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The Networked Force

| 53 Comments | 8 TrackBacks

In Dr. Evil Cornered, Robin Burke and Tom Roberts were talking about communications and U.S. forces, and how that affected our NATO allies in Afghanistan. That's something I've covered before in U.S. Military -- Back to the Future! Here's Robin...

"US troops are begining to deploy some rather advanced technologies on the battlefield, plus fighting doctrines to leverage these technologies. The other NATO countries can't begin to match these capabilities and integrating those troops with our forces that do use them is a recipe for real problems.... How on earth would you integrate large numbers of NATO forces into those scenarios, even if there weren't the ego / geopolitical games about targetting and risk taking???"

...and Tom Roberts:

"Non US forces don't even have digital communications for the most part. In many cases the Coalition forces have to be lent commo gear so that their HQs can talk with US forces. This creates a dichotomous pace of operations in any NATO command as well. Without heavy US liaison elements, the NATO forces don't know what is going on. To a certain extent the Canadian friendly fire deaths by Kandahar two years ago were due to such issues (along with two US pilot's very poor judgments), but you might notice that when US forces swing into an offensive situation either allies get totally integrated into the US force structure (like the Canadian snipers were at Tora Bora or the Aussie SAS is with us Spec Forces) or they get totally out of the way."

Which brings up two things I talked about in my article clips:

"First, the digital data link is the key to air-ground cooperation. That is why it is the first thing the USAF cuts, and also why 95% of Marine AV-8B Harriers have digital data link.

Unlike the fighter pilot mafia, the Marines are serious about this.

"Second, the key variable in future American military operations aren't platforms or precision guided munitions, but network bandwidth connecting intelligent people. The bigger and faster the sensor/shooter/C3I network, the nastier and deadlier it becomes. The really interesting thing to see is what happens when the 4th Mechanized (Mech.) Infantry Division's land combat data system comes into use and we then add "Land Warrior" infantry to it. We are talking a half an order of magnitude increase in combat network size compared to the heavily touted theater air power networks of the Iraq war from the 4th Mech's combat vehicles alone. Combat infantry added to that bumps it up to a full order of magnitude larger.

The American Army's love affair with vehicle-mounted .50 Caliber M2-HB machine guns has made for very unfair close combat firefights between Americans and everyone else since 1944. Ask the Wehrmacht what the fifties mounted on 3rd Army M-8 Greyhound armored cars did during the pursuit after Falaise. The "Ma-Deuce" has been the U.S. Cavalry's version of the mounted lance for several generations now. Yet that was nothing compared to the kill ratios the 3rd Mech had in Iraq. The 3rd Mech went through the Iraqis like the Martians went though the British Army in H.G. Wells "The War of the Worlds."

There are some good organizational reasons for this. Yet those reasons can be applied to every combat division. This begs the question just what is the fully networked 4th Mech going to be like in combat?

Ludicrous Odds

In aerial combat, "situational awareness" is a great combat multiplier until you have to close the range to engage. AMRAAM missiles kill lots of bad guys at range but closing with Sidewinders is the only way to be decisive, especially in a politically/tactically constrained rules of engagement fight. Then it gets down to who has the initial advantage, with the best trained and experienced pilots, and with adequate equipment. Back to my earlier article:

"What will these networked land combat units be like before they "go into the merge" of close combat firefights? Robotic micro-UAV "point men" 300 yards ahead and 50 yards above human point men are going to make for very "situationally aware" line platoons and extremely "unfair" close combat firefights. Add this to GPS-based fire support, loitering drones, airborne sensors, JDAMS, and modern body armor and our infantry is "...going to make Caesar's legions look like combat-ineffective girly-men," to use a quote from a friend of mine.

He also said, "We will literally be able to fight at ludicrous odds - not just outrageous odds - and triumph nearly bloodlessly," to which I have to agree.

I am of the opinion that this phenomenon is a logarithmic progression that the American military is only just beginning to climb. The reason we are light-years ahead the rest of the world in conventional military power is that we have invested enough in people and technology that we have gotten past an inflection point on the military effectiveness curve for the use of modern information systems. It is going to take very little more marginal investment on our part to obtain vastly increased and selective killing power."

As can be seen in the success of vehicles like the M7 Bradley FIre Support Team vehicle and Hunter UAV teams during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the latest US Military operations in the Afghan/Pakistan border areas, some of that additional investment has been made. There's more to come.

The Next Phase

Combat data networks plugged into outside fire support are a major combat multiplier, if they are on a high firepower, survivable, armored vehicle that cannot be readily identified as different from other combat vehicles (like the M7 Bradley BFIST). 3rd Infantry post-war reviews said things like "truly revolutionary... 1st Round Fire for Effect Was the Norm."

I have also said elsewhere that the Army's data networks, because they are bigger and have people closer to both the targets and friendly supplies, are starting to absorb those of all the other services. Now US Army leaders are learning that when it comes to using digital communications systems in war, the "Best is the enemy of the good enough" and they are going to make the current Army Battle Command Systems a force wide standard. Even if they don't want to say so for P.R. reasons (Inside the Army, Jan. 12, 2004):

"ABCS is a suite of 11 battle command systems, each designed to provide a particular battlefield functionality that, together, provides commanders with a common operational picture of the battlefield. The system starts with the Global Command and Control System-Army -- which links the soldiers to the joint world -- and includes such tactical systems as Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below, used on ground and aerial platforms to improve situational awareness.

Initially, the Army planned to focus on digitizing a select number of units within the Army with ABCS, namely III Corps, which includes 4th ID and the 1st Cavalry Division, and later the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. Other Army units would only receive some ABCS systems, but not a full suite.

“But then we had a war,” Greene said.

Post-war analyses showed digital systems were “all over the place.”

“If we didn’t give them one, they went out and found one,” he said.

Commanders who rotated back to the United States last spring brought with them feedback on battle command operations that highlighted the need to give access to everyone in the service because of integration problems that hampered operations between the Army’s heavily digitized units and more conventional units. According to a report by V Corps Commander Gen. William Wallace, the Corps had trouble connecting with 4th ID because of the disparities in communication assets (ITA, Aug. 4, 2003, p1).

Rather than gold-plating one unit in the force, service leaders decided it made more sense to field a more vast, albeit thinner, baseline battle command capability throughout the service to provide what some leaders have referred to recently as a “good enough” capability. (Greene said he discourages the term “good enough,” as it implies “we’re not giving troops the best we could.”)


"Accordingly, the latest rotation of soldiers to engage in Operation Iraqi Freedom -- known as “OIF 2” -- are now being equipped with a baseline, though still unstandardized, capability. In the meantime, the program office plans to begin fielding ABCS in late spring through fiscal year 2005. FY-06 and FY-07 will be spent standardizing those capabilities throughout the Army, filling in holes and adding in missing pieces, Greene said.

Deciding what operational requirements to standardize has also been an effort in and of itself, he said. Since August, Army leaders have met repeatedly to siphon the most critical requirements from lessons learned in both Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.... “We were lucky that Gen. [William] Wallace rotated from V Corps commander to CAC,” Greene said. “He’s been the leader of the effort to define what capabilities we needed to standardize and give everyone a capability that would be interoperable.”

