Tactical Information Technology . . . From the Sea
By Fred C. Belen
The U.S. Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) program—the service's most ambitious command-and-control initiative to date—can change naval operations dramatically and lead the way for the Defense Department in network-centric warfare.
Linking all ships and stations on a common network that will carry voice, video, and data transmissions, IT-21's greatest beneficiaries will be forward-deployed forces. Ultimately, such information technology will make possible a network-centric architecture that will link sensors, shooters, and commanders. The sensors will provide real-time target information that will be fused with the friendly situation into a common operational picture and distributed to network users, enabling them to reach back for information, coordinate plans, and detect and engage targets more quickly.
The challenge is to extend this architecture rapidly over an austere area ashore. A major portion of IT-21 can be built on existing infrastructures, but the key word here is existing. Bosnia, for example, was so devastated that U.S. forces had to build their own complex communication network; establishing such an architecture in a remote area will be even harder and the littoral environment compounds the problem. The land-sea interface is a complex and unstable electromagnetic environment. Acoustic complexities challenge sonar systems. Radar tracking is more difficult because of clutter and higher volumes of air and sea traffic than elsewhere. Moreover, this architecture must cover wider littoral expanses to accommodate the increasing ranges of our emerging weapon systems and mobility platforms.
Accordingly, the Undersecretary of Defense for Advanced Technology, on 16 January 1997, established an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD)—Extending the Littoral Battlespace (ELB)—one of 46 such demonstrations that are part of an effort to get technology to joint warfighters faster. The ELB-ACTD seeks a joint tactical architecture that essentially integrates all command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C"ISR) assets. Accordingly, it was designated as a Class 3 "system-of-systems" ACTD.
The basis for this particular demonstration was the Defense Science Board's 1996 endorsement of an operational concept that sought improved theater-wide situational awareness, more effective remote fires, and a linked infrastructure. The Board specifically recommended an enhanced command-and-control architecture to support the concept of joint expeditionary operations. Such an architecture has been widely regarded as key to enhancing military effectiveness; that was the conclusion of the 1995 Roles and Mission Commission. More recently, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology Jacques S. Gansler called it the "backbone of the Revolution in Military Affairs."
The demonstration bears another distinction. As its operational sponsor, the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral J. W. Prueher recently stated, "The ELB-ACTD is one of the few efforts integrating a myriad of emerging technologies into a coherent concept of joint expeditionary warfighting and truly leveraging information superiority."
Over the past year, the program office has integrated a tactical architecture that exploits commercial information technologies. Under the technical management of the Office of Naval Research and the Marine Corps Systems Command, we departed from the traditional government specification-based acquisition and conducted an open competition for industry's best ideas and technologies. Four concepts were selected and the finalists were asked to detail architectural designs. In February 1998, the program office selected an architecture based on the design by a General Dynamics Advanced