Call from the front: Landwarnet and the Gig.
Network Centric Warfare, or NCW, was born as a concept at the turn of the century. The development of new technologies for information and communication, as well as major shifts in threat patterns to the United States after 9/11, prompted the Pentagon to endorse a transformation throughout the Department of Defense. This transformation entailed moving away from platform-based, massed firepower effects and hierarchical units, and towards end-to-end information superiority shared by network nodes of sensors, commanders and shooters.
This vision merged the physical and social dimensions of the network, generating greater force multipliers. It was first put to the test in 2003 in Iraq, where a robust networked force displayed improved information sharing concepts (e.g. the night attack on Fallujah in March used friendly force tracking with icons on maps instead of voice exchanges over FM radio).
Information sharing enhanced the quality of information (reducing friendly fire and fixed co-ordination lines) and produced shared situational awareness. The latter enabled co-operation and (some) self-synchronisation (through ad hoc networking), enhancing reliability and speed of command, exemplified by the dissemination of a commander's intent in terms of fragmentary orders adapted to each level of execution and accurate reporting based on graphical situation update and sensor imagery rather than voice or text messages. Speed of command and accurate reporting increased mission effectiveness and force agility (both in terms of manoeuvre and sustainability).
As the first benefits of NCW were slowly emerging from centralised planning and decentralised execution, the networking of C4ISR (Computerised Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) from higher headquarters down to lower tactical command posts proved difficult. It quickly became a nightmare for signals units in the field to move sensor data and command information using heterogeneous information systems with spread databases, linked by low-throughput transmissions delivered by multiple non-interoperable radios.
Overcoming service-based stovepipes took a holistic approach to equipping, planning, commanding and fielding these forces with jointness in mind. Rather than a co-ordinated approach between services, the US Department of Defense fostered an enterprise approach, leveraging the now-reversed duality from commercial innovation to defence procurement.
In less than a decade, this top-down approach transformed networks from a collection of spread assets connected by gateways into a single, secure grid delivering information to policy makers, the intelligence community, support personnel and warfighters, regardless of their location and attachment.
The Global Information Grid (Gig) came online around 2006 and has been expanding ever since, from the continental US to theatres worldwide. Today, ad hoc communities of interest form around a network to pull information according to their need or push it tagged with specific criteria for other users to discover it.
This smart push/pull poses new challenges across the defence enterprise, notably in terms of information assurance, user authentication and spectrum management.
In addressing these challenges, the Gig leverages technologies proven by commercial data communications, such as Internet Protocol (IP) and web technologies. To ensure 'robust networking' as a pre-requisite to NCW, the Gig foundation thus rests on six major programmes, supervised by the Department of Defense in a joint environment; four deal with transportation of information, one with enterprise services and one with information assurance:
* at the strategic level, the Gig rests on terrestrial networks of fibre-optic links. The Gig Bandwidth Extension (Gig BE) reached full operational capability in December 2005, at the cost of less than a billion US dollars for about 100 nodes. Optical carriers raised the capacity of the Defence Information System Network worldwide from 0.15 Gbps to ten Gbps (Gigabit/sec), and the whole network migrated to IPv6 by 2008, bringing with it High-speed, high-Assurance IP Encryption (Haipe) to Department of Defense networks
* at the operational level (between Conus and theatres), the planned Gigabit-class Tsat (space-based laser links) scheduled for 2011 was cancelled due to high cost (between $ 16 and $ 26 billion for a five-satellite constellation), six-year delays and risks. In-theatre users still rely on legacy Milstar or renting commercial Satcom services where terrestrial fibre is unavailable and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are highly mobile and predominantly use the air dimension
* the current space segment, reinforced by two Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites, may be augmented by new commercial satellites such as the ten Gbps Viasat-1 to provide persistent, highspeed, secure and protected (but less than the hardened Tsat) medium-high bandwidth services to satisfy deployed forces. The ground and space segments are linked together by teleports in a few protected areas
* at the tactical level, deployed and mobile ground networks use wireless radio segments transported by an IP layer from radio access points to combat networks. The deployed networked based on the Mobile Subscriber Equipment derived in the early 1990s from the French Rita from Thomson-CSF (now Thales) was retired in 2009-2010 and is being replaced by the Warfighter Information Network Tactical (Win-T).
Similarly, about 750,000 service-unique, proprietary radios (e.g. Sincgars or EPLRS) with limited voice and data capability are progressively being replaced by some $ 250,000 of the ten-plus billion dollar Joint Tactical Radio System (or JTRS) programme.
