Category Archives: Future War

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Maritime Cryptology at the Crossroads

After more than a decade of land war and a desire to rebalance to Asia, America’s Navy finds itself smaller, and in many ways weaker in certain respects. One area that should be of great concern is the current practice and future of maritime cryptology.

Cryptology at sea was proven decisive during World War II, beginning with the battle at Midway and the breaking of the Japanese naval code “JN25.”[i] Equally important was the allied program that cracked the German Enigma machines, “Ultra,” especially those used by the German Navy. Winston Churchill famously remarked to King George VI that, “It was thanks to Ultra that we won the war.”[ii]

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(A selection of seven Enigma machines and paraphernalia exhibited at the USA’s National Cryptologic Museum. From left to right, the models are: 1) Commercial Enigma; 2) Enigma T; 3) Enigma G; 4) Unidentified; 5) Luftwaffe (Air Force) Enigma; 6) Heer (Army) Enigma; 7) Kriegsmarine (Naval) Enigma—M4.)[iii]
Throughout the ensuring Cold War until the fall of the Berlin Wall, naval cryptology played a vital role in meeting national and tactical intelligence requirements. America gained deep insight and understanding of Soviet and Warsaw Pact allied naval operations and was able to obtain priceless strategic intelligence through collection missions operated by the U.S. Navy. The end of the Cold War, ensuing strategic drift and drawdown was shattered by the terrorist attack of 9/11, yet even in the midst of a worldwide “Global War on Terror,” the pressure remained to cut the naval force. Today, the Navy is at its smallest point since World War I. For the Navy to conduct its maritime cryptology mission, it must have presence in the littorals, especially in key strategic areas of the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean and elsewhere. A smaller Navy with fewer platforms means the Navy is not always where it needs to be and when it needs to be there.

The hope was that through force shaping, automation and remote operations, maritime cryptology could continue to thrive in an ever more complex electromagnetic (EM) environment. Adversarial communications have become far more challenging to detect, exploit and prosecute. The Radio Frequency (RF) environment of today is incredibly complex, with tactical, strategic and data communication links operating in all areas of the spectrum and often at frequencies with a very low probability to intercept. Modern encryption techniques have evolved from mechanical electronics to the use of quantum mechanics.[iv]

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The effects of force shaping, automation and remote operations are beginning to take their toll on the tradecraft of maritime cryptology. Today’s junior Sailors and officers have had their training time cut in order to meet growing operational demands on a shrinking Navy. To be successful in the art of cryptology – and it is a practiced art – one must have a deep understanding of the fundamentals of radio signal transmission as well as more than a passing familiarity with the collection equipment. A junior cryptologic technician and junior officer should be able to draw a basic transmitter-receiver diagram and trace the origin of a signal from its original state, such as voice or data, through the transmitter, across a medium and into the collection gear and the operator’s ears. Foundational knowledge required that the basic operator have a working knowledge of the equipment and be able to perform diagnostic and troubleshooting tasks in the event of a malfunction. Finally, operators and junior officers must understand the process of signal intelligence reporting to the tactical unit at sea (indications and warning intelligence) as well as to the national signal intelligence system.

spectrum

At the same time, emerging cyberspace communication networks place entirely new pressures on maritime cryptology. Modern communication, command, control and information sharing are a “network of networks,” an “Internet of things” that require new skill sets and new acquisition and exploitation technologies. Yet the complexity of data systems and volume of data being passed is growing exponentially, outpacing our acquisition and procurement capability. The Navy has tried to mitigate this by relying on commercial off-the-shelf technology (COTS) but this entails its own set of problems. COTS technology must be compatible with legacy systems – some more than twenty years old and built on architecture and code from the late 1980s and early 1990s – and it relies on bandwidth levels that are not always available and reliable. We often find out the hard way that equipment which works well in the sterile lab environment is not up to the task of performing reliably at sea under arduous conditions.

Maritime cryptology is at a cross roads. We must return to the fundamentals of signal intelligence at the same time we are trying to realize the potential of cyberspace operations at sea. This will require a renewed commitment to recruitment and training, and for many middle grade and senior enlisted cryptologic technicians and officers, it means new formal training. Right now, senior enlisted and officers are being asked to take leadership roles in an emerging cyberspace operations field for which they are receiving inadequate or no formal training. We must reconsider recruitment of new junior Sailors and officers who have the background skills, education and knowledge and provide them a career path that emphasizes cryptologic expertise across the spectrum, from “traditional” signals intelligence to modern wireless exploitation. This career path must be grounded in recognizing that maritime cryptology is more art than science, and to become proficient and experienced, one must practice.

The author would like to thank CDR Kevin Ernest who kindly provided his thoughts on the challenges of modern maritime cryptology.

LT Robert “Jake” Bebber is an information warfare officer assigned to the staff of U.S. Cyber Command. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent those of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy or U.S. Cyber Command. He welcomes your comments at jbebber@gmail.com.

[i] http://www.navy.mil/midway/how.html

[ii] http://www.history.co.uk/study-topics/history-of-ww2/code-breaking

[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enigma_machine#cite_note-9

[iv] http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/11/20/quantum-cryptography-at-the-end-of-your-road/

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China’s Conventional Strikes against the U.S. Homeland

Bruce Sugden brings us this dour scenario, representing the last of our “Sacking of Rome” series.    

With its precision-strike complex, the United States has conducted conventional strikes on enemy homelands without fear of an in-kind response. Foreign military developments, however, might soon enable enemy long-range conventional strikes against the U.S. homeland. China’s January 2014 test of a hypersonic vehicle, which was boosted by an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), suggests that it has designs on deploying a long-range conventional strike capability akin to the U.S. prompt global strike development effort.[1] If China pushes forward with deployment of a robust long-range conventional strike capability, within 20 years Americans could expect to see the U.S. homeland come under kinetic attack as a result of U.S. intervention in a conflict in the western Pacific region. With conventional power projection capabilities of its own and a secure second-strike nuclear force, China might replace the United States as the preponderant power in East Asia.

The implication of Chinese long-range strike is that U.S. military assets and supporting infrastructure in the deep rear, an area that is for the most part undefended, will be vulnerable to enemy conventional strikes—a vulnerability that U.S. forces have not had to deal with since the Second World War. Furthermore, China would be tempted to leverage its long-range strike capabilities against vital non-military assets, such as power generation facilities and network junctions, major port facilities, and factories that would produce munitions and parts to sustain a protracted U.S. military campaign. The American people and the U.S. government will have to prepare themselves for a type of warfare that they have never experienced before.

Emerging Character of the Precision-Strike Regime

            What we have become familiar with in the conduct of conventional precision-strike warfare since 1991 has been the U.S. use of force in major combat operations. The U.S. precision-strike complex is a battle network, or system, of intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors designed to detect and track enemy forces and facilities, weapons systems to deliver munitions over extended range (e.g., bombers from the U.S. homeland) with high accuracy, and connectivity to command, control, communications, and computers (C4) organized to compress the time span between detection of a target and engagement of that target.[2] Since the 1990s weapons delivery accuracies have been enhanced by linking the guidance systems with a space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) system.