These standardized systems are about to become the base platform for all U.S. services, thanks to the relentless emphasis on "jointness" in the DoD. Which means the "swarm lethality" we're beginning to see is about to become the norm for every American unit.

The next decade will be a very bad time to be an enemy of America.

UPDATE: The Networked Force II adds more stories from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Bosnia, plus a whole MOAB full of links from from my debates with Stryker.

JK: If you thought the post was something (and it was), wait until you see the discussion in the Comments section. F-16 test pilots, ex-navy amd army sharing stories, Australian Forces, current USAF, Israeli perspectives, and Trent right in the middle of the debates. Wow.

8 TrackBacks

Tracked: March 24, 2004 1:50 PM
Networked Warfare from Kalblog
Excerpt: This post at Winds of Change on how real-time knowledge is changing war is interesting. The fog of war has cost millions of lives over the centuries, and that fog is slowly disappearing. The one hope I have is that...
Tracked: March 24, 2004 5:41 PM
Battlefield 'Net III from Flit(tm)
Excerpt: Winds of Change has a good article on the current and future battlefield net. The ability to communicate with each other has achieved critical mass and people understand how much more lethal they can be, and with how much fewer...
Tracked: March 24, 2004 6:32 PM
America's Information-Age Military from
Excerpt: Trent Telenko has a post on the networked force worth checking out.
Tracked: March 24, 2004 8:18 PM
Netcentric Warfare from VodkaPundit
Excerpt: Unless some serious military communications advances are made -- and quickly -- by allies, soon they'll be more of a...
Tracked: March 26, 2004 6:28 PM
Jointness from Stryker Brigade News
Excerpt: Those of you that have a particular interest in the technological capabilities of the Stryker Brigade should take a moment to read Trent Telenko's "The Networked Force" over at Winds of Change. Make sure you read through the comment section...
Tracked: November 10, 2004 9:21 PM
Excerpt: Two days into the Second Battle of Fallujah, Coalition forces appear to be making stunning progress. Toby Harnden continues his ride with the Phantoms of Task Force 2-2, composed of elements of the 1st Infantry Division. This unit entered the...
Tracked: April 29, 2005 4:26 AM
Excerpt: Considered a pivotal Department of Defense (DoD) transformational program, the $6.8 billion Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Program would replace approximately 750,000 existing tactical radios. But the Pentagon is unhappy, and threatening to cancel ...
Tracked: April 29, 2005 10:55 AM
Excerpt: Considered a pivotal Department of Defense (DoD) transformational program, the $6.8 billion Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Program would replace approximately 750,000 existing tactical radios. But the Pentagon is unhappy, and threatening to cancel ...


My question is, how well will the Navy and Air Force work together, and how well will the new digital connectivity improve the capability of 7th Fleet and available USAF planes to engage the PLA, PLAN and PLAAF in a Taiwan Invasion scenario which is essentially "Longest Day 2.0"?

Fascinating post, Trent -- addresses thoughts of my own on US military capability. I'm interested in your thoughts re what priorities should an ally like Australia (small but capable -- and most importantly one of the best allies America has) should do to ensure ongoing interoperability? I've suggested in the past 'the ability to network' in generic terms -- any specifics?

Great Post, I'm from the UK and a recent defence white paper laid out a future where we would never engage in a major conflict where the US was not our main ally/fellow combatant and that investment in comms systems etc should reflect this. Great in theory but coming up with the hard cash for investment is always a problem for our somewhat short-sighted government. The collection of short stories COMBAT edited by Stephen Coonts has a wonderful story called "CAV" by James Cobb that illustrates what we should be aiming for: Small forces numerically but with massive strengths in both offensive firepower and speed/flexibility. Human controlled remote vehicles are also an achievable technology in my eyes.

It is looking more and more like the Air Force ought to return to its former status as a component of the Army.

I believe the Navy still needs to be seperate because of the problem of operating on the high seas and coastal areas where the majority of the human population lives.

The Marines are leading the way because they have in essence their own air force in the Naval carrier battle group. Marines are not limited to being helicopter pilots.

The Navy/Marine interface is the reason that the Marines figured this out first.

I don't know the JCS history very well but I would bet that it was a Marine COS who put the bug in the Army's bed. The Air Force of course guards its perogatives to the detriment of overall defence policy. So what else is new? They have an inferiority complex due to not having been in it from 1776 on.

Plus they are the pussiest of the services. I mean really. Cubes for elisted instead of barracks? No offence Stryker. :-)

M Simon,

It could also be a difference in the way France and Britain ran colonies.

Well, its just history repeating itself all over again. During the 19th Century the British fought a series of colonial wars and generally came out on top because of superior technology, i.e, breechloading rifles and Gatling guns vs native spears and swords.

Of course, all of that changed when the British army came up against an opponent that posessed weapons employing equal technologies: the Germans in 1914!

Advanced technologies can no longer be confied to a single nation or a small group of allied nations. As these advanced technologies spread to other armies around the world, we might see armies similar to European armies in pre-Napoleonic times. Nations possessing SMALL, highly trained professional armies. These new technologies might make it so.


It is the nature of modern digital architecture that the bigger network wins over the smaller one for its users, even if the smaller one has better features and easier user interfaces, because of the scale advantages (both purchase cost and the larger ‘group mind’ of users) of larger networks for the users outweighs any other facet or feature of the network. What is true for Microsoft is also true for the military.

The Army is “winning the network wars” because signals have always been a traditional American military advantage and the US Army has always had the biggest signals component of the four services. Once the Army went digital over analog it was inevitable that it would start swallowing the other service’s data standards and networks.

The US Marine Corps and US Navy have adopted the US Army’s artillery fire control data system (the successor to TACFIRE, with the initials something like AFADS?) as a standard for their artillery, naval fires support and close air support.

The Navy’s Combined Engagement Capability (CEC) system to net ship sensors and Aegis fire control systems is being modified to interface with the US Army’s Patriot 3 and THAAD theater air defense data networks. The only way that sea based ballistic missile defense can work effectively is with cueing from ground based early warning radars and satellite warning networks.

As I mentioned in this post and elsewhere, the USAF seems to be the foot dragger in terms of digital networks. The Fighter Pilot Mafia actively resisted digital data links to ground forces for fear of losing control to the ground commanders. They also saw the digital stuff as being redundant given voice signal cueing from AWACS for air to air work. This turned out to be a bad idea in “Green flag” exercises including electronic counter measures that happened at Nellis AFB and it was dealt with in the F/A22 via a service unique “low probability of intercept” digital data link.

I am tempted to say that the USAF’s brass is too wedded to an industrial age information system paradigm to be successful at as an “early adoptor” of digital systems in its operations. Yet whether the USAF likes it or not, the link 16 data link will be on every American fighter and its theater air control and planning software is going to get swallowed by the US Army’s fire support system.