JTRS is a family of new-generation, multi-band, software-defined radios used in hand-held, mobile, vehicular, airborne and maritime settings. This last-mile information transformation segment solved the most critical bottleneck, which was the lack of interoperability between war fighters, and providing them with megabit-size voice and data exchanges over IP
* the enterprise services of the Gig deal with information content, and leverage the new standards of service-oriented architectures fuelled by enterprise networking and web-based communications. Rather than providing point-to-point interfaces, this new architecture provides overall network supervision, adding dynamic information services such as discovery of users and data sources, mediation between data formats, discovery of data and applications to solve specific problems and overall security provision as well as key distribution to recognised users
* the security component of the Gig is backed by a strong information assurance policy implemented under guidance of the National Security Agency, driving a radical shift away from perimeter defence and firewalling to real-time network monitoring for network operation and protection. These information security features had to be designed and implemented from the beginning and not implemented as an add-on.
Such a huge overarching project is likely to overtake the $ 30 billion figure, as the Gig becomes a globally interconnected end-to-end set of information collection, management and dissemination capabilities. This complex, far-reaching process bears risks, which were identified early in the decade by the General Accounting Office.
Its success thus rests on centrally managed policy and standards (mainly by the Defense Information Systems Agency), transportation layers and information management assets, as well as enterprise security and services based on commercial technologies augmented by the Department of Defense mission-critical-user requirement.
On the tactical edge though, the same practices appear even more challenging, since the user requirement in terms of security, mobility, connectivity and bandwidth are far more complex to meet.
Today's individual warfighter, and the army for whom he fights, rely heavily on information technology to plan and execute their mission. Commanders and soldiers require real-time, secure C4ISR information circulating through a global network that is managed in such a way that only relevant information is pushed to their terminals.
As the cornerstone of military power applied to deal with threats on the ground (the current operational environment), the US Army had to provide its own contribution to the Gig. The more information and communication-intensive Navy and Air Force came on board earlier with their own concepts of Forcenet and the C2 Constellation respectively. Therefore, the US Army formulated a first vision based on its heterogeneous legacy and called it Landwarnet.
But turning the Landwarnet reality of loosely affiliated independent networks into a single global network available to the warfighter called for an army-wide strategy, which became known as the Global Network Enterprise Construct (GNEC), tasked with delivering a worldwide communication framework on which to unify army information systems.
In the November 2010 Enterprise Network Update which outlined the US Army's Global Network Enterprise Construct Implementation Plan, the US Army Chief Information Officer/G-6 wrote, *The Army's current networks, information systems and resources are not sufficient to support a true fight-upon-arrival capacity. Access to the network and information technology resources is inconsistent ...
The GNEC will leverage network service centres and centrally manage limited network resources (like spectrum and bandwidth) in a decentralised capability, enabling on-demand 'densification' of the network at a particular spot of the battlespace when the mission (or density of users) demands.
This ambitious, holistic endeavour invited the army to endorse communications as its key weapon system for the coming years, supporting major capabilities such as the Land Warrior combat system programme.
But as the soldier operates in an environment deprived of a fixed communication infrastructure, using platforms to move and fight, the army needs to downsize its communication devices, harden them and scatter them to an extent alien to homeland or theatre communication infrastructures. A manoeuvring communication infrastructure able to exploit voice, data and imagery is revolutionary for the army, as opposed to air force fighter-bomber or navy submarine crews.
The basis for Landwarnet (and its link to the Gig) will be provided by incremental capabilities of the Win-T programme. A deployed, dynamically-configured, high-speed and high-capacity backbone tactical network designed to operate at the halt today and on-the-move later this year, Win-T will bring C4ISR down to the lower tactical echelon, supporting the agile warfighting unit foreseen by NCW.
Since 2008. tactical commanders have begun to experience a seamless flow of information between sensors, C2 and shooters, enabling them to operate virtual staffs and analytical centres irrespectively of their current location and attachment in the battlespace (merging sea, land, air, space and information dimensions).
Designed for rapid deployment by C-130 tactical transport aircraft, Win-T will in turn integrate JTRS radios and Satcom terminals, based on specific interoperable, data-optimised waveforms. As Increment 2 began fielding in 2009, Win-T users are now experiencing meshed terrestrial network and on-the-move Satcom (Ka- and Ku-bands) exchanges between command vehicles, thanks to new network-centric waveforms for access by mobile Satcom terminals, or high-band networking waveforms for ground wireless wide-area networking capability.
Scheduled for fielding in 2011, Increment 3 will further adapt this capability to tactical platforms by applying size, weight, autonomy and power (Swap) constraints to Win-T equipment. It will also introduce 'advantaged nodes', an intermediate tier between ground and space networks based on airborne relays which remain to be defined.
