief information officer (CIO), the Joint Staff. “It is very different.”

Small Machines Weave Communications Web

November 2008
By Henry S. Kenyon

Sometime soon, swarms of autonomous robots may help battlefield communications networks stay up and running even in the most challenging battlefield environments. Each individual machine is a mobile communications node. When grouped together, these smart relays will automatically form a network and realign themselves to maintain links in the face of jamming, radio interference or complex, radio-unfriendly terrain such as buildings.

Rifleman Moves Information Sharing to The Front of Operations

November 2008
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Army is pushing the network to the tactical edge in a viable way with the development of a new radio. The communications tool will enable individual soldiers to connect more efficiently among each other and with higher levels of leadership, employing a technology that allows troops to pass messages even without line of sight. Mass production of the core parts makes the radios affordable, and use of controlled but unclassified communications makes them applicable for uncleared personnel in infantry units.

Manmade Stars Boost Warriors' Agility

November 2008
By Clarence A. Robinson Jr.

Existing X-band commercial communications satellites with fundamental high power and bandwidth advantages enable communications-on-the-move dexterity. Spacecraft advances and state-of-the-art tracking technology with small but stable antennas facilitate a wide variety of high-data-rate communications for mobile military missions encompassing land, sea and air.

Troops in Afghanistan Bridge Communications Gap

November 2008
By Maryann Lawlor

Sure and steady progress in communications in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has dramatically sped up the pace of coalition combat, security, governance and development operations throughout the country. Since 2001, telecommunications capabilities have leapt from the Stone Age into the 21st century, and military networks have been taught to talk to each other. From the tactical perspective, this progress is increasing shared situational awareness and boosting collaboration among nations.

Tactical Communications Advances Seize The Day in Iraq

November 2008
By Robert K. Ackerman

New tactical communications technologies are giving U.S. forces in Iraq tremendous capabilities that are essential to the new warfighting doctrine that has been implemented. But in turn, these capabilities are generating a wish list for communicators as they try to extend their reach to those who need them the most.

Jammers Transmit Battlefield Flexibility

October 2008
By Henry S. Kenyon

Armed forces around the world soon may deploy an integrated family of communications intelligence and electronic warfare systems. Designed for export, the hardware and software supports land and sea forces, as well as national intelligence services, by sharing data across all echelons from the tactical level up to national-level organizations. Parts of the system already are in service with the French army.

Innovation, Diversification Define CENTCOM Communications

November 2007
By Rita Boland and Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Central Command is juggling new technologies with new missions amid joint and coalition environments as it fights adversaries that change tactics quicker than the command can upgrade equipment. Many of the command’s communication and information system requirements mirror those of other U.S. commands. However, the acid test of combat is highlighting capabilities and drawbacks of many new tactical systems in ways that could change long-range planning for defensewide communications.

Keeping Track Of the Troops

November 2007
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Air Force is preparing to release a new version of a system designed to improve the service’s interoperability with joint, allied and coalition command and control systems. For the Air Force to accomplish its mission and support joint and coalition operations, it needs to include the capabilities of the new version in a network-centric, information-sharing environment. The system will provide a consolidated environment for planners at all command levels to access and influence force projection data.

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