This post is an effort to understand and articulate the power of information superiority in warfare from a Joint perspective. War is a product of its age. The tools and tactics of how we fight have always evolved along with technology. Often in the past, military organizations pioneered both the development of technology and its application. Such is not the case today. The advant of Information Technology, has changed the meaning of war. As I highlighted in some of my previous posts War today is no more same as war few decades back – here I am pointing to Electronic Warfare, Network Centric Warfare, Use of Artificial Intelligence in Battlefield, Unmanned Vehicles and so on. This post however, is to see how Network Centric Warfare (NCW) embodies the characteristics of the Information Age; and to identify the challenges in transforming this concept into a real operational capability. For more on Electronic Warfare and Artificial Intelligence see my following posts: Intellegent Warfare Electronic Support Measures and War Toys – Artificial Intelligence on Battlefield. I intend to show that How Well did Pakistan Air Force understands the Network Centric Warfare.
Society has changed. The underlying economics and technologies have changed. So we should be surprised if Global forces’ did not. For nearly 200 years, the tools and tactics of how we fight have evolved with military technologies. Now, fundamental changes are affecting the very character of war. Who can make war is changing as a result of weapons proliferation and the fact that the tools of war increasingly are marketplace commodities. By extension, these affect the where, the when, and the how of war. In 1998, U.S Navy published a report on the origin of Network Centric Warfare and how U.S Society and Business has adapted it. This report pointed out the transition from “platform-centric warfare” to “network-centric warfare”: It further goes on and suggested:
Network-centric warfare and all of its associated revolutions in military affairs grow out of and draw their power from the fundamental changes in American society. These changes have been dominated by the co-evolution of economics, information technology, and business processes and organizations, and they are linked by three themes:
– The shift in focus from the platform to the network
– The shift from viewing actors as independent to viewing them as part of a continuously adapting ecosystem
– The importance of making strategic choices to adapt or even survive in such changing ecosystems
These changes in the dimensions of time and space are increasing the pace of events, or operating tempo, in many different environments. Responsiveness and agility are fast becoming the critical attributes for organizations hoping to survive and prosper in the Information Age. With little observation of what is going around in Business, and civil sectors I don’r think that it is wrong to say that – the changes these affecting these organisations due to the advant of Information Technology are driven by changes in the environments they operate and capabilities they have in their disposal. Similarly, for military battle space has changed and become a case of Information Superiority. So what exactly is NCW and Why networking?
Network Centric Warfare
From a broad perspective the introduction of networking techniques into warfighting systems is the military equivalent of the digitisation and networking drive we observed in Western economies between 1985 and 1995. Military networking, especially between platforms, is far more challenging than industry networking due to the heavy reliance on wireless communications, high demand for security, and the need for resistance to hostile jamming. The demanding environmental requirements for military networking hardware are an issue in their own right.A high speed network permits error free transmission in a fraction of the time required for voice transmission, and permits transfer of a wide range of data formats. In a more technical sense, networking improves operational tempo (optempo) by accelerating the Observation-Orientation phases of Boyd’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action (OODA) loop. Identified during the 1970s by US Air Force strategist John Boyd, the OODA is an abstraction which describes the sequence of events whihc must take place in any military engagement. The opponnent must be observed to gather information, the attacker must orient himself to the situation or context, then decide and act accordingly.
Observation-Orientation-Decision are all about gathering information, distributing information, analysing information, understanding information and deciding how to act upon this information. The faster we can gather, distribute, analyse, understand information, the faster we can decide, and arguably the better we can decide how and when to act in combat. Networking is a mechanism via which the Observation-Orientation phases of the loop can be accelerated, and the Decision phase facilitated. Well implemented networking can contribute to improved effectiveness in other ways. One such technique is ‘self synchronisation’ which permits ‘directive control’. Rather than micromanage a warfighting asset with close control via a command link tether, warfighters are given significant autonomy, defined objectives, and allowed to take the initiative in how they meet these objectives.