The final Increment (4) will deal with technology insertion to enable enhanced satellite communication protection (anti-jam, low probability of detection) and greater throughput afforded by new communication satellites and modems.
Communication as a Weapon System
Beyond the transportation layer of Win-T tactical network and JTRS networking radios, Landwarnet will benefit from advanced network management services delivered by Network Operations Security Centers. Delivering dynamic quality of service from commercial-standard data distribution mechanisms and system management protocols, the network management layer will enable units at battalion level to exchange secure voice, data and video throughout the theatre.
On top of this service layer sits an ever-richer application layer designed to accommodate command & control (C2), battle management or ISR services. In the C2 realm, the deployment of the Command Post of the Future over tactical networks enables large unit command up to army corps, using applications such as the Army Battle Command System (a suite of information systems managing logistics, intelligence data and airspace co-ordination).
At battalion level and below, battle management C4I is performed by Northrop Grumman's FBCB2, providing manoeuvre planning, local situational awareness and threat acquisition at combat vehicle level. At the shooter level, as the army FCS programme was replaced by Land Warrior, the drive of network-centricity down goes on, with information superiority reaching the soldier through its new Rifleman Radio, rifle sight and eyesight.
In the near future, information containers will leverage 4G mobile phone technologies, as warfighters already experience smartphones hosting tactical apps for access to ISR or local situational awareness information.
In its current state, the Landwarnet does for the army much of what the commercial Internet does for fixed and mobile users. But it delivers these information services while accommodating the army's most stringent requirement for connectivity, mobility and survivability between platforms connected to a vast array of sensors, from the video camera, laser rangefinder and thermal imager/sight mounted on most combat platforms to the 2400 or so drones flying over Iraq every day.
This places a very high burden on information management and security, with content management able to deal with information exchange (acquisition, storage, access and delivery) and information security maintaining integrity, protection and authentication of data. In Landwarnet as in its higher Gig counterpart, all this is achieved in a holistic approach driven by military-grade implementation of Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES).
Army Information Enterprise
The key to rapid implementation of Landwarnet over three fiscal years (2009 through 2011) lies as much in technology, introduced incrementally over a momentum of spiral development, as in people.
Reflecting the paramount social dimension of the network, Landwarnet was introduced centrally over doctrine, organisation, training, material, leadership & education, personnel & facilities and broken down between its various stakeholder communities, from the US Army Chief Information Officer (C10/G6) to the Central Technical Support Facility in Fort Hood, Texas, used as a system gateway.
Education and training is performed using the newly transformed Army Signal Center, which became Landwarnet University, while military-commercial synergies are orchestrated by the prime contracting management offices, as well as dedicated government-industry gatherings such as the yearly Afcea-sponsored Landwarnet conference in Tampa, Florida.
As 'digital natives' flow through the ranks of the army, they take ownership of Landwarnet technologies and collaborative working as smoothly as they roam the Internet.
Taking the next step in the evolution of Landwarnet, in October 2010 the US Army Cyber Command officially opened for business. The mission of Arcyber is to plan, co-ordinate, integrate, synchronise, direct and conduct network operations and defence of all army networks. Arcyber is the US Army component to the US Cyber Command, a sub-unit of the US Strategic Command, and is tasked with ensuring the security of US Army cyberspace.
Allied Equivalents to all-IP Networking
The ambition and extent of the Gig and Landwarnet systems of systems appear formidable when brought down to the vast size of the US military, their continental and worldwide deployments and the relative short timeframe in which it was contemplated, designed and first implemented during the last decade. This endeavour has few equivalents in the world, given the small number of nations sharing similar stakes with the United States and, most of all, their worldwide commitment.
So even if the deep transformation of Australian, Israeli, Singaporean or United Arab Emirates armies into digitised, network-enabled, information-centric militaries are worth mentioning, only the British or French battlespace digitisation follows, though on a lower scale, the wide path of US net-centricity.
The French Army transformation towards mobile, networked C4I over IP is particularly remarkable given the new role of France in Nato, and especially its Allied Command Transformation. Among currently deployed assets, the following can be pointed out: the new-generation Thales Rita N4 deployed tactical Internet for the battlegroup (similar to the Win-T configuration).
Thales and Thales Alenia Space Syracuse III military satellite links available to mobile armoured command posts operating satcom-on-the-move over vast distances of the Afghan theatre; company commanders networked to the Thales Atlas digitised artillery C4I system deployed on Forward Operating Bases and Battlegroups in contact with Nato Isaf headquarters (through more than 90 theatre-wide points of presence) or National Command Authorities. Indeed, the French Army all-IP networking is standing out as a close allied counterpart to the Landwarnet.
Valery Rousset, inputs from Johnny Keggler