            China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has studied the employment of the U.S. precision-strike complex and has been building its own for years. Since the 1990s, China has been increasing the number of deployed short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, many of which U.S. observers tend to believe are armed with conventional warheads.[3] China has also been improving the accuracies of its missiles by linking many of them to its space-based PNT system, Beidou. In addition, the PLA has been deploying several types of land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile systems.[4] These weapons systems are part of a layered defense approach that the PLA has adopted to keep foreign military forces, mainly U.S. forces, outside of China’s sphere of interest.

There are indications that China is expanding its precision-strike complex to reach targets further away from Chinese territory and waters. First, as the most recent DOD report on Chinese military power notes, China is developing an intermediate-range (roughly 3,000-5,000 kilometers) ballistic missile that could reach targets in the Second Island Chain, such as U.S. military facilities on Guam, and might also be capable of striking mobile targets at sea, such as U.S. aircraft carriers.[5] Second, the PLA Air Force has developed the H-6K bomber, which might have a combat radius of up to 3,500 kilometers and be able to carry up to six land-attack cruise missiles.[6] Third, as mentioned above, China has tested a hypersonic vehicle using an ICBM.

China’s Interest in Hypersonic Vehicles

            In the previous decade, one American observer of the Chinese military noted that the Chinese defense industry was showing interest in developing long-range precision strike capabilities, including intercontinental-range hypersonic cruise missiles.[7] Drawing from Chinese open-source literature, Lora Saalman believes that “China is developing such systems not simply to bolster its regional defense capabilities at home, but also to erode advantages of potential adversaries abroad, whether ballistic missile defense or other systems.”[8] Moreover, compared with the Chinese literature on kinetic intercept technologies, with “high-precision and high-speed weaponry, the Chinese vision is becoming much clearer, much faster. Beyond speed of acquisition, the fact that nearly one-half of the Chinese studies reviewed cover long-range systems and research low-earth orbit, near space, ballistic trajectories, and reentry vehicles suggests that China’s hypersonic, high-precision, boost-glide systems will also be increasingly long in range.”[9]

            China’s attraction to hypersonic technologies seems to be related to U.S. missile defenses.[10] As many U.S. experts have believed since the 1960s, when the United States first conducted research and development on hypersonic vehicles, such delivery systems provide the speed and maneuverability to circumvent missile defenses.[11] These characteristics enable hypersonic vehicles to complicate missile tracking and engagement radar systems’ attempts to obtain a firing solution for interceptors.

How a Future U.S.-China Conflict Might Unfold

            Although we cannot be certain about how a future military conflict between the United States and China might develop, the ongoing debate over the U.S. Air-Sea Battle concept suggests that alternative approaches to employing U.S. military force against China could persuade the Chinese leadership to order conventional strikes against targets in the U.S. homeland. On the one hand, in response to PLA aggression in the East or South China Seas, an aggressive forward U.S. military posture would include conventional strikes against targets on the Chinese mainland, such as air defense systems, airfields and missile operating locations from which PLA attacks originated, C4 and sensor nodes linked to PLA precision-strike systems, and PLA Navy (PLAN) facilities and ships.[12] These strikes would threaten to weaken PLA military capabilities and raise the ire of the Chinese public and leadership. Even assuming that China opened hostilities with conventional missile strikes against U.S. forces at sea and on U.S. and allied territories (Guam and Japan, respectively) to forestall operations against the PLA, the Chinese public and the PLA might pressure the leadership to respond with similar strikes against the U.S. homeland.

            A less aggressive U.S. military posture, on the other hand, such as implementation of a distant blockade, would focus military resources on choking off China’s importation of energy supplies and denying PLA forces access to the air and seas within the First Island Chain.[13] While this approach might play to the asymmetric advantages of the U.S. military over the PLA, the threat of being cut off from its seaborne energy supplies over an extended period of time might convince Beijing that it needed to reach out and touch the United States in ways that might quickly persuade it to end the blockade.

Targets of Chinese Long-Range Conventional Strikes

            Although many recent PLA doctrinal writings point to the use of conventional ballistic missiles in missions to support combat operations by PLA ground, air, naval, and information operations units, a stand-alone missile campaign could be designed to conduct selective strikes against critical targets.[14] Ron Christman believes that the “goals of such a warning strike would be to display China’s military strength and determination to prevent an ongoing war from escalating, to protect Chinese targets, to limit damage from an adversary’s attack, or to coerce the enemy into yielding to Chinese interests.”[15]

            The PLA’s ideal targets might include low density/high demand military assets, major power generation sites, key economic and political centers, and war-supporting industry.[16] More specifically, with U.S. forces conducting strikes against PLA assets on mainland China, sinking PLAN ships at sea, and blocking energy shipments to China, PLA military planners might be tempted to strike particular fixed targets to weaken U.S. power projection and political will: Whiteman Air Force Base, home of the B-2A bombers; naval facilities and pierside aircraft carriers at San Diego and Kitsap; facilities and pierside submarines at Bangor; space launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral; Lockheed Martin’s joint air-to-surface stand-off missile (JASSM) factory in Troy, Alabama; Travis Air Force Base, where many transport aircraft are based; and major oil refineries in Texas to squeeze the U.S. economy.

Effects of Conventional Strikes against the U.S. Homeland

            It is plausible that Chinese conventional precision strikes against targets in the U.S. homeland would set in train several operational and strategic effects. First, scarce military resources could be damaged and rendered inoperable for significant periods of time, or destroyed. Whether at Whiteman Air Force Base or the west coast naval bases, such losses would impair the conduct of U.S. operations against China. Furthermore, damaged or destroyed munitions factories, logistics nodes, and space launch facilities would undermine the ability of the U.S. military to conduct a protracted war by replenishing forward-deployed forces and replacing lost equipment. The U.S. military might have to re-deploy significant numbers of forces from other regions, such as Europe and the Persian Gulf.

Second, the American people, if they believed that fighting in East Asia was not worth the cost of attacks against the homeland, might turn against the war effort and the politicians that supported it. Even if a majority of Americans were to remain steadfast in support of the war, however, public opinion would not protect critical assets from being struck by Chinese conventional precision strikes.

Third, the operational effects might sow doubt in the minds of U.S. allies about the survivability and effectiveness of the U.S. power projection chain, while American protests in the streets against the U.S. government would undermine allies’ confidence in the resolve of the United States. If the allies judged that the United States lacked the capability or the will to wage war across the Pacific Ocean against China, then they might accommodate China and cut military ties with the United States. The loss of these military alliances, moreover, could result in the disintegration of the international order that the United States has built and sustained with military might for decades.[17]

Fourth, facing damage from strikes against the homeland and perhaps lacking the conventional military means to defend its allies and achieve its war aims, the United States might have to choose between defeat in East Asia or escalation to the use of nuclear weapons to fulfill its security guarantees. U.S. nuclear strikes, of course, might elicit a Chinese nuclear response.