NCW focuses on the combat power that can be generated from the effective linking or networking of the warfighting enterprise. It is characterized by the ability of geographically dispersed forces (consisting of entities) to create a high level of shared battlespace awareness that can be exploited via self-synchronization. Furthermore, NCW is transparent to mission, force size, and geography. The mathematical bottom line in NCW is a very simple one: networking can permit a significant improvement in operational tempo, where a shortage of targeting information is the bottleneck to achieving a high operational tempo, but networking itself has very little impact on the absolute ability of a force to deliver weapons against targets, that being constrained by the capabilities and number of combat platforms in use.
It can be argued that networking produce its greatest gains in combat effect during battlefied strike and close air support operations, especially against highly mobile and fleeting ground targets. No less interesting are the effects observed in demand for specific types of assets to support networked interdiction and strike operations. Air Power Australia – An Australian Defence THink tank, cites that: Bigger is better in the networked strike game, so much so that a recent discussion piece by US analyst Price Bingham in the ISR Journal predicted the demise of the classical battlefield interdiction tasked fighter-bomber, in favour of larger bombers and UCAVs. This is a direct challenge to the basic rationale for the Joint Strike Fighter family of battlefield interdiction and close air support fighters, and the longer term use of legacy designs like the F-16 and F/A-18 variants. According to those who are in favour of NCW, A key issue for all networking is the Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance capability supporting it. Networks like all computing systems obey the Garbage-In Garbage-Out rule – without accurate high quality ISR systems feeding the network, it is little more than high speed digital plumbing between platforms, with nothing useful to carry. However, one can equally finds the disadvantage of this In-Out system (i will come on this issue later).
U.S aside, Russia has capitalised on this by aggressively marketing ISR platforms like the A-50 AWACS, digital datalinking products – the Soviets were deeply enamoured of digital air defence networks – and counter ISR systems. The latter include long range AAMs like the R-172, R-37 and Kh-31 variants, as well as airborne and land mobile high power jamming equipment, and very long range SAMs like the S-400 and Imperator series. As the ranges of our sensors and weapons increase and as our ability to move information rapidly improves, we are no longer geographically constrained. Hence, in order to generate a concentrated effect, it is no longer necessary to concentrate forces.
The term Network Centric Warfare also carries some baggage. By mistake, some have focused on communication networks, not on warfare or operations where the focus should rightly be.
Networks are merely a means to an end; they convey “stuff” from one place to another and they are the purview of technologists. NCW does not focus on network-centric computing and communications, but
rather focuses on information flows, the nature and characteristics of battlespace entities, and how they need to interact. NCW is all about deriving combat power from distributed interacting entities with significantly improved access to information.
Security and Robustness of transmission, Transmission capacity, Message and signal routing, and Signal format and communications protocol compatibility are some issues concerning NCW. It is essential that dissimilar platforms and systems can communicate in an NCW environment. This problem extends not only to the use of disparate signal modulations and digital protocols, but to the use of partially incompatible implementations of what is ostensibly the same signal modulation or communications protocol.
Global Defence Industry
Most regional nations are now operating, deploying or shopping for Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft. Russia is actively marketing digital datalinks, like the TKS-2 and older APD-518, and marketing counter-ISR weapons like the Novator R-172 (KS-172) or Kh-31 series missiles. Russia is also marketing high power jamming equipment, especially pods using Digital RF Memory (DRFM) technology, and there is a good prospect of a Growler-ski based on the Su-32 materialising before the end of the decade.
United States of America
In practical terms, by 2010-2015 regional opponents without AEW&C, long range counter-ISR missiles and jamming pods are likely to be the obliging exception to the rule. US thinking is not surprisingly centred in using F/A-22As to sanitise airspace permitting unhindered use of ISR platforms and networks, and the program to replace the lost capabilities of the EF-111A Raven with the B-52J or EB-52, equipped with high power stand-off jamming equipment to disrupt opposing networks and ISR sensors.
Pakistan Airforce and Network Centric Warfare
NCW must be properly understood before it can be used as a basis for strategic planning decisions. Clearly this was not been the case in many key areas of the Pakistan’s MoD. The situation however changes in 2010.
