Observations on the Emergence of Network Centric Warfare

Fred P. Stein

Evidence Based Research, Inc.

1595 Spring Hill Road, Suite 250

Vienna, VA 22182-2228

1. Background

The vision for future joint warfighting is described in Joint Vision 2010 (JV2010). JV2010 introduces the emerging operational concepts of Dominant Maneuver, Precision Engagement, Focused Logistics, and Full-Dimensional Protection, as well as the enabling capability of Information Superiority. The JV2010 concept is portrayed below in Figure 1. In keeping with these emerging operational concepts, the Joint Staff and the Services are currently developing strategies for moving towards JV2010.

One of the challenges in moving toward JV2010 is understanding how Information Superiority can be exploited to enable the emerging operational concepts of JV2010. An important observation is that the emerging operational concepts of JV2010 can potentially be enabled by operational architectures that closely couple the capabilities of sensors, command and control, and shooters. This paper asserts that the primary mechanism for generating increased combat power in 2010 will be ìnetworksî of sensors, command and control, and shooters. Consequently, the emerging operational concepts of JV2010 can be characterized as ìnetwork centric,î and the vision of future warfare described in JV2010 can be characterized as ìnetwork centric warfare.íí

The concept of network centric warfare is a derivative of ìnetwork centric computing.î The evolution of computing from ìplatform centric computingî to network centric computing has been largely enabled by recent key developments in information technology. Some of the most important developments in information technology include Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), web browsers, TCP/IP, and the Java computing architecture. These developments make it much easier for computers with different operating systems to interact with each other.

Figure 1. Joint Vision 2010

Network centric computing is being exploited by early adopters to provide a competitive edge in the commercial business sector. Similarly, the emerging concepts of network centric warfare exploit Information Superiority to provide a competitive edge in warfare.

2. Emerging Relationships of Network Centric Warfare

Potential relationships between the proposed operational concepts of JV2010, Information Superiority, and Network Centric Warfare can be explored by examining operational architectures that effectively link sensors, command and control, and shooters to increase Joint combat power. A high level graphical representation of a proposed network centric warfighting construct is provided in Figure 2: The Grid, which appears as Figure II-4 in Joint Pub 6.0: Doctrine for C4 Systems Support to Joint Operations.

Figure 2. The Grid

We can easily see how this diagram of ìThe Gridî can be transformed into the diagram shown in Figure 3. This diagram highlights the network centric information flow between sensors, command and control, and shooters; and suggests three potential building blocks or sub- architectures: an information grid, a sensor grid, and a shooter grid. These emerging operational architectures will be described in detail below.


Figure 3. Network Centric Warfare

3. The Information Grid

The information grid is a fundamental building block of Information Superiority. The information grid, portrayed in Figure 4, is a ìnetwork of networksî consisting of communications paths (ìlinksî or ìpipesî), computational nodes, operating systems, and information management applications that enable network centric computing and communications across the Joint battlespace. The connectivity and computing capabilities of the information grid enable the sensor grid to generate battlespace awareness, a key building block of Information Superiority.

Figure 4. The Information Grid

Battlespace awareness, a key competitive advantage in warfare, emerges when the Joint forceís level of information concerning friendly forces, enemy forces, neutral forces, and the environment in which they are deployed reaches a sufficient level. The diagram in Figure 5 highlights the types of information that must be generated and then transmitted within the information grid to provide battlespace awareness.

The information grid consists of both military and commercial communication capabilities and transmits multiple information types in multiple modes at multiple data rates. Voice, data, and video can be transmitted via point-to-point or direct broadcast. Another key capability of the information grid is information protection. The combination of these capabilities enables the information grid to provide the warfighter with ensured high-speed access to the information required to dominate across all levels of conflict.

4. The Sensor Grid

The sensor grid, portrayed in Figure 6, provides the Joint Force commander with the operational capabilities necessary for achieving awareness across the Joint battlespace. Abstractly, a sensor grid can be viewed as a set of ìsensor peripheralsî and ìsensor applicationsî that are installed on the information grid. The sensor ìperipheralsî consist of space-, air-, ground-, sea-, and cyberspace-based sensors.

Figure 5. Battlespace Awareness

Figure 6. The Sensor Grid


These sensors can be based on dedicated sensor platforms or weapons platforms, or they can be deployed by individual soldiers. The sensor peripherals also include embedded sensors that track levels of consumables (e.g., fuel, munitions). The Sensor Grid applications include the software applications associated with specific sensor peripherals and the software applications that enable multi-mode sensor tasking and data fusion.