Lesley, Steve,

Right now the only military forces that can safely operate on the same battlefield as American forces are the small Special Forces establishments of European NATO allies and the Anglosphere (I don’t know enough about the Japanese and South Korean Special Forces to say if they can or not). This is because these troops are very good, they speak English, and American Special Forces share our digital communications equipment with the non-American Special Forces freely.

Before the extended Iraqi operations British ground forces at squad, platoon and company levels were marginally superior to American Army and Marine units at low to mid intensity peace keeping/urban combat. This margin has changed since then in the American military’s favor. I don’t know enough about Aussie and Canadian ground force units to make the call, but I read good things about “the diggers” in the East Timor operations.

At higher than company levels the American Army and Marine ground force units are superior to all comes because of American ground forces signals, combat service and combat service support establishments.

The British conventional forces can operate on the flanks of an American conventional offensive, but their lack of both signals and the density of trucks in their logistical trains mean they cannot keep up and communicate with Americans on a fast moving battlefield. The A-10 strafing of British armored columns in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom make that clear.

As for keeping up with the Americans, I am afraid that the purchase and license production of American military equipment and digital networks for small, deployable, military units is the only way to go for the smaller powers.

The British Army is considering a variant of the American FMTV truck for its next truck and has adopted American digital standards in its signals establishment. Yet it went with a French firm for its next carrier for EU related political reasons. The “EU connection” that British Labour is cultivating in its ‘defence establishment’ is going to be the British military’s biggest obstacle to interoperability with American forces.

Australia has chosen a different path. Take for example the Australian Army’s choice of the rebuilt digital M1A1D Abrams tank. The British Challenger may have been superior for Australia’s needs due to its diesel engine and wider variety of ammunition for its rifled 120mm gun. Yet it could not really operate as an integral component of American forces. Having the M1A1D as the Australian Army’s tank means its armor can operate seamlessly and interchangeably with in larger American armored units.

The American military’s plans to establish a training facility in Northern Australia may see Australian units playing the permanent opposing force that American units train against in an Australian National Training Center. The benefits for Australian forces in terms of operating with Americans cannot be underestimated.

Brannan S.-
When the French and British encountered the German Army of 1914, they were hopelessly outclassed by the German artillery which was able to be controlled on an corps/army basis using telephones. The 2004 analog is that of 1914: it doesn't matter who has the assets if they don't get told where to fire. This led to the high casualty rates suffered by the Allied infantry units and the German's ability to stop any West Front breakthru for 4 years. The disparity in the East was even greater, with whole Russian Corps occasionally being rendered ineffective by phosgene/high explosive attacks.

Looking at the results of WWI, the US Army began its innovative approach to integrated communications structures, which culminated in the results shown in Western Europe 1944-5 and Korea 1951-3. In these two cases the ability to mass all the artillery available across a corps sector was usual for the US forces, and occasionally (like in the Operation COBRA breakthru) whole Army artillery fires were massed flexibly.

What Trent is talking about now is a natural outgrowth of this artillery oriented progress, both in its application to other branches and its extension to other service requests for support.

A few folks are asking about the Navy and USAF. DoD mandated a common radio interface system, JTRS.

The various services might implement this interface using their own assets (what works really well on a ship won't fit into a grunt's backpack, yet) but the interface standard is common. This allows for all users to base their uses of the digital RF spectrum on a the JTRS standard.

The huge exception to this is space. Almost all satellites are designed around proprietary downlink interfaces which are tied to their electrical hardware. Constellations of common satellites can talk to each other, but not to other satellites with some exceptions. This makes integrating space assets into joint operations unwieldy today. I am not sure what fixes are in the future, but I'd bet that JTRS is going to be the standard for MILSATCOM owned assets. What the Navy and Army does with their few satellites is hard to say, as they usually have service specific missions anyway. The huge glitch here is that most military use of space uses civilian satellites, so DoD can't require these private vendors to use one commo interface unless DoD starts signing long term contracts, which they've just started doing. But the fix ain't in yet in space comms.


In 1980s the Navy was sending data from its shipboard computers - ship to ship over HF radio.

The Navy has been networked for a long time.

What is different is the bandwidth. When I worked on the stuff it was K bits a second. And the modems were horrible pieces of complication. Now it is GBS with DSP.

The Army stuff may currently be better but I think the Navy had the lead in tactical computers. There is a simple reason for this. When a computer weighs a few tons and requires 10KW of power plus air conditioning it is easier to put one on a ship than on a land vehicle.


Simon- Of course the problem about talking with the Navy was another matter (and much worse) if you weren't a ship. Then you had to use non digital voice. Digital links started to come in during the very late 80's, but for the most part they were system specific so the service inoperability was almost nil.


I take exception to the opinions the USAF is lagging in the datalink environment. The USAF will be fully capable this summer with the Link 16 datalink, which is compatible with Army/Navy/Marine/and NATO aircraft/ground units. Several F-15 units are already on line with Link 16. F-16 units will have Link 16 capability this June, and our greatest increase in lethality will be in the Air to Ground environment.

It is true, though, that already prohibitive odds will only increase exponentially in the next few years for US forces in combat. This is a fight China doesn't want to pick.

I'd like to note that one of the key pieces of technology in that, Ma Deuce, is approaching her one hundredth birthday within the next decade or so - and she still looks purty.

I have to ask though - what is the potential for electrostatic disruption of the battlefield, once we start taking the digital advantage for granted? How hardened are the battlefield computer systems?

I don't know if it's the fighter mafia that's holding back our changes in the AF or if it's the fact that we have fewer and fewer comm folks in uniform any more. We've privatized the hell out of our comm positions and getting a contract changed is a lot harder then telling Contracting to buy the stuff and have the maintainers install it.

"Second, the key variable in future American military operations aren't platforms or precision guided munitions, but network bandwidth connecting intelligent people."

This point can't be emphasized enough. I'll have to dig for a link, but an article in a recent Air & Space Power Journal went in-depth discussing bandwidth capability, prioritization and deployment. It looked at bandwidth loads during the Kosovo War and how they multiplied during the Afghan War (OIF was still a couple of months away), and lessons learned from each.

The main point of the article was that with all these unmanned vehicles and datalinks deployed out there, the Bandwidth issue became the bottleneck --not only in terms of capacity, but in aquisition and prioritization. It's the same story as anything else: with a finite amount of resources, how do you decide who gets what, how much of it, and when?

Another interesting point is that DoD has to massively outsource to commercial companies for a majority of its bandwidth needs during a wartime situation.

M. Simon: No worries. I treat it the same as I do Anti-Americanism: Irrational fear and distrust borne out of utter envy.

"I am tempted to say that the USAF’s brass is too wedded to an industrial age information system paradigm to be successful at as an “early adoptor” of digital systems in its operations. Yet whether the USAF likes it or not, the link 16 data link will be on every American fighter and its theater air control and planning software is going to get swallowed by the US Army’s fire support system."

This statement bears no relation to reality.

This reminds me of some of the efforts we have to make to get people who don't spend as much resource effort on communications. The CNO, in a speech to the United States Naval Institute, had the following exchange:

Q - My question is at this point in time how do you evaluate our ability to operate with our coalition partners
specifically in the technology area?