Measures to Mitigate the Effects of Conventional Strikes

            Three approaches come to mind that might mitigate the effects of conventional strikes and, perhaps, dissuade China from expending weapons against the U.S. homeland. The development of less costly but more advanced missile defense technologies that could be deployed in large quantities could protect critical assets. The technologies might remain beyond our grasp, however. Directed energy weapons, for example, would still need to find and track the incoming target for an extended period of time, and then maintain the laser beam on one point on the target to burn through it.[18]

            If missile guidance systems remained tied to space-based PNT in the 2030s, then ground-based jammers might be able to divert incoming hypersonic vehicles off course. Without accurate weapons delivery, the conventional warheads would be less effective against even soft targets. Future onboard navigation systems, however, might enable precise weapons deliveries that would be unaffected by jamming.[19]

            The final and possibly most effective approach takes a page from China’s playbook: disperse and bury key assets and provide hardened, overhead protection for parked aircraft and pierside ships.[20] Because burying some facilities would be cost prohibitive, another protective measure might be to construct hardened shelters (including top covers) around surface installations like industrial infrastructure and munitions factories (though this measure might be cost prohibitive as well).

            This preliminary discussion suggests that cost-effective remedies are infeasible over the next few years, yet the threat of distant conventional military operations extending to the U.S. homeland will likely continue to grow. Therefore, more comprehensive analysis of active and passive defenses as well as other forms of damage limitation is needed to enable senior leaders to make prudent investment decisions on defense and homeland security preparedness against the backdrop of a potential conflict between the United States and China.

Bruce Sugden is a defense analyst at Scitor Corporation in Arlington, Virginia. His opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer or clients. He thanks Matthew Hallex for valuable comments on earlier drafts of this essay.

 

[1] On China’s January 2014 test of a hypersonic vehicle, see Benjamin Shreer, “The Strategic Implications of China’s Hypersonic Missile Test,” The Strategist, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog, January 28, 2014; on the U.S. prompt global strike initiative, see Bruce M. Sugden, “Speed Kills: Analyzing the Deployment of Conventional Ballistic Missiles,” International Security, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Summer 2009), pp. 113-146.

[2] For a broad overview of the evolving precision-strike regime, see Thomas G. Mahnken, “Weapons: The Growth and Spread of the Precision-Strike Regime,” Daedalus, 140, No. 3 (Summer 2011), pp. 45-57.

[3] Ron Christman, “Conventional Missions for China’s Second Artillery Corps: Doctrine, Training, and Escalation Control Issues,” in Andrew S. Erickson and Lyle J. Goldstein, eds., Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2011), pp. 307-327.

[4] Dennis Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, and Jingdong Yuan, “China’s Cruise Missiles: Flying Fast Under the Public’s Radar,” The National Interest web page, May 12, 2014.

[5] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 2014), p. 40.

[6] Ibid., p. 9; and Zachary Keck, “Can China’s New Strategic Bomber Reach Hawaii?” The Diplomat, August 13, 2013.

[7] Mark Stokes, China’s Evolving Conventional Strategic Strike Capability: The Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Challenge to U.S. Maritime Operations in the Western Pacific and Beyond (Arlington, Va.: Project 2049 Institute, September 14, 2009), pp. 33-34.

[8] Lora Saalman, “Prompt Global Strike: China and the Spear,” Independent Faculty Research (Honolulu, Hi.: Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, April 2014), p. 12.

[9] Ibid., p. 14.

[10] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, p. 30.

[11] William Yengst, Lightning Bolts: First Maneuvering Reentry Vehicles (Mustang, Okla.: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, 2010), pp. 111-125.

[12] Jonathan Greenert and Mark Welsh, “Breaking the Kill Chain,” Foreign Policy, 16 May 2013; and Department of Defense, Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) Version 1.0, January 17, 2012, p. 16.

[13] T.X. Hammes, “Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy,” Infinity Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Spring 2012), pp. 10-14.

[14] Christman, “Conventional Missions for China’s Second Artillery Corps,” pp. 318-319.

[15] Ibid., p. 319.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, “Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 92, No. 1 (Jan-Feb 2013), p. 130.

[18] Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “The Limits Of Lasers: Missile Defense At Speed Of Light,” Breaking Defense, May 30, 2014.

[19] Sam Jones, “MoD’s ‘Quantum Compass’ Offers Potential to Replace GPS,” Financial Times, May 14, 2014.

[20] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, p. 29.

Z0043144

Print, Plug, and Play Robotics

William Selby is a Marine Officer who previously completed studies at the US Naval Academy and MIT researching robotics. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.

In September 1999, NASA lost a $125 million Mars orbiter because a contracted engineering team used English units of measurement while NASA’s team used the metric system for a key spacecraft operation.[i] In everyday life we are forced to choose between differing formats with the same function. What was once VHS vs. Betamax became Blu-ray vs. HD DVD. A lack of component standardization can reduce the operational effectiveness of a system as shown by the NASA orbiter. More commonly, the end user may waste resources purchasing multiple components that serve the same purpose, as was the case for DVD players in the late 2000s. These same issues are occurring in the development, procurement, and operation of our unmanned systems. Over the last decade, the US military has amassed large numbers of unmanned systems composed of highly proprietary hardware and software components. However, future unmanned systems designed with interoperable hardware and software and constructed utilizing advanced manufacturing techniques will operate more effectively and efficiently than today’s platforms.

 

Advances in manufacturing techniques as well as efforts to standardize software and hardware development are being pursued in order to diminish the negative effects caused by proprietary components in unmanned systems. These new technologies focus on speed and customization, creating a new and evolving research, development, and production methodology. Modular designs increase the rate of production and upgrades while new manufacturing techniques enable rapid prototyping and fabrication on the front lines. Replacement parts can be stored digitally, produced on demand, and swapped between unmanned systems, reducing the system’s logistical footprint. This organic production capability will enable units to tailor manufacturing needs to match operational requirements. The resulting unmanned systems will operate with interchangeable payloads making them quick to adapt to a dynamic environment while common software will enable easier control of the vehicles and wider data dissemination.