Sensor grids can be both persistent and transient. For example, a transient ìmission specificî sensor grid optimized to support suppression of enemy air defenses will have different elements than a sensor grid optimized to perform the cruise missile defense mission. The operational architecture of the sensor grid enables subsets of grid sensors to be dynamically tasked to support specific ìshooterî missions. The size, composition, and complexity of the sensor grid required to support a specific mission is a function of the level of battlespace awareness required to prosecute the mission. The number and types of sensors required to support a specific mission in a sector of the Joint battlespace will increase or decrease as a function of the size and terrain of the battlespace, as well as the disposition of friendly and enemy forces in the battlespace.

The operational architecture of the sensor grid increases battlespace awareness and synchronizes battlespace awareness with military operations. These improvements in operational performance are achieved through a combination of dynamic sensor tasking, data fusion, and effective distribution of information over the information grid. A representation of the sensor tasking and data fusion processes performed with a sensor grid is portrayed in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Sensor Tasking and Data Fusion

The sensor gridís ability to rapidly generate battlespace awareness provides a necessary condition for the emergence of the operational concepts of JV2010. The combination of sensor grid with the emerging operational architecture of the shooter grid provides conditions that are both necessary and sufficient for the emergence of the JV2010 operational concepts.

5. The Shooter Grid

The operational architecture of the shooter grid, depicted in Figure 8, effectively exploits battlespace awareness to enable new operational capabilities for force employment. These new operational capabilities for force employment enable the emerging operational concepts of precision engagement, dominant maneuver, and full-dimensional protection.

Figure 8. The Shooter Grid

These new operational capabilities include the following:

These new operational capabilities will enable the warfighter to exploit high levels of battlespace awareness to

For example, the shooter grid can increase the combat power of high-end precision engagement operations by decreasing the time required to pair large numbers of geographically distributed precision shooters with targets which have time-varying values. The shooter grid can enable this increase in combat power by exploiting high levels of awareness through application of high-speed automated weapon-target pairing algorithms. These high-speed algorithms can rapidly determine near-optimal weapon-target pairings subject to time-varying constraints, such as the number and value of remaining targets, the number of remaining shooter rounds, and the probability of kill of remaining rounds. These algorithms do not take the commander out of the decision loop. Rather, they transfer the commanderís knowledge and intuition to a domain where it can be exploited at high speeds to increase combat power. This concept is similar to what occurs in automated securities trading, where the expertise of the trader is embedded in high-speed automated trading software. Emerging technology will enable distributed shooters connected by the information grid to ìbidî in real time and determine near-optimal weapon-target pairings.

As with sensor grids, shooter grids are envisioned to be both persistent and transient. For example, a mission-specific transient shooter grid optimized to suppress enemy air defenses will have different elements than a shooter grid optimized to perform the cruise missile defense mission. As with the sensor grid, the shooter grid can be envisioned as a set of ìshooter peripheralsî and ìshooter applicationsî that operate on the information grid. The shooter grid peripherals consist of shooters based in air, land, sea, and cyberspace. The shooter grid applications consist of the software for command and control and weapon employment. As shown in Figure 9, the shooter grid will enable new operational capabilities based on increased awareness.

6. The Emergence of Network Centric Warfare

Existing and emerging operational concepts can be seen to exhibit characteristics of network centric warfare. An example of an emerging operational architecture for network centric warfare is provided in Figure 10. This operational architecture integrates a mission-specific sensor grid and a mission-specific shooter grid to enable precision engagement of air defense targets. This operational architecture increases Joint combat power by increasing the number of targets destroyed and reducing blue losses during SEAD operations. This increase in operational effectiveness results from a combination of the sensor gridís capability to develop an increased level of awareness of the location of air defense systems and the shooter gridís capability to exploit this increased level of awareness to avoid engagement by air defense systems and then neutralize or destroy them.

Figure 9. New Operational Capabilities


Figure 10. Emerging Operational Architecture for Network Centric Warfare

Another example of an existing operational architecture that employs network centric operations to increase combat power is the U.S. Navyís Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). The operational architecture of CEC increases combat by networking the sensors, command and control, and shooters of the Carrier Battle Groupís platforms to develop a sensor grid and a shooter grid. The mission-specific sensor grid embedded in CEC generates a high level of battlespace awareness. The sensor grid accomplishes this by fusing data from multiple sensors, enabling quantum improvements in track accuracy, continuity, and target identification over stand-alone sensors. The CEC shooter grid exploits high levels of awareness to generate increased combat power by extending the battlespace and engaging incoming targets in depth with multiple shooters with increased probability of kill. (See Figure 11.)

Figure 11. Cooperative Engagement Capability

In conclusion, we can see that the emerging concept of network centric warfare provides an organizing principle for JV2010. We can also see that the emerging operational architectures of the information grid, the sensor grid, and the shooter grid, portrayed below in Figure 12, provide a point of departure for exploring how the individual components of our existing and emerging warfighting forces can be integrated to enable the network centric operational concepts of Dominant Maneuver, Precision Engagement, Focused Logistics, and Full-Dimensional Protection.

Figure 12. Network Centric Warfare