CNO - Okay, did you hear that? How do I evaluate our
ability to operate with our coalition partners, specifically in
the technology area? Well a couple of real key things have
happened. At the operational level these guys have put together
something called COWAN, Coalition Wide Area Network, and it's
not without challenges to make the connections work but we, if
we didn't have that we would just be going, how in the world are
we going to do this? So we have it and we created it ourselves.
Here's what I think, I just want to share this with you what I'm
telling my counterparts. I don't ever meet with one that they
don't say, hey you've got to slow down, you're leaving us. Now
you might imagine what my response is to that. My response is;
no way ever are we slowing down. But here's the commitment,
here's the commitment. I promise you that we will reach halfway.
You reach halfway, I'll reach halfway and we will work at making
our systems interoperable with you.

Talking this way, and getting real situational awareness, is hard and takes real effort. I see the two biggest obstacles I have are:
--Different systems from different times, since you don't have completely open architectures and 38 year old ships have different systems than LPD-17, and
--The different languages and needs. G6 people, unconstrained, will go way too deep in bits and bytes. Programmers, unconstrained, will push so much unfiltered and unprocessed data that nobody knows what's going on. Everyone will scream for more bandwidth instead of deciding that the 50MB Power Point is a stupid thing to try to push to everyone, and the common website needs a dedicated web geek to run it.



You are woefully misinformed on the backwardness and insularity of USAF leadership on issues of technology affecting their service.

You may want to go to the following links:

JANUARY 16, 2003
Trent Telenko

JANUARY 15, 2003
Trent Telenko

MAY 28, 2003
Trent Telenko

Steven Den Beste
USS Clueless
Air Force Doctrine
Stardate 20030627.0231

All good links. I think we'll take them and make them into a "point-counterpoint" post tomorrow. Stryker, if you'd rather do that instead, I promise to link it.

You are right on! Actually I was privleged to hear a speech yesterday from RADM Zellibor the Navy commander during OEF and current leader of "Forcenet 21". They had a "god board" on the carrier and the first real networked system used in combat. He gained some interesting lessons which he shared with us-
1) No powerpoint.... Huge powerpoint slides take up time and space from people. Instead, there was a constantly updated website on SIPRNET and commanders would "control the mouse" and give a briefing from there... This led to less status reporting and more discussions of tactics- enabling planning to go even further into the future and enabling all contingencies to be covered.
2) Simple interfaces- this conserves bandwidth, and while pictures or even colors might look good, they take up too much space!!!
3) Command by chat- this was one of the most valuable lessons learned I think- it quieted down significantly a noisy control room, so when the radio talked, people listened. Only priority traffic was routed through the radio so everyone paid attention when it came up.
4) Standardized interface- depending on who was running the god board dictated what was displayed on it. The windows that should be up eventually were made into SOP because each warfare community's officers had different ideas of what was important, so a METOC officer might have everything you want about weather, but not much else displayed.
5)Moving to a capabilities based environment, not asset- as has been previously mentioned, it allowed assests to be used more effectively and in a manner that suited them best. Forces were able to concentrate firepower without concentrating their own mass. It allowed spread out and small forces to deliver concentrated, devastating blows with maximum economy of force.

He has an article about it in a professional military magazine... the name eludes me, but it is an excellent article to look up.


You are correct about interoperability. The deal is that it was caused by two things parochialism and the state of technology.

The NTDS (Naval Tactical Data System) spec was available to any service but of course the first word (Naval) killed it for every one else. Surprisingly the Air Force had a very similar spec. With a special interface box Naval computers could talk to Air Force. Or the Navy and the Air Force could use the same coms gear. My guess is that the Naval/Air Force intercommunication equipment was not a priority for either service.

Plus it was complex and subject to jamming. The design of spread spectrum radios for service wide use pretty much started in the mid '80s and deliveries started in the 90s. This was to be a partial answer to the jamming problem. Better answers are here today.

The big push for interoperability came from the failures of Grenada.

So really all the gee wizz we have now was forseen a long time ago and the work began as soon as the problems and opportunities were clear.

Our defence industries are pretty good (if expensive). A lot of the expense is Congressionally mandated but a lot also comes from the required testing. Shock, vibration, EMP, temperature extremes, radiation survival and lots of other necessary requirements that allow you to put equipment in the field, any time and any place. And it can take a licking and keep on ticking.

All this has led to a COTS (COmmercial Off the Shelf) movement so the military tries to use commercial equipment where it makes sense.

Now each of the pieces of the system do not cost much but tying them all together is expensive. The costs are not going down any time soon. Add in the fact that the US is working to not just advance but leapfrog and I do not think it will be possible for the US to have any military competition for a minimum of 20 years possibly 50 and dependent on things I can't even forsee as long as 100 years.

By that time the world will be a much nicer place. God willing.

Has anyone here heard of the Situation Awareness Data Link (SADL)? It is the data link installed on F-16s and A-10s that interfaces with the Army's Enhanced Position Location and Reporting System (EPLRS). The ground and air forces are increasingly interoperable - maybe not to your satisfaction, but they are. USAF bombers and fighters flew Close Air Support (CAS) missions in support of ground forces during OEF and OIF.
The USAF has worked very hard to integrate with the Army's C2 systems. The problem is that there are so many of them - different ones for different echelons. The USAF/USN/USMC's Theater Battle Management Core Systems (TBMCS) interfaces with certain Army C2 systems (e.g., AFATDS).
There are also digital 9-lines to convey CAS target data to our air forces from the ground. The different components are lashed up with Link 16.
The Air Force still deploys Air Liaison Officers (ALOs) to Army units and USAF Tactical Air Control Parties (TACPs) are also embedded in Army units.
Gen Jumper has renewed the Air Force's commitment to ground forces:

The Army Air Corps/Forces concept died long ago because it didn't work and many soldiers were killed in North Africa. It wouldn't work today, either. Army funding priorities do not include the type of technologies that make today's USAF superior to any other in the world. Trading a tank or artillery piece for an air-to-ground precision guided munition probably wouldn't even be considered.

Al Maviva,

How hardned are the battle field computers?

Let me just say - very.

Aircraft are designed to take direct lightening strikes and keep on working. Any serious disruptions are cleared in no more than a few seconds. That is commercial aircraft.

Without going into too many details let me just say that the military stuff is better. All the military stuff. Not just the aircraft.

American equipment is designed to survive the nuclear battle field (if the bombs are not too close).

This is one of the big cost drivers for military electronics.

In all fairness to j2dove's point, USAF is aware that it needs to get its OODA loops (op cit the work Boyd did for USMC TEXT down on both an overall and local basis. At this point it is the laggard in the DoD pack, although it makes any foreign country look positively lethargic. The reason behind this is almost certainly its being bound to legacy weapons systems (with their high costs) and bifurcated missions (space, strategic deterrance, CAS, etc).