 

Complementary Technologies

 

The concept of interoperable hardware and software is more formally referred to as open architecture (OA). DOD Directive 5000.1, “The Defense Acquisition System,” outlines the DOD’s goal to acquire systems that can be easily swapped between unmanned systems similar to the way different types of USB devices can be swapped out on a personal computer. [ii] This ranges from swapping sensor payloads between platforms to entire unmanned systems between services and countries.[iii] Establishing standards and creating policy for OA are the responsibilities of multiple organizations. For unmanned aerial systems (UASs), the Interoperability Integrated Product Team (I-IPT) drafts UAS System Interoperability Profiles (USIPs). Similarly, the Robotic Systems Joint Program Office (RS JPO) creates Interoperability Profiles (IOPs) to identify and define interoperability standards for unmanned ground systems. Several of the IOP standards have been adopted for unmanned maritime systems by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.[iv]

 

Advances in manufacturing techniques complement and leverage the OA concept. In general, these techniques focus on converting a digital blueprint of a component into its physical form. The advantages of additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, have been recently publicized as well as potential military applications.[v],[vi],[vii],[viii] 3D printing creates the desired object in metal or plastic by converting liquid or powdered raw materials into a thin solid layer, forming a single layer at a time until the piece is completed. Less mature technologies include Printed Circuit Microelectromechanical Systems (PC-MEMS) uses 3D printing to create a flat object of rigid and flexible materials with special joints that are later activated turning the flat object into a three-dimensional object much like a children’s pop up book. [ix],[x] A final technique inspired by origami involves etching crease patterns into flat sheets of metal allowing them to be quickly folded and assembled into complex components. [xi]

 

Lifecycle Impacts

 

Production of future unmanned systems will be altered by these technologies beginning with the initial system requirements.[xii] Standard capability descriptors minimize the need for a single, large business to create and entire unmanned system. This will allow small businesses to focus research and development on a single capability that can be integrated into multiple platforms requiring that capability thereby increasing competition and innovation while reducing initial procurement costs.[xiii],[xiv] These unmanned systems will be easily upgradeable since payloads, sensors, and software are anticipated to evolve much faster than the base platforms.[xv] Open hardware and software ensures that upgrades can be designed knowing the component will function successfully across multiple platforms. Advanced manufacturing techniques will enhance the development of these upgrades by allowing companies to rapidly prototype system components for immediate testing and modification. Companies can digitally simulate their component to verify their design before mass producing a final version with more cost effective traditional manufacturing techniques. The final version can then be digitally distributed enabling the end user to quickly load the most recent version before production.

 

These technologies also have the potential to significantly impact supply chain management and maintenance procedures required for unmanned systems. Since components can be swapped across multiple platforms, it will no longer be necessary to maintain independent stocks of proprietary components unique to each platform. If a component can be created using organic advanced manufacturing techniques, only the digital blueprint and raw materials need to be available. While the strength of components created using additive manufacturing may not be enough for a permanent replacement, temporary spare parts can be created in a remote area without quick access to supplies or depot repair facilities while permanent replacements are delivered. This reduces the logistical footprint and maintenance costs by limiting the number of parts and raw materials required to be physically stored for each system.

 

Most importantly, these technologies will produce unmanned systems with the operational flexibility necessary for the unknown conflicts of the future. Components ranging from power systems to sensor payloads can be quickly and easily swapped between platforms of varying vendors, selected to fit the mission requirements and replaced as the situation develops.[xvi]Standardizing the sensor’s data transmission format and metadata will generate timely and accurate data that is more easily accessed and navigated by all interested parties.[xvii] An early example of these advancements, the Army’s One System Remote Video Terminal, allows the user to receive real time video footage from multiple platform types as well as control the sensor payload.[xviii],[xix] Digital libraries will close the gap between developer and user ensuring the most recent component design is manufactured or the latest software capability is downloaded and transferred across platforms.[xx] Standardized communications protocols between the platform and the controller will enable a single controller to operate different platforms, as recently demonstrated by the Office of Naval Research.[xxi] Further into the future, the operator may be able to control multiple unmanned systems across various domain simultaneously.[xxii],[xxiii] The ability to create heterogeneous “swarms” of unmanned systems with varying sensor suites in different physical operating environments will give the commander the flexibility to quickly configure and re-configure the unmanned system support throughout the duration of the operation.

 

New Technologies Create New Vulnerabilities

 

As these technologies are implemented, it is important to keep in mind their unique limitations and vulnerabilities. The stringent qualification process for military components, especially those with the potential to harm someone, is often described a key limitation to the implementation of modular components.[xxiv] However, without people on board, unmanned systems have lower safety standards making it easier to implement modular components in final designs. Compared to traditional methods, additive manufacturing is slow and produces parts limited in size. The materials have limited strength and can be 50 to 100 times more expensive than materials used in traditional methods.[xxv] While future development will decrease prices and increase material strength, traditional manufacturing techniques will remain more cost effective means of producing high volume items into the near future. Additionally, open designs and digital storage can create vulnerabilities that may be exploited if not properly secured. Militants in Iraq purportedly viewed live video feeds from UASs using cheap commercial software while Chinese cyberspies allegedly gained access to many of the US’s advanced weapons systems designs.[xxvi],[xxvii] Further, digital blueprints of parts have the potential to be modified by nefarious actors to create counterfeit or falsified parts.[xxviii] As the price of manufacturing equipment quickly drops, anyone can create the products when given access to the digital copies.[xxix]

 

Future technological innovations have the ability to modify traditional supply methodologies allowing the end user to manufacture parts on demand for use in a variety of unmanned systems. Proprietary hardware and software can be minimized, resulting in unmanned systems with smaller logistical footprints condensing vulnerable supply chains while reducing overall system cost. These benefits are tempered by the unique vulnerabilities that arise when standardizing and digitizing unmanned system designs. Despite these potential vulnerabilities, the ability to equip a force with increased capability while reducing costs and logistical requirements is indispensable. While the locations of the next conflicts will remain hard to predict, unmanned systems able to complete a variety of missions in remote areas with limited logistical support will become an operational necessity.

 

[i] Lloyd, Robin, Metric mishap caused loss of NASA orbiter, accessed athttp://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/9909/30/mars.metric.02/index.html?_s=PM:TECH, 30 September 1999.

[ii] U.S. Department of Defense, DOD Directive 5000.1 – The Defense Acquisition System, Washington D.C., 12 May 2003.

[iii] U.S. Department of Defense, Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2013-2038, Washington D.C., 2013.

[iv] U.S. Department of Defense, Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2013-2038, Washington D.C., 2013.

[v] Llenza, Michael, “Print when ready, Gridley,” Armed Forces Journal, May 2013.

[vi] Beckhusen, Robert, Need Ships? Try a 3-D Printed Navy, accessed at http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/04/3d-printed-navy/, 04 May 2013.

[vii] Cheney-Peters, Scott and Matthew Hipple, “Print Me a Cruiser!” USNI Proceedings, vol. 139, April 2013.

[viii] Beckhusen, Robert, In Tomorrow’s Wars, Battles Will Be Fought With a 3-D Printer, accessed at http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/05/military-3d-printers/, 17 May 2013.

[ix] Leung, Isaac, All abuzz over small pop-up machines with Printed Circuit MEMS, accessed at http://www.electronicsnews.com.au/news/all-abuzz-over-small-pop-up-machines-with-printed-, 22 February 2012.

