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.
The next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles may owe more to winged insects and birds than to the Wright Brothers. U.S. Air Force engineers are tapping nature's flyers for new designs that push the limits of aerodynamics.
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.
The Finnish Software Radio Program is meeting the software-defined radio requirements of a nonaligned nation and offering insight into alternative approaches to the U.S. Joint Tactical Radio System. The program concentrates as much on equipping forces to fight in high-intensity conflict as it does on equipping them for smaller peacekeeping roles. Along with supporting allied forces' equipment, it aims to support interoperability for disaster relief activities, nongovernmental organizations, and aid and emergency services work.
U.S. government personnel and emergency responders are using commercial mobile satellite communications systems to maintain connectivity in areas with little or no terrestrial infrastructure. Users can set up and activate equipment rapidly, and proprietary protocols allow systems to accelerate the transmission and reception of data, imagery and streaming video.
Military, government and industry experts gathered at the AFCEA Alamo Chapter's Fiesta Informacion 2004 in April to present their perspectives on the transformation-its successes, problems and evolving requirements. During the three-day symposium, more than 2,300 registrants heard panels addressing interoperability, security, collaboration, and integration issues and challenges.
Researchers are tapping millions of years of biological evolutionary experience to develop the next generation of materials. This research, known as biomimetics, aims to incorporate properties unique to nature into manufactured devices.
If we really believe a network-centric coalition/joint force offers an opportunity for effects-based conflict in the future-and that this same network-centric force improves lethality, intelligence sharing and command and control-then why aren't we embracing the concept of changing the culture to match the technology capabilities that Free World industry is offering to warfighters in the fight for freedom?
The U.S. Army is marching forward double time on several fronts to bring the power of networking to bear on the global war on terrorism. A number of efforts-some technological, others structural-aim at creating an information-based Army that can respond to threats quicker and effectively fight asymmetric enemies. Improved networking capabilities will affect how the service fights-from the individual soldier on the front line to those providing logistical support.
The U.S. Navy is using a U.S. Defense Department model and wartime experiences to begin defining the network that will close the loop on full network-centric warfare. The FORCEnet program is completing a concept development phase this month, and planners now are able to envision when it will achieve key benchmarks.
Last year, I discussed in my commentary how information must be available-as freely as oxygen in the air-to virtually everyone. In presenting this point of view, I offered that power lies in how one uses information.
The deep thrust into Iraq by the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division in operation Iraqi Freedom was enabled as much by kilobytes as by helicopters. An advanced command, control and communications architecture allowed the geographically dispersed mobile forces to remain in contact with their individual commanders as well as with the division headquarters.
The battlespace network trialed in the woods of Kentucky and grown from the sands of Kuwait provided the necessary connectivity for the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) to strike deep into Iraq. Not all of the assets assembled and deployed by the division's 501st Signal Battalion were exploited to their fullest, and some proved more important than originally envisioned. Yet, the network linked the air assault division as its location and mission changed with the flow of battle.
Sky marshals, metal detectors and multiple identification checks may increase security in the corporeal world, but guarding the nation's information superhighway requires different tactics. And in the information age, homeland security must extend into the digital realm, or even a tiny crack could allow adversaries into some of the most important systems in the world today.
The U.S. Defense Department is introducing a new tool to protect military installations by transforming force-protection information sharing from a hierarchical, service-centric model to a network-centric model. The system will allow subscribers to have a common awareness of all suspicious events that are taking place in their vicinity.
Information operations are coming of age, moving through the exploration stage of adolescence and forward toward a future that some experts believe should feature ubiquitous integration. Although computer systems have already proved their ability to influence the nature of warfare, the maturation of doctrine and technologies is likely to bring with it even more substantial changes in the way the military conducts operations.