But this does get reflected in its procurement and doctrinal decision processes. A good research idea might linger forever if there is no sponsorship for it getting implemented, and digital comms wasn't practically hot until Afghanistan. Then Tora Bora showed how Army and USAF fire support wasn't practically working the way Spec Ops guys worked things in their extraordinary ways. Don't forget that the Army has the luxury of a large and unrepentant Special Ops component, while USAF doesn't have any hell raisers on a comparable basis. So it took a near miss battle to get people really serious about interoperability. And this almost certainly saved lives in Iraq, as the equipment largely speaking was already procured and all that had to be done was make it work.

Add to that situation the known negligence of USAF in not pushing, hard, UAVs prior to 2001 and you can see in this reversal a real revolution in military affairs (RMA) occurring over a very short period of time. USAF brass was certainly stubborn, but they in two years have demonstrated they aren't stupid.

>This statement bears no relation to reality.


Orders of magnitude mean things.

The current 4th Infantry division has roughly as many digital connections as a USAF theater command and it is far more mobile besides.

A single deployed Army FCS "unit of action" (the new name for a brigade) will have more UAVs than a current or future numbered Air Force and will have even more high bandwidth connections in the way of UGV.

See this link on FCS:

Whether the Army can get this whole system of systems to work given its insitutional problems with systems engineering is a different question.

The Army is far better positioned to take advantage of evolving electronics technology than the USAF given the nature of its platforms, its institutional culture and its needs.

The USAF's cult like devotion to single air crew stealth fighter aircraft leaves it ill prepared for the realities of the modern world.

Trent, not sure what your quals are, nor am I going to dig through all those links. All I can tell you is that I'm a current Operational Test Pilot in the F-16, and our latest and greatest software (currently in OT, to be released in June) does not reflect your thoughts on the backwardness of the AF.

Ivan- Ideas are valid without reference to the curriculum vitae of their proponents.

Your current example is precisely what Trent has been writing about for years. The fact that it is just in test (which means that it is not yet Operational) shows how USAF is behind on getting one of its primary weapons systems integrated into the digital battlefield.

Since I would presume your knowledge of that new F16 avionics system is better than most, how much does it do without reference to human interaction? The pilot has to be helped in culling through an incredible amount of data in order for him to make the right decisions, from the mundane and boring to the immediately critical developments that threaten his plane directly. To put a practical face on it, would it have helped Lt Col Schmidt in not bombing a Canadian infantry company at a night fire range by Kandahar? I would hope so, but that incident showed that some very mundane things weren't being made clear to pilots prior to 2001, whereas the Field Artillery was dealing with friendly fire issues digitally and automatically when I was in the Army in 1985.

>The reason behind this is almost certainly its
>being bound to legacy weapons systems (with
>their high costs) and bifurcated missions
>(space, strategic deterrence, CAS, etc).

Tom Roberts made an extraordinarily important point here.

Organizations that are highly invested in expensive and long life pieces of capital equipment tend to be highly conservative if not reactionary about using it. They won’t risk it if they don’t have too and they are highly resistant to change that might devalue it.

This is critically important in looking at how the various services institutional cultures are changing.

In the 1920s and 1930s aircraft were expensive capital equipment that had to be replaced regularly because of advancing technology and short operational life span. The Army Air Corps was highly innovative and kept pushing the various aircraft paradigms (bomber, fighter attack) that gave us the Eight Air Force in Europe and the Enola Gay in the Pacific.

The Army ground forces on the other hand had expensive and comparatively very long life artillery, vehicles and troops it had to move shot and communicate with. It developed the signals to get the best use of what it had and used Detroit – the civilian economy -- in WW2 to mass produce what it needed to win.

The Navy was wedded to battleships, but hedged its bets by building an aircraft carrier scouting force as well. Aircraft carriers won the technology debate and WW2. The last of the WW2 Midway class carriers did not retire until after the Berlin Wall fell.

Today a new USAF F/A22 cost $110 million each in current production and only 22 a year are built. An F/A22 will have an operational life of 25 years or more.

The newest US Army Stryker armored vehicles cost $2.5 million and several hundred are built a year and it may have an operational life of 15-20 years.

Which service institution is going to be more innovative and risky in using, modifying with electronics and moving on from its current capital equipment set?

As a retired Navy Communications Officer, I'm about 15 years out of date; so I can't talk about what we have now. That said, I can give some insights based on what probably hasn't changed - human nature. NIMBY was one of the biggest problems I experienced in terms of integrating communications with the various services. One particular example follows:
In the early '80s in Iceland. The Air Force Master Direction Center was one of the last ones that hadn't yet been fitted with a data link. All plotting was done on a large vertical plot. At the same time though, the deployed AWACS did have digital link capabilities that was (mostly) compatable with the Navy's link-11 system that the P3 surviellance aircraft used. The senior commander on the island was a Navy Admiral. He was able to stand in his TOC and see, real time, the AAW situation developing from the downlinked data coming from the AWACS. The Air Force commander at the MDC was about 10 minutes behind the loop because of the slower manual plotting. Figuring that this was an "unsat" situation, the Admiral scrounged up a spare Navy system that was ordinarily used for pierside training and had it shipped to Iceland and installed next to the Air Force MDC. A corridor linked the two and a console was extended from the Navy van into the MDC. Unfortunately, the Navy link symbology was different than what the Air Force used, so instead of making the "hammer" learning some new symbology, they trained an Airman, who would write down the info on a slip of paper. The paper was handed off to a runner, and then passed to the men manning the vertical plot. The end result of all this work was that the Air Force Commander was still about 10 minutes behind.
Individuals in the various services have a wonderful capability to improvise and get the job done, but it just takes one person in the wrong place to screw things up.
Lack of awareness of the constraints of the other guy can mess things up as well. I was once involved in a US/Australian exercise involving our Navy Marine Corp team and the Australian Army. The Aussies had a system of changing their tactical radio frequencies every 15 minutes to reduce enemy evesdropping and jamming effectiveness. This is easy to do with a tactical radio on someones back. However, on the Amphibious Command Ship, where many, many radios are sharing the same antenna due to space limitations, you just. can't. do. that. We eventually ironed out the differences, but we had to bump the problem to the highest levels in the Australian Army because the folks we were working with just couldn't understand that there was an actual problem.


In OIF USMC AV-8B's were 95% equipped with link 16 and over 50% had FLIR built in. The F-16s won't approach with FLIR pods and data links until this summer by your account.

The A-10s, which were saved from the USAF Brass yet again by events, did not even get a contract awarded to install a pod mounted FLIR until Feb 12 2004.

See this link:

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control - Orlando

5600 Sand Lake Road
Orlando, FL 32819-8907


Lockheed Martin:
Jennifer Allen
(407) 356-5351


ORLANDO, FL, February 12, 2004 – Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] was awarded a contract to integrate the Sniper XR targeting pod on the A-10 aircraft in support of the A-10 Precision Engagement (PE) Program. The contract award follows a successful demonstration of the Sniper system during the A/OA-10 Precision Engagement upgrade program’s critical design review.

As part of the integration effort, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control will develop the Pilot Vehicle Interface (PVI), pod Operational Flight Program (OFP) software, and pod interface adapter hardware for the A-10. The pod will be integrated as part of the PE Program at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego in New York, the prime contractor for the A-10 weapon system.