[x] Wood, R.J., “The First Takeoff of a Biologically Inspired At-Scale Robotic Insect,” Robotics, IEEE Transactions on , vol.24, no.2, pp.341,347, April 2008.

[xi] Soltero, D.E.; Julian, B.J.; Onal, C.D.; Rus, D., “A lightweight modular 12-DOF print-and-fold hexapod,” Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2013 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on , vol., no., pp.1465,1471, 3-7 Nov. 2013.

[xii] U.S. Department of Defense, Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2011-2036, Washington D.C., 18 September 2012.

[xiii] Real-Time Innovations, Interoperable Open Architecture, accessed at

http://www.rti.com/industries/open-architecture.html, 2012.

[xiv] U.S. Department of Defense, Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2013-2038, Washington D.C., 2013.

[xv] U.S. Department of Defense, Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2013-2038, Washington D.C., 2013.

[xvi] Real-Time Innovations, Interoperable Open Architecture, accessed at

http://www.rti.com/industries/open-architecture.html, 2012.

[xvii] Crawford, Katherine, ONR Provides Blueprint for Controlling All Military Unmanned Systems, accessed at http://www.onr.navy.mil/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2013/ONR-Provides-Blueprint-for-Controlling-UAVs.aspx, 01 May 2013.

[xviii] Shelton, Marty, Manned Unmanned Systems Integration: Mission accomplished, accessed at http://www.army.mil/article/67838, 24 October 2011.

[xix] AAI Corporation, One System Remote Video Terminal, accessed at https://www.aaicorp.com/sites/default/files/datasheets/OSRVT_07-14-11u.pdf, 14 July 2011.

[xx] Lundquist, Edward, DoD’s Systems Control Services (UAS) developing standards, common control systems for UAVs, accessed at GSNMagazine.com, 06 January 2014.

[xxi] Crawford, Katherine, ONR Provides Blueprint for Controlling All Military Unmanned Systems, accessed at http://www.onr.navy.mil/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2013/ONR-Provides-Blueprint-for-Controlling-UAVs.aspx, 01 May 2013.

[xxii] DreamHammer goes Ballista for multi-vehicle control software, Unmanned Daily News, 15 August 2013.

[xxiii] SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego, Multi-robot Operator Control Unit (MOCU), accessed at http://www.public.navy.mil/spawar/Pacific/Robotics/Pages/MOCU.aspx.

[xxiv] Freedberg, Sydney J., Navy Warship Is Taking 3D Printer To Sea; Don’t Expect A Revolution, accessed at http://breakingdefense.com, April 2014.

[xxv] McKinsey Global Institute, Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, accessed at http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/disruptive_technologies, May 2013.

[xxvi] Gorman, Siobhan, Yochi Dreazen, and August Cole, Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones, The Wall Street Journal, 17 December 2009.

[xxvii] Nakashima, Ellen, Confidential report lists U.S. weapons system designs compromised by Chinese cyberspies, The Washington Post, 27 May 2013.

[xxviii] NexTech, Project Summary, NOETICGROUP.COM, April 2012.

[xxix] Llenza, Michael, “Print when ready, Grindley”, Armed Forces Journal, May 2013.

 

 

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Space Power: The Buttress of the Modern Military

Introduction

The United States possesses the world’s leading military. It has the most sophisticated air, land, sea, and, now, cyber forces and wields them in such a manner such that no single nation, barring the employment of total nuclear war, approaches its destructive capability.

America’s military power in these realms is identifiable. Fighter jets, bombs, tanks, submarines, ships, and more — these are all synonymous with the Nation’s warfighting portfolio. And in the modern world, even though we cannot see a cyber attack coming, we can certainly see its results — as with the alleged Stuxnet attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. To the public, these tools together are America’s “stick” on the global stage, for whatever purpose its leaders deem necessary.

Space is different. There are no bombs raining from orbit, and no crack special forces deploying from orbital platforms. The tide of battle is never turned by the sudden appearance of a satellite overhead. In fact, no one in the history of war has ever been killed by a weapon from space. There are actually no weapons in space nor will there be any in the foreseeable future.

Yet, America is the world’s space power. The Nation’s strength in the modern military era is dependent on its space capabilities.

Yet, America is the world’s space power. The Nation’s strength in the modern military era is dependent on its space capabilities. Space is fundamentally different than air, sea, land, and cyber power, and at the same time inextricably tied to them. It buttresses, binds, and enhances all of those visible modes of power. America cannot conduct war without space.

Simply, space is inherently a medium, as with air, land, sea, and cyber, and space power is the ability to use or deny the use by others of that medium. The United States Air Force (USAF) defines military space power as a “capability” to utilize [space-based] assets towards fulfilling national security needs.[1] In this, space is similar to other forms of military projection. But, its difference comes in how it is measured. When viewed in this context, space power is thus the aggregate of a nation’s abilities to establish, access, and leverage its orbital assets to further all other forms of national power.

Big Brother is Watching

It is important to note that space power is inherently global, as dictated by orbital mechanics. It is essentially impossible to go to space without passing over another nation in some capacity. Thus, the concept of peaceful overflight was established with the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, when the United States did not protest the path of the satellite even as it passed over the Nation. This idea stands in contrast to traditional territorial rules in which it would be considered a violation of sovereignty to put a military craft on or above another nation without express permission.

This difference became especially obvious in 1960 when Francis Gary Powers was shot down in his U-2 spy aircraft above the Soviet Union. Prior to that, the U.S. recognized that its missions over Russia were certainly a provocation and against international norms, but felt that the U-2 aircraft were more than capable of evading Soviet ground-based interceptors. The imagery intelligence (IMINT), they thought, justified the risk.

The downing and subsequent capture of Powers was a significant embarrassment for the United States, and President Eisenhower immediately halted this practice. From that point forward, it became clear that the only viable way for the U.S. to gather substantial IMINT against an opponent with sophisticated anti-air capabilities was via satellite.

KH-4B, Corona

The best quantification of space power in its early days came just a few months after the Powers incident. The CIA-run Corona program produced the first successful IMINT satellite in history. This satellite, code-named Discoverer 14, obtained more photographs of the Soviet Union in just 17 orbits over the course of a day than all 24 of the previous U-2 flights combined. Electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites, such as the early generation GRAB program (which actually launched before Corona), helped map Soviet air defenses by detecting radar pulses, which enabled strategic planners to map bomber routes. Although air-and-sea-based reconnaissance craft had the capability to also detect radar pulses, they could only identify targets at a maximum of 200 miles within the Soviet Union, far less than was needed to plan a secure route to interior targets. Space became more than just a one-to-one replacement of existing tools; it offered significantly more access to foes.

Superiority then became three-pronged: who had the broadest capabilities, who had the best technology in each form of space-based intelligence gathering, and who had the best coverage? Said another way, how well could a nation monitor all spectra in detail at all times everywhere that matters?

