If actions speak louder than words, then current military operations are shouting volumes about the benefits of network centricity in warfare. Case studies sponsored by the U.S. Defense Department's Office of Force Transformation present an abundance of hard evidence that networked forces can be up to 10 times more effective than non-networked troops in high-intensity conflict missions. In comparison to voice-only communications, what experts call the "information position" is between 10 and 100 times better not only for commanders but also for the individual warfighter. The studies also point out that even less-than-perfect networks can be valuable.
A company-level signals training exercise between elements of the Arizona Air and Army National Guard and an active U.S. Army unit demonstrates the possibility of increased interservice cooperation at the tactical level. Participants in the informal two-day operation used the units' combined assets to set up a communications grid and familiarize active duty and reserve military personnel with each other's equipment and procedures.
The U.S. Air Force is examining the latest technologies for integrating enhanced communications and targeting methods throughout the command and control structure, reaching down to the tactical level to achieve mission objectives faster and with less risk to friendly forces. These approaches and devices will be applied in future operations such as conflict resolution and humanitarian relief.
In routine headquarters operations or in a wartime theater command center, military personnel soon may be able to rapidly update their unit's World Wide Web pages to display vital, time-sensitive data without a webmaster's intervention. During a recent training exercise, a Web site content management tool patented this year enabled Signal Corps participants to revamp the Web pages themselves without complicated programming languages or hours of training. Leaders along the entire chain of command could immediately view changes in personnel and equipment readiness, information that is critical on every battlefield or during natural disaster victim-assistance activities.
Using modeling and simulation technologies, military, government and industry representatives are gazing as much as 15 years into the future to determine how joint forces will function cohesively while fighting a battle or keeping the peace. The thrust for interoperable technologies is being taken one step further by focusing on joint concepts of operations that intertwine both the U.S. military services as well as coalition force strengths.
The U.S. military is incorporating technologies developed for low-cost projectile and long-range missile guidance into a variety of field artillery weapons. Results of recently conducted tests demonstrate that a fast acquisition global positioning system product and a tactical-grade inertial guidance system could perform as testers expected in battlefield environments while continuing to provide required accuracy. The costs of these technologies are potentially lower than current systems.
By the latter part of this decade, a fleet of wheeled robots now evolving toward autonomy may perform many of the tasks handled by today's front-line soldier. The U.S. Army is experimenting with a prototype of radio-operated vehicles capable of engaging in various kinds of reconnaissance and surveillance activities. Once fully integrated into the service, these unmanned units will enable the execution of important objectives while reducing the casualties and logistical complexities often associated with rapid reaction forces.
U.S. Army rapid deployment forces will field an advanced communications management system that will provide its units with a more efficient data conduit than is available with legacy equipment. The vehicle-mounted platform consists of mobile switches and routers that feature integrated commercial and government hardware and software designed to provide voice, video and data service in a tactical environment.
The next air combat operation may feature command and control as a distinct warfighting element. U.S. Air Force planners are working to move information processing and decision making directly into the flow of combat.
The information assets inherent in strategic connectivity may soon extend down to the individual soldier in the foxhole. Not only will combatants be able to provide their own slant on theater operations, they also may be able to tap the massive data resources of the entire U.S. Defense Department.