Ivan, exactly how much of the F16's flight control system bandwidth are you using to port your "great new software?"

Given the number of F16 crashes due to chaffing and software glitches in its fly-by-wire flight control system, it has struck me as this side of insane that the Block 50 Lawn Darts with Harm Targeting Systems are doing just that.

About 4 years ago I had a marvelous talk about IR sensors for UAVs with the Israeli who designs them for the IDF. Trent's point about 'cheaper by the dozen' certainly was this man's point. The IDF uses UAVs as disposible data sources and credits them back in 1982 for enabling the 80-1 ratio of fighter losses over the Bekka Valley. The UAVs were little better than model airplanes with digital cameras on them, but their product was linked directly to the IDF long range arty assets which were used to take out the Syrian ADA systems.

The IDF's fighters were used solely at the point of decision, not as feudal knights trying to dominate the battlefield only to be picked off by the lucky peasant with a crossbow. The sources of target info came from much more disposible sources, which is something that the US is only starting to implement in real time this decade. During the same period in Europe, USAF targeting doctrine was notoriously inflexible and oriented towards preplanned targets and NOT CAS. Beyond comprehension was actually trying to implement a nuclear fire plan in anything under 2 days, which of course assumed that the applicable targets wouldn't be moving, due to the fact that the targeting data couldn't be updated in real time.

This change in tactical strategy for USAF is a Big Thing and is wholly due to the comms issues which Trent has outlined, which only today are being addressed. But don't think we are the first to accomplish this goal, as the IDF has led us for two decades using rudimentary COTS components.

A final joke, when the IDF want's to switch their voice comm nets to the secure mode, how did they do this before digital comms became available?

Switch to alternate freqs and speak Yiddish.

Fascinating post and comments.
Major point for the UK: we need to ramp defence spending, especially for communications, logistics and training. And please, please no repeat of the CLANSMAN problems. And as Trent says, we need to stop using military procurement programs as a tool of intra-EU diplomacy. It's too important for that.(Another of T.B.'s blind spots, and Foreign Office follies, I suspect.)

I know current plans involve the BOWMAN digital tactical system, and integration with a number of other systems, but I'm not sure how the capacity levels and ubiquity compare to US practice and plans. Anyone know?

Slighty off topic:
Brannen Sanders says "all of that changed when the British army came up against ... the Germans in 1914".
Not so sure. The BEF was simply too small to hold up German thrust in 1914, but IIRC (can't locate the book dammit) inflicted much higher relative casualties when in contact e.g. at Mons, and the battle the Germans called the 'Slaughter of the Children' (can't remember exact German name, 'kinder'-something)
BEF troops were all trained long-service professionals, with truly formidable accuracy and firing rates with bolt action magazine rifles. Man for man, they were more than a match for German conscripts. A point perhaps relevant today, comparing the professional American and British etc forces to conscript formations of many other countries.

This isn't an area of real competance for me, but as someone who works with the Army now, but who is married to a retired USAF space / national recon asset guy, I do have some observations.

Comparing USAF and the Army directly needs to be done carefully, I think. UAVs are a great example. The Army is quickly moving to man-portable UAVs and is deciding at what level to give control / ownership: brigade, company or lower.

This makes a lot of sense for an inexpensive, relatively low-capability item that will be used at the sub-tactical level. The Army famously has a "if a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing well enough" (and not 100%) mentality. That mentality is very appropriate for the ground - no Hamlets on the battlefield, take action, note the result and readjust as/if necessary. So yes, the Army is deploying a huge bunch of small UAVs quickly.

Much of the bandwidth of the Army on the battlefield is appropriately devoted to tactical and sub-tactical, short-lived data exchange. This will increase with Land Warrior and its successor technologies. It will REALLY increase with the operational development / deployment of projects like NetFires (self-organizing swarms of mini-missiles which can re-target each other in response to casualties).

USAF's UAV program comes from the other end of the spectrum, as Global Hawk (for instance) moves traditionally space-based reconnaissance capabilities down into the atmosphere on a more maneuverable platform and one that can hover over any chosen location.

Moreover, USAF pioneered other things that the Army is dragging its feet on - Effects Based Operations / Effects Assessment techniques, for instance. From what I've heard, it was the Army that Rumsfeld had to drag into adopting this for Iraq - and it is the basis for commanders on the ground to have an unprecedented ability to adjust tactics themselves to meet shared objectives.

I'll leave the discussion of the Navy to others, except to say that I recently shared an office for a while with an ex-navy nuclear power officer, and believe me - apart from the space / missile guys in USAF, you don't find a culture that is more oriented to finding and fixing risk ....

Of more interest than the USA-USN-USAF eternal bicker are the implications of this beyond combat for alliances and the permanence of this advantage.

For alliances, even if both the U. S. and an ally want to fight a common enemy, they may not be able to do so together on the battlefield. Will this reduce the incentive for smaller countries to ally with the U. S. even more? Will this reduce even more the interest of the U. S. in building extensive aliances?

On the other hand, this may be a transcient advantage. The number of software engineers being trained in both China and India is enormous. One implication of outsourcing is that fewer American students are studying computer science. The cost of electronics, computers and comunications will continue to fall for the forseeable future and most of it will be built in China. I can imagine that in a matter of decades we could find ourselves in a very competitive environment when it comes to information warfare capabilities.

Thus down the road, we could end up all alone against a formidable enemy.

Think you have bandwidth problems now? Wait'll brilliant dust starts casting 'trons.

Remember that sound the Death Star made when it fired? Get used to it, with light show and secondaries, no extra charge.

Already Brigade's griping because they don't have what Division has, and when they get it, Battalion'll be making the same noises, times three. By then Division will have all new sparkley toys and it'll start from the top down, anew.

Something to look into.

Sun was doing a deal codenamed 'Genesys' a few years back. I think they shelved it when the bottom fell out of the net.

Pooled resources spanning boxes, LANs, even WANs. Why let that payroll box burning CPU cycles between pay periods when it could be sharing the load with battle management? Dedication is out, fluid is in. Better get those DB's tuned too. Where you have live TB's now, you'll have multi-Petabyte array's when all the new sensors come online, and the drive heads are still the bottleneck.


Not much longer. Already cloverleafs are hosting cell sites, and it can't be too long before they get the bright idea to lay fiber runs in the median.

Finally, I don't think the human interfaces are where they need to be yet, not by a long shot. What good is realtime imagery when it takes days to find and download?

John F.- Mons 1914 has everything to do with what we are talking about. The initial battle was as you point out, but that was due solely to the laggard forward deployment of the German artillery and its ammunition supplies. Once the arty got into place the reason to try futile infantry charges ended and the weakly entrenched BEF found its unsupported position untenable. You can reread the results of the ensuing retreat under coordinated artillery fire if you want the details, but the BEF essentially was a nearly spent force after Mons, whereas the German I and II Corps restarted the advance.

What is more controversial, historically, is precisely why the Germans "retreated" or "reconsolidated" in 1914 after threatening Paris. The conventional Allied wisdom cites Parisian taxies ferrying Gallieni's reserves to the flank of the German advance. If that was so, where were the casualties? Another more plausible explanation was to reconsolidate on ground which over the next years could be used advantageously by a superior artillery component in the German Army.