Nearly a decade after Corona transformed space into a viable form of power, the U.S. leveraged its first reliable weather monitoring and communications relay satellites in the Vietnam War. This expanded the role of space to that of an active component on the battlefield, rather than just a pre-conflict source of intelligence — an enormously important growth.

More than that, it represented a substantial evolution of war as a whole. The sudden enhancement of meteorological data due to dedicated satellites gave field commanders far greater clarity than in previous conflicts as to when would be the ideal windows to mount a strike or a longer campaign. This was especially important in Vietnam, which was often overcast.

The United States faces the greatest diversity of military threats in its history. At the same time, the military is undergoing a significant size reduction.

Satellite communications also made their wartime debut in Vietnam. This capability offered the first true live link between war planners and field commanders, for the conveyance of orders and the timely distribution of sensitive intelligence. Whereas intelligence satellites broadened the world by opening up vast new areas to prying eyes, communications satellites dramatically shrank it. However, this new channel was offered only to the top commanders in any region, due to limitations in infrastructure. Soldiers in the field still used radios to communicate with base.

All these space capabilities continued their evolutionary growth for the next few decades. But, it was Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 that marked space power as a revolutionary change in the conduct of war. Called the “first space war” by some, this conflict was the first time that satellite communications and new position, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems were utilized in direct concert with military forces to monitor and direct an ongoing campaign at all levels. Space-based intelligence-gathering satellites mapped Iraqi strategic installations well ahead of the first shots and continued to track changes in enemy force distribution. Satellite communications systems enabled ground forces to transmit targeting data to en-route aircraft, substantially improving the accuracy of dropped munitions. In addition, while the constellation was not yet fully deployed, the Global Positioning System (GPS) conveyed Coalition forces an enormous strategic advantage, by enabling ground forces to travel through previously unmapped territory and circumvent the heavily defended road system into Iraq.

Today

The United States faces the greatest diversity of military threats in its history. At the same time, the military is undergoing a significant size reduction. Yet, more so now than ever, it possesses the ability to strike anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. It does not need to constantly maintain local forces when it has force projection. In the modern world, force projection would not exist without space power.

Special forces and drone operations have taken front stage in America’s Global War on Terror. IMINT and SIGINT satellites provide important intelligence about targets far below. GPS satellites enable drones to fly to areas of interest and, if necessary, guide their munitions to their final destinations with minimal collateral damage. Drone operators are often far away from the craft they are piloting, many times even in a different hemisphere. This capability is only possible by utilizing high throughput communications satellites. For special forces, GPS is used to get the teams quickly to their targets. Further, portable satellite communications units allow them to relay updates to their commanders and call in support if necessary.

These options are especially effective against non-space actors who do not have the capabilities to strike back. However, space is increasingly becoming “congested, contested, and competitive” — meaning a broader group of nations is doing more to leverage space for their own military power and deny others from doing the same. China stands out in this realm. While the nation (exclusive of nuclear weapons) stands no match against the United States in any conventional confrontation, it possesses counter-space technologies that would dramatically curtail America’s force projection strengths. In such a situation, America’s power abroad would decline dramatically, to such a point that along the Asian coasts, China may have local superiority.

As such, the definition of space power is expanding, to being the aggregate of a nation’s abilities to establish, access, leverage, and sustain its orbital assets to further all other forms of national power. Earth-shaking rocket launches aside, space is the silent partner in nearly American military endeavor today. Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent counterinsurgency operations that followed demonstrated that clearly enough. Space guides soldiers, sailors, airmen, and bombs to their targets, gives the photographs and signal intercepts to understand what enemies are planning, and provides secure, global communication in an era of global need.


[1] Air Force Basic Doctrine, Air Force Doctrine Document 1, U.S. Air Force Headquarters (Washington, DC: September 1997) 85.

1

Technology, Simulations, and Wargames: What Lies Ahead

Computer wargames cannot be fully analyzed without scrutinizing the video game systems that power them. The technology that drives these video game systems has transformed dramatically over the past 10-15 years. Initially, leaps in computational power allowed players to control and manipulate hundreds of units and perform an array of functions, as demonstrated in the earliest versions of the Harpoon computer simulation. Subsequently, the graphics behind these games experienced multiple breakthroughs that range from three dimensional features to advanced motion capture systems capable of detecting even the slightest facial animations. Eventually, game consoles and PCs reached the point where they could combine this computational complexity with stunning visuals into a single, effective simulation. Simply, these systems have evolved at a rapid rate.

Yet, as we near the midpoint of the second decade of the 21st century, it is important to ask “What’s next?” What future technologies will impact the design of military simulations? After reaching out to a variety of gamers, there are two technologies that CIMSEC readers should look forward to: 1) virtual reality (VR) headsets, and 2) comprehensive scenario design tools with better artificial intelligence (AI).

Virtual Reality Headsets—A Gamer’s Toy or Useful Tool?

VR headsets are by far one of the most anticipated innovations of the next few years. Gamers are not the only individuals excited for this development; Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of VR developer of Oculus VR and Sony’s Project Morpheus demonstrate how VR is a potential revolution. For those unfamiliar with a VR headset, it is a device mounted on the head that features a high definition display and positional tracking (if you turn your head right, your in-game character will turn his head right simultaneously). When worn with headphones, users claim that these headsets give them an immersive, virtual reality experience. One user describes the integration of a space dogfighting game with a Oculus Rift VR headset below:

The imagery is photorealistic to a point that is difficult to describe in text, as VR is a sensory experience beyond just the visual. Being able to lean forward and look up and under your cockpit dashboard due to the new DK2 technology tracking your head movements adds yet another layer of immersion…I often found myself wheeling right while scanning up and down with my head to search for targets like a World War II pilot scanning the sky…The level of detail in the cockpit, the weave of the insulation on the pipes, the frost on the cockpit windows, the gut-punch sound of the autocannons firing, every aspect has been developed with an attention to detail and an intentionality which is often missing in other titles.

An Oculus Rift headset
An Oculus Rift headset

Even though VR headsets strictly provide a first-person experience, they can still play a serious role in military simulations and wargames. At the tactical level, VR headsets can supplement training by simulating different environments custom built from the ground up. For example, imagine a team Visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team training for a situation on an oil rig. Developers can create and render a digital model of an oil rig that members of the VBSS team could explore with the assistance of VR headsets in order to better understand the environment. In addition to supplementing training, VR headset technology could potentially be manipulated to enhance battlefield helmets. Although this concept is many years away (at least 15), readers should think of the F-35’s Distributed Aperture System for pilot helmets; even though this helmet currently faces development challenges, it demonstrates how a VR system can track and synthesize information for the operator. Essentially, the first-person nature of VR headsets restricts their application to the technical and tactical levels.