JF-17 operation, new batch of F-16, inclusion of Saab 2000 erieye, and ZDK 03 AWACS aircarfts are all part of step taken by Pakistan Air Force, to meet the NCW and Electronic Warfare requirements, which indeed are less than none. SAAB signed an 8 billion kronor provisional contract to supply 6 Saab 2000 erieye to Pakistan, which was finalized in June 2006 at four aircraft, one of which has been delivered to date. This aircraft (shown above) incorporates the Erieye Radar System, and Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEWCS) and is based on based on the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
The Erieye AEW&C mission system radar is an active, phased-array, pulse-Doppler sensor that can feed an onboard operator architecture or downlink data (via an associated datalink subsystem) to a ground-based air defence network. The system employs a large aperture, dual-sided antenna array housed in a dorsal ‘plank’ fairing. The antenna is fixed, and the beam is electronically scanned, which provides for improved detection and significantly enhanced tracking performance compared with radar-dome antenna systems. Erieye detects and tracks air and sea targets out to the horizon, and sometimes beyond this due to anomalous propagation — instrumented range has been measured at 450 km. Typical detection range against fighter-sized targets is approximately 425 km, in a 150° broadside sector, both sides of the aircraft. Outside these sectors, performance is reduced in forward and aft directions. Other system features include: Adaptive waveform generation (including digital, phase-coded pulse compression); Signal processing and target tracking; Track While Scan (TWS); Low sidelobe values (throughout the system’s angular coverage); Low- and medium-pulse repetition frequency operating modes; Frequency agility; Air-to-air and sea surveillance modes; and Target radar cross-section display.
JF-17 comprises of two VHF/UHF radios, one of them having capacity for data linking. The data link can be used to exchange data with ground control centres, AWACS/AEW aircraft and other combat aircraft also equipped with compatible data links. The ability to data link with other “nodes” such as aircraft and ground stations allows JF-17 to become part of a network, improving the situational awareness of the pilot as well as other entities in the network.
The JF-17 has a defensive aids system (DAS) made up of various integrated sub-systems. A radar warning receiver (RWR) gives data such as direction and proximity of enemy radars to the pilot and electronic warfare (EW) suite, housed in a fairing at the tip of the tail fin for greater coverage, that interferes with enemy radars. The EW suite is also linked to a missile approach warning (MAW) system to help it defend against radar-guided missiles. The MAW system uses several optical sensors mounted on the airframe (two of which can be seen at the base of the vertical stabiliser) that detect the rocket motors of missiles and gives 360 degree coverage. The DAS systems will also be enhanced by integration of a self-protection radar jamming pod which will be carried externally on one of the aircraft’s hardpoints. Electronic support measures and defensive aids are used extensively to gather information about threats or possible threats. DAS Systems – They can be used to launch devices (in some cases automatically) to counter direct threats against the aircraft. They are also used to determine the state of a threat and identify it. To my knowledge it uses KJ8602A Airborne Radar Warning Receiver. The KJ8602A airborne radar warning receiver (RWR) is designed to detect incoming radar signals; identify and characterise these signals to a specific threat; and alert the aircrew through the cockpit video/audio warning. The KJ8602A features several external antennae mounted on the vertical fin tip, both wingtips, and underneath the forward fuselage. Once the hostile radar signal is detected, the KJ8602A analyses those received signals and identify the signal sources according to the stored emitter identification data (EID), and alerts the pilot. The system can also automatically trigger the chaff/flare dispenser or other onboard ECM systems to counter the incoming threats.
The JF-17s in service with the PAF are fitted with an Italian Grifo S-7 multi-track, multi-mode, pulse Doppler radar radar. The radar has 25 working modes and a non-break-down time of 200 hours, and is capable of “look-down, shoot-down”, as well as for ground strike abilities. Alternatively, the aircraft can be fitted with the Thales RC400, GEC Marconi Blue Hawk, Russian Phazotron Zemchug/Kopyo, and Chinese indigenous KLJ-7 developed by Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET). The first 42 production aircraft currently being delivered to the Pakistan Air Force are equipped with the NRIET KLJ-7 radar. In December 2010, Pakistan Air Force’s Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman announced that KLJ-7 radar will be built at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), in Kamra, north of Islamabad
The KLJ-7 has multiple modes, both beyond-visual-range (BVR) and close-in air-to-air modes, ground surveillance modes and a robust anti-jamming capability. The radar can reportedly manage up to 40 targets, monitor up to 10 of them in track-while-scan (TWS) mode and simultaneously fire on two BVR targets. The detection range for targets with a radar cross-section of 5 square meters is stated to be ≥105 km (≥85 km in look-down mode). Surface sea targets can be detected at up to 135 km. It has been reported that KLJ-7 also has modes to support a range of NATO weaponry, including the Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range and AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range air-to-air missiles. The RADAR operates at Ground Moving Target Indication/Ground Moving Target Track (GMTI/GMTT), Range While Search (RWS), Sea Single Target Track (SSTT), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Doppler Beam Sharpening (DBS), Situational Awareness Mode (SAM), Velocity Search (VS) and many other. Pakistan’s move to develop these RADARS at home, and extending their capibility to next level will surely provide them an advantage over its compitators.
Four Chinese ZDK-03 AEW&C aircraft have also been ordered. Which are PAF-specific version of the KJ-200, incorporating a Chinese AESA radar similar to the Erieye mounted on the Shaanxi Y-8F600 transport aircraft. Currently PAF’s No.24 Blinders squadron operates three Dassault Falcon 20 aircraft in the ELINT (Electronic signals intelligence) and ECM (Electronic countermeasures) roles. Former refers to intelligence-gathering by use of electronic sensors. Its primary focus lies on non-communications signals intelligence. The data gathered are typically pertinent to the electronics of an opponent’s defense network, especially the electronic parts such as radars, surface-to-air missile systems, aircraft, etc. ELINT can be used to detect ships and aircraft by their radar and other electromagnetic radiation; commanders have to make choices between not using radar (EMCON), intermittently using it, or using it and expecting to avoid defenses. ELINT can be collected from ground stations near the opponent’s territory, ships off their coast, aircraft near or in their airspace, or by satellite. However, ECM, are a subsection of electronic warfare which includes any sort of electrical or electronic device designed to trick or deceive radar, sonar or other detection systems, like infrared (IR) or lasers. It may be used both offensively and defensively to deny targeting information to an enemy. The system may make many separate targets appear to the enemy, or make the real target appear to disappear or move about randomly. It is used effectively to protect aircraft from guided missiles (refer to my precvious post for ECM and ESM).
KJ-200, incorporates an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar (aka active phased array radar). This radar possess many advantages over conventional passive scanned radar, one is that the different modules can operate on different frequencies. Additionally, the solid-state transmitters are able to broadcast effectively at a much wider range of frequencies, giving AESAs the ability to change their operating frequency with every pulse sent out. AESAs can also produce beams that consist of many different frequencies at once, using post-processing of the combined signal from a number of transmitter-receiver modules (TRMs) to re-create a display as if there was a single powerful beam being sent. AESAs are so much more difficult to detect, and so much more useful in receiving signals from the targets, that they can broadcast continually and still have a very low chance of being detected. This allows the radar system to generate far more data than if it is being used only periodically, greatly improving overall system effectiveness. Similar type is featured on F-22 and F/A 18 Super Hornet.
Critics of NCW argue that system is prone to Chaos, and thus link the system with Chaos Theory – to some extent they are right, but as I have mentioned earlier, system integration in NCW is no easy, and prone to may fatel error if neglected. As far as PAF analysis is concerned, I have treid my best to include what I could and keep it simple. However, I will include the advances from Navy side some other time. Also, if reader is interested to explore more about the Network Centric Warfare, please refer to US DoD Report to Congress and Thought Systems and Network Centric Warfare