Again, what made this artillery component superior was twofold:
a. superior recoil mechanisms allowing for accurate high angle fire (not relevant to this thread)
b. extensive use of telephony to coordinate maneuver and arty units on a comprehensive scale.

The decisive impact on how the British Army's lack of b. affected operations was that even at the Battle of the Somme, the artillery couldn't "cut the wire" accurately as observers couldn't adjust battery fires due to commo deficiencies. Instead, arty preps were simply vast deluges of shrapnel over the Flanders countryside.

I've read the thread and the comments with great interest. Professional Interest. Australia is doing some work on exactly this problem - how to communicate not just within the ADF (Australian Defence Force) but also with the USAF, USMC, USN, and USA - some of which don't talk to each other very well.
Also how to integrate with SE Asian forces, which are often way behind NATO.
Sometimes you have to make compromises - our internal ECCM measures may not be compatible with (inferior) US ones, but we just have to live with that. Similarly, EuroTiger may have a superior geographic grid to WGS-84/GPS, but we must use the Lowest Common Denominator to talk.
Sorry to speak in generalities, classification gets in the way. But please continue the thread, I'm all ears.

We Canadians have many of the same issues, Alan. And if you're doing official stuff in this area for Australia, you should drop some of these commenters a line.

If you run into any problems with email addresses, just tell me who and I'll help backchannel.

Joe K : Current interest is centred on TIED - JP2089.
If Canada is doing something along the same lines, maybe some shock horror co-operation might be in order?

Trent, many thanks. I think that after Afghanistan, Iraq and the experience of the Collins subs, the M1A1 was the only choice Australia was going to make--especially if a good deal could be made. Gen Peter Leahy has made a strong case for replacing the aging Leopards with heavy armour, and it's one that resonates with earlier comments re the exposure of the Canadians in their 'jeeps'. Armour has a quality all of its own--networked armour more so. Agree with your comments re training in North Australia -- just don't call it basing (gets the local hacks excited). There is an argument doing the rounds that we can backload a networking capability. I personally don't agree with this--it might fascinate some of the engineers I know, but frankly it's not feasible resource-wise or even strategically. And that means we need to think through carefully the consequences for capability.

Alan Brain, I suspect ADF interop with SEAsian forces a much lower priority than with US forces -- and one does tend to complicate the other. We don't have the EU complication that the Brits have; the last thing we want to do is to get caught up in similar issues with, as you say, much less capable militaries in the Asian region. Further, we don't want, and can't afford orphan systems, as per Collins, with its additional complications of trying to 'fix' big orphan platforms with senstive Allied technology. That leaves US tie-ins, including with COTS -- and possibly more limited one-to-one cooperation with Canada than you may hope for, notwithstanding the Anglosphere (sorry, Joe).

I also appreciate the comment re bandwidth-hungry application and uses. Our CDF gave a speech last year on NCW, clearly entranced by the need for bandwidth for the purposes of data-dumping and power-points, to the point that I was wondering where the space-time leverage had got to -- consumed by processing junk email, perhaps? (okay, perhaps he wasn't quite so glib).

A general comment. While the focus has been on the technology, many of the comments show that the 'social' and organizational aspects are as wicked. There's a general assumption by engineers (and other professionals) that the tech fixes would be fine, if only the people got out of the way. But there are deep social, organizational and even cultural differences even between Anglosphere countries--not to mention inertia in the various branches of the military and defence departments. (And cultural assumptions are deeply embedded into technology -- take the instance of date formats, for example.) Thus a lot of the interop issues have focussed on the tech side, much less on the socio and organizational side. This side is more sensitive politically, too, for allied countries. Issues of command and control aside, nations like to have distinctive militaries, for very good reasons, not least being the fact that in democracies in particular, the armed forces should reflect their own society's values. If we want to 'plug and play' in the wider Allied (and Allied with a definate capital A) network, then those are issues that have to be thought through, rather than occurring by default, or technological stealth.


It looks like my vision of squad level Micro-UAVs may never see the light of day. This is From Jim Dunnigan's


March 25, 2004: After three years of development, the "recon round" is now under consideration by the army and marines for adoption as a reconnaissance tool. The navy put up $1.7 million for researchers at Georgia Tech to develop an 81mm mortar round that could carry a video camera and take pictures as the shell floated to the ground via a parachute, and transmit those pictures to a nearby soldiers laptop computer. The recon round takes over a hundred pictures as it floats to ground from about 2,000 feet, and transmits them to the nearby American troops at the rate of one megabyte of data a second. The recon round used off-the-shelf components, which will keep its price down to about $700 a round if it is produced in large quantities (at least a few thousand.) The recon round is in competition with smaller UAVs as a front line reconnaissance tool. Some of these unmanned aircraft weigh less than five pounds. But the lightweight UAVs have a lot of problems with wind, and become impossible to control in anything beyond a light breeze. This is not a problem with the recon round. The developers of the recon round say they could use the same technology in a 40mm grenade, and every infantry squad has at least one soldier equipped with a 40mm grenade launcher. The developers, and army officers who supported the project, feel the recon round could be useful right now in Iraq, providing instant information on what's going on over the hill, or inside the next village (including who is on the roofs.) Many hummers are equipped to have a laptop computer operating next to the driver, as there are already several military communications systems that need a laptop to display information all the time. The recon round just becomes another use for the laptop. For light infantry, the 40mm recon round could be used with a PDA equipped with the wireless gear needed to capture the photos. Thus a PDA and a few 40mm grenades does the same job as a lightweight UAV, and doesn't have to worry about the wind.

Just picked up on something in a comment of yours that I didn't really grasp at the time:
"(the UK) went with a French firm for its next carrier for EU related political reasons".
Are you sure about this? Because if you are, I need to write to my Member of Parliament.

Last I heard, the CVF ship design contracts had been awarded to Thales UK - that's the British subsidiary of the French company - based solely on price.

BUT the prime contractor will be BAE Systems, with costruction by UK shipbuilders Babcock BES, BAE Systems Govan, Swan Hunter and Vosper Thorneycroft. And BAE will handle the systems side.
(Report here)
I suspect BAE may have won over Thales in efforts of each to be sole contractor partly because there are some technologies are wanted that Thales is not allowed access to.
It's not all BAE because of price, and MoD politics; rows with BAE over past contracts.
I am fairly sure that had euro-politics played a part in this, the Conservative Party would have protested strongly. But they and I might have missed something here.

Tom Roberts:
Interesting. Have you any reading on this you'd recommend?
I'd thought the German Army consolidated north primarily because they knew Schliefen plan was a dead duck, because it was overambitious for logistic support over Belgian/N.E.French roads, especially once engaged along the whole front. Also that the 'Old Army' BEF, though unable to hold, was not wrecked as a fighting force until First Ypres.
But I could be wrong; I usually am :)

Hm. It may be that Recon Rounds and micro-UAVs both continue to exist, though, for different theatres. I'd imagine that in such situations as cities with lots of tall buildings or twisting and turning streets, or perhaps in certain forest environments, the micro-UAV would rule, while in more open environments (places with no tall buildings, or where the ability to 'tail' a target isn't required) the Recon Round would rule.