Better Tools: Enabling the Construction of Realistic Simulations

Although not as visually impressive as VR headsets, the ability to design complex military scenarios that will run on even the simplest laptops is an exciting feature that many spectators disregard. Many wargames are often judged by their complexity. When crafting scenarios, designers ask “Does the simulation take account for _______, what would ________ action trigger,” and other similar questions that try to factor in as many variables as possible. Their answers to these questions are programmed into the simulation with the assistance of a variety of development tools. Within the next decade, the capabilities of these tools will increase significantly and ultimately provide developers the ability to craft more comprehensive military simulations.

Since these technical tools can be confusing, I am going to use a personal example to demonstrate their abilities. In a game called Arma 2, a retail version built off the Virtual Battlespace 2 engine, I designed a scenario inspired by Frederick Forseyth’s famous novel, Dogs of War. Human players would assault an African dictator’s palace defended by units commanded by AI. Using the game’s mission editor, I inserted multiple layers of defense each programmed to respond differently. The AI had multiple contingency plans for different scenarios. If the force was observed in the open, aircraft would be mobilized. If certain defending units did not report in every 15 minutes, then the AI would dispatch a quick reaction force (QRF) to investigate. If the dictator’s palace was assaulted, his nearby loyal armor company would immediately mobilize to rescue him. These are just a few examples but illustrate how I was able to detail multiple different scenarios for the AI. Yet, the mission was not completely scripted. When the AI came into contact, it would respond differently based on the attacking force’s actions; during testing, I witnessed the dictator’s armor company conduct a variety of actions ranging from simply surrounding the city to conducting a full assault on the palace using multiple avenues of approach.

The Arma 2 Mission Editor
The Arma 2 Mission Editor

When considering the complexity of the above scenario, it may appear that extensive programming knowledge and experience were required. The astounding fact is that this is not the case because of the system’s mission editor (I do not know how to program). Yet, after spending one weekend building this scenario with the system’s editor, I was able to craft this comprehensive scenario. In the future, we will witness the development of tools and AI systems that allow for the construction of more detailed military simulations.

Conclusion

We have identified two technologies—VR headsets and more comprehensive simulation design tools—that will rapidly evolve throughout the next several years. Yet, the challenge is not the development of these technologies, but determining how to effectively harness their power and integrate them into meaningful, military simulations that go beyond ‘pilot programs.’ Even as these two technologies improve, they will not substitute for real-world experience; for instance, VR headset users cannot feel the sweat after a long hike and scenarios cannot to be customized to fully depict the active populations in counterinsurgency simulations. Nevertheless, as technology improves and is better leveraged, the utility of military simulations will only increase.

Bret Perry is a student at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. The views expressed are solely those of the author.

game

Test, Adapt, & Retest: Approaches to Strategy and Tactics in Wargaming

Commonly at U.S. Military Intermediate Level Education institutions, joint and international military students experience wargaming as only part of a linear planning process. The objective of this wargaming “step” is usually to 1) validate the Course of Action (COA), 2) evaluate each course of action’s (COA) strengths and weaknesses, and 3) allow the commander to gain an understanding of each COA prior to execution (MSTP, 59). Yet, all too often the student just experiences wargaming as a means to continue the mechanical aspect of the planning process and to not truly benefit from seeing the problem through the eyes of the commander and gain professional gems from the final objective. The visiting general / flag officer is usually the recipient of the outbrief and quickly fills the role of commander, as all eyes fixate on him/her to translate pure genius from their understanding of the problem. If this occurs, the future commanders of the naval service have lost an opportunity to develop cognitively and also are unable to put another tool in their professional toolbelt.

game

Test

There are varying types of war gaming events that focus on three primary focus areas: analytics, experiential, and educational (Burns, 4). In an analytic-focused game, the design of the problem is to provide results for current or new concepts, structures, or in response to unique scenarios. The student’s experience is dedicated to helping the analysis of the overall game. In an experiential-focused game the participants are given an opportunity to practice specific staff activities, while separated from the education benefits of the game. This final focus area, although in title, can be structured to provide a wide-range of benefits to the group, yet narrow confines of education objectives centered on strategic planning considerations, pulls the prospect of cognitive decision-making development out of the experience.

One way to encourage cognitive development is to address the participants role-playing decision making when confronted with an operation dilemma. Traditional ends, ways, and means framework provides decision makers with a focus on developing the ways. Each must be selected in regards to environments (ends, means), and is never blanket throughout all problem sets. The act of developing an initial strategy, no matter how fragmented, can have significant impact on the student “commander’s” cognitive development.

This active decision-making experience is not a new concept, but may have been lost in the continual drive for quantitative results and analytic modeling. In the U.S. Naval War College Operational Problem #4 (1945) the blue force student commander was initially required to publish doctrine to his subordinate commanders, providing his vision and expectations at the outset of the problem (Friedman, 122). Additionally, in Operational Problem #5 (1945) (which was designed to estimate a ‘strategic’ situation the student blue force commander briefed that “only by force of ships, can I force Orange to do that [move the enemy capital ships north for a fight]” (Friedman, 139, 146).

Committing to a strategy and addressing associated risk, ups the ante and sets the stage for a pass/fail when the game commences. Just as an elite football quarterback may prepare for an upcoming contest with planned strategies (of which were selected based on ends and means) he is ready to test the strategy when on the field. Although this may seem natural, approaches to other games may overlook this individual test that focused on self-awareness and preparing the leader for forthcoming adaptation. How often do players capture (in writing) their going-in strategy for chess? Next time your child is about to boot up a session of Minecraft, ask them to describe their strategy for success and what are their perceived consequences.

Adapt

Adaptability is a common term thrown about by military academic institutions to capture the essence of future leader competency, yet there is a hesitation to put wargaming participants in various situations to amplify their flexibility. The proposal to require participants to present an initial strategy will result in the group to experience a degree of (or possible complete) failure of strategy, and allow umpires and mentors to challenge the participants with an opportunity to adapt. The same blue force commander during Operational Problem #5 learned (through failure) that the essential mission for his force was to not to just destroy the enemy but to “wreak havoc” in order to draw more of the enemy out (Friedman, 146). This adaptation (and the awareness of it) enhances the “commander’s” reasoning and adds an additional and valuable aspect to problem solving during the wargame and abiding by Lieutenant McCarty Little’s condition to garner deeper insights (Brightman, 17). With an initial strategy defined, the student is thus given the chance to estimate the wargame situation and capture (verbal or written) the requirements for change.

The capturing of the changing cognitive decisions provides more than just an individual benefit. Group cohesion is viewed as important aspect of any wargaming event, by reinforcing the importance of the members becoming “personal involved in the group tasks” (Brightman, 24). As Brightman notes, “Players cannot be separated from the story of the game as it unfolds, and this shared experience provides them with a common bond” (Brightman, 24) and ultimately leads to military success.