Disclaimer: I speak as someone who, while interested in this stuff, hasn't done much in-depth research and is strictly civilian.

John F-

I'd strongly recommend

The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I
John Mosier

You can read its reviews at

After reading the book, as well as while finding "Bruchmueller" in particular, and the WWI section in general, your concepts of what happened in WW I might change radically. Moreover, you might come to understand why the Germans thought they had never lost the First War which fed the Nazi paranoia.

In comparing Mosier to this web article, keep in mind that Mosier's research is for the entire war, not just the Stosstruppen implementation. Mosier points out that the arty tactics were general prior to Riga and Caporetto.

The web article is the best current source for info which I read in the Ft Sill library which covered an unpublished debriefing of Col Bruckmueller in 1919, which really opened my eyes up about the history of arty tactics.

"In aerial combat, 'situational awareness' is a great combat multiplier until you have to close the range to engage."

Call me a nitpicker, but I'm going to call that utterly ridiculous until I hear a real fighter pilot say it. The term wasn't in vogue during, say, WW II, but anyone familiar with the concept can analyze those old-timey in-yer-face gunfights in terms of "situational awareness" with reference to things like the common estimate that 80% of all the air-to-air kills in history were scored against victims who never saw their attackers.

No matter its "combat multiplier" aspects, situational awareness is a survival requisite at all ranges, against all attackers. The concrete referent of the concept is the age-old admonition to keep one's head moving around, which has been conceptually extended with BVR technologies. It's the same principle, though.

SA does not lose value in the knife-fight. If anything, it gains a premium in order to avoid losing to the guy outside the furball, looking in for the opportunity. (At that point, though, the trade-off runs to workload saturation.) History is rife with shootdowns or near shootdowns of the guy intent on the enemy in his gun sights.

"Organizations that are highly invested in expensive and long life pieces of capital equipment tend to be highly conservative if not reactionary about using it. They won’t risk it if they don’t have too and they are highly resistant to change that might devalue it."

When I read this I thought that you might replace "equipment" with "ideas" and you would have a perfect picture of the CIA vis a vis al Qaeda.

Pete- You are right. Half of the black budget goes to passive sensor assets (satellites, principally) which prior to 9/11 were not queued on terrorism in any substantive way. To a large extent, they still cannot be used against AQ after they got bounced out of Afghanistan, although they are slightly useful in Pakistan today. But then simple UAVs would do that job better.

Good discussion, but disagree that the Kandahar bombing is a relevant case to the topic. You are always going to have some friendlies "off the trace," no matter how digitized that trace is. So bombing in the absence of positive confirmation of hostility will always risk fratricide. So you will always need supplemental orders like the USAF's SPINS to outline when that risk is justified. Or in other words, you will always have a human judgment factor, so an error in judgment will still be possible, no matter how digitized things are.

Also, the problem with the F-16 pilots in that case wasn't so much that they didn't know where the Canadians were in relation to them; the flight lead had clearly had lost awareness as to where they were in relation to the ground in general (specifically, not noticing they were flying over Kandahar). Better information on the system about where the Blue guys are will not help someone who's really not sure where he is HIMSELF at the point of a weapons release.

It looks like my Micro-UAV option has a shoot after all:

IDF unveils new miniature surveillance planes

The Israel Defense Forces is equipping its forces with a new range of spy drones small enough to fit in a soldier's backpack, including one that weighs less than a can of soda, the army said Thursday

The Israel Air Force has frequently used larger unmanned spy planes to track and target Palestinian militants during airstrikes. The new mini-drones would also give army forces in the field on-the-spot access to aerial intelligence.

The small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) and the futuristic looking micro UAV's were displayed Thursday at a conference held by the army's Ground Force Command on low intensity conflicts.

The new baby drones have already been supplied to some ground units. The portable planes give the units almost immediate access to aerial photographs "when the need arises," a military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We use them to take aerial photographs of the (Palestinian) territories," he said.

On display Thursday were the BIRDY and the Spy There mini-drone,s produced by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI).

BIRDY - with a weight of 1.3 kilograms (3 pounds) - can be carried and launched by a single soldier, who guides the drone by clicking on coordinates on a laptop computer. It has a five-kilometer (three-mile) range, IAI said.

The slightly larger Spy There is operated by a two man crew and has twice the range, IAI said. Both UAV's can fly for an hour while transmitting pictures back to their operators.

IAI also displayed two prototype micro-drones, the Mosquito and the Mosquito 1.5. These tiny spy gadgets weigh a mere 250 grams (9 ounces) and 500 grams (18 ounces) each.

The Mosquito, equipped with a miniature video camera, has already completed several successful 40-minute trial flights, IAI said.

The army currently rents the drones from IAI but has issued a contact offer to supply them with the small UAV's, the official said.

I'd bet at this point that the US Army will go with both micro-UAVs and recce ammo because it can afford too and neither is perfect for every mission.

John F.,

The involvement of any French owned defense contractor in the UK's carrier acquisition will make it extraordinarily difficult to get the US Navy to share its latest digital communication systems for integration into your new carriers.

I am thinking here of the combined engagement capability (CEC) data link which will be absolutely necessary for the new U.K. carriers to integrate seemlessly into American CVBG.

>SA does not lose value in the knife-fight. If
>anything, it gains a premium in order to avoid
>losing to the guy outside the furball, looking
>in for the opportunity. (At that point, though,
>the trade-off runs to workload saturation.)
>History is rife with shootdowns or near
>shootdowns of the guy intent on the enemy in his
>gun sights.


Any turning close dogfight will leave its participants at a "situational awareness disadvantage" compared to those not in one.

That is the nature of close combat whether terrestrial or aerial.

This vulnerability is multiplied in aerial combat compared to WW2 due to the fact planes are much bigger and faster. The USAF needs a big plane like an F-15 for the persistence required for the offensive air superiority mission. The problem is once an F-15 gets in a turning dog fight is that its huge wing starts flashing its top and bottom aspect horizontally to the eyes of enemy figher pilots.

This puts a strict time limit on any dogfight because after three to five minutes any plane within 10 miles can converge on the fight.

This is why American fighter pilots are taught to disengage from any long, turning dog fights. Being at a low energy state (A.K.A slow) with limited S.A. is asking to die.

A quick comment on the British Army pre-WWI. Their advantage wasn't merely technical. It was also tactical, and when the commanders forgot the reasons for their advantage and wound up slaughtered. Compare, for example, the battles of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift. The chapter of Rorke's Drift in Hanson's Carnage and Culture is really insightful on this issue.

The 21st Century is about the Rifleman. Witness OIF and OEF. As Trent noted in the opening post, the Land Warrior system is a sign to come. I invite all to check out a piece of equipment that aims to bring true SA to the infantryman - RBS Complex. The invention may help get a Soldierborne system off the ground. It's at

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