The adaptable quarterback (with his coach on the sidelines) will identify the conflict between his current strategy and the opposing team’s actions. An ability to evaluate the environment, adjust the offensive approach, and execute the adapted strategy has the most benefit when the quarterback is aware of this change and why he chose it, building the confidence in his decision making ability. This not only provides the individual with repeated exposure to assessing the situation to adapt with, but it also builds the connectedness between the players and coaching staff, providing a shared experience that “provides them with a common bond” and “influences the degree that the group feels connected” (Brightman, 24).

Retest

The next time the quarterback prepares for an adversary or situation that has a comparable problem, he may be better prepared to either change the initial strategy or be more confident to quickly adapt the approach for a more effective result. If the wargaming decision maker has selected a new strategy, it is important to provide an opportunity to retest the new approach through the application of that decision. What were the final decisions made in the changed strategy? What are the strengths of the new option? Did it answer any weaknesses of the older approach or possibly the situation had changed significantly enough to warrant a new direction?

Awareness of a need to adapt is important, but almost equally important is the opportunity to capture one’s cognitive perspective as a means to provide meaningful narrative during the game wrap-up. This allows the “commander” to reflect on the experience and will “improve self-confidence and awareness of one’s strength and weaknesses” (Berbick, 2). A nice side-benefit is that educational institutions will be able to “enhance understanding and retention of core course concepts” (Berbick, 2).

Wargaming will continue to be a staple activity in military and security organizations, providing valuable insight in various activities. The ironic piece is that although many of the wargaming departments are located within the confines of educational institutions, the opportunities to stress the personal development and take a critical look at the students own abilities, emotions, and personalities are overlooked.  Providing a structure for game participants to test, adapt and retest their own strategies; to face their own weaknesses; and “bear the fruit of improvement that comes from such personal pruning” (Crandall, 15) will only serve to produce exceptional senior military leaders.

 

Doug Crandall, “Leadership Lessons from West Point”, (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA), 2007

Hal M. Friedman, “Blue Versus Orange: The U.S. Naval War College, Japan, and the Old Enemy in the Pacific, 1945-46”, (Naval War College Press: Newport, RI), 2013

Hank Brightman and Melissa Dewey, “Trends in Modern Wargaming: The Art of Conversation,” Naval War College Review 67, no. 1 (Winter 2014), pp. 17-31.

Shawn Burns, NWC “War Gamers’ Handbook”, (Defense Automated Printing Service: Newport, RI).

U.S. Marine Corps MAGTF Staff Training Program (MSTP) Pamphlet 5-0.2 “Operational Planning Team Leader’s Guide”, 2012.

Walter A. Berbick, “Enhancing Student Learning through Gaming at the Naval War College”, (Naval War College: Newport, RI).

 

A. J. Squared-Away is a career US Navy Surface Warfare Officer.  He is graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, Marine Corps University, and the School of Advanced Warfighting (SAW).  He is currently a joint operation planner at USEUCOMHQ.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

The basic idea is to leverage the collective intelligence and creativity of the “crowd”

Send the Crowd to War

Military planners have historically used wargames to influence future operations. The extensive wargaming conducted at the U.S. Naval War College during the interwar years is widely credited with preparing the Fleet to fight one of the greatest seaborne wars in history against Japan during World War II.

As Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz put it: “War with Japan had been reenacted in the game rooms at the Naval War College by so many people and in so many different ways, that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise…absolutely nothing except the kamikaze tactics toward the end of the war; we had not visualized these.”

Wargaming at the U.S. Naval War College in Pringle Hall, circa 1947
Wargaming at the U.S. Naval War College in Pringle Hall, circa 1947

The iconic images of War College students maneuvering model fleets across the wargaming floor of Pringle Hall as the players experimented with scenario after scenario are staples for any student of naval history. Since then, technology and computers have greatly improved the process, and the War College is arguably still the world’s premier wargaming organization, providing key insights to fuel operational planning and acquisition. Unfortunately, as extensive and sophisticated as its program is, it can only perform about 50 events each year. Facility space, equipment availability, and personnel to actually play the games will always constrain the robustness of on-site wargaming programs…at least for now.

What if all resource constraints were removed from our wargaming activities? What if an infinite amount of space was available – only limited by the surface of the Earth? What if the potential participants were only limited by a population willing and able to participate? What if they were equipped with the resources necessary to execute a war game? These questions might seem absurd at first, but a new and powerful concept known as crowdsourcing could be the answer to solve these resource issues.

No longer a notional concept, crowdsourcing is becoming more widespread. The basic idea is to leverage the collective intelligence and creativity of the “crowd” – a large, virtually limitless population. Advances in collaborative technologies have helped commercial entities leverage this concept and vastly increase productivity. One of the more well-known is the Amazon Mechanical Turk which, at last count, had more than 500,000 participants in more than 190 countries all simultaneously completing simple tasks. Another is CrowdFollower, which claims to be able to access more than 2 million participants across the globe. Even complex strategic analysis from a crowdsourcing consultancy like Wikistrat is being done today.

The basic idea is to leverage the collective intelligence and creativity of the “crowd”
The basic idea is to leverage the collective intelligence and creativity of the “crowd”

How can this be applied to wargaming though? Given current processing power and infrastructure, it is not feasible for the crowd to submit traditional wargaming moves to a central hub (such as the War College) for adjudication.  Instead, this broadening of the talent pool enables more ideas to effectively put the crowd to work. A starting point has been established by the U.S. Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC), where they have conducted Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLI) sessions that seek creative ideas to mission requirements across the active, reserve and civilian forces.  

Crowdsourcing traditional wargames (such as those at NWC) in this way, would seek solutions to strategic, operational, and tactical problems while coupling realistic analysis with user-friendly interface necessary to enable an end-to-end scenario played by participants. The balance between the level of fidelity required to provide meaningful data, with the level of abstraction necessary to enable experimentation would be a key attribute. After processing of the information, these game results could reveal meaningful insights for tactical development.

As demonstrated in the interwar period, iteration after iteration of experimentation in wargaming can help predict possibilities in war and then provide at least a starting point to begin to prepare. Today, technology is advancing at rates never dreamed of prior to WWII, while geopolitical shifts are much more rapid and pronounced. The necessity for speed of iteration and experimentation has never been greater, and the crowd has the potential to help address this. Instead of roughly 50 war games each year, imagine hundreds – even thousands – played daily. The crowd can win and lose wargame scenarios over and over, rapidly resetting and fighting again. Combined with near-instant social media exchange of ideas, innovative solutions can emerge through pure trial and error from a group almost unimaginably large.

The world will always lean on experts. The crowd will most likely never replace the great wargaming work conducted at war colleges and throughout the military, but it has the potential to be a powerful source of rich data. The crowd is moving into formation, preparing to sail into war. Will we use the crowd or waste this virtually untapped resource? The time is coming to send the crowd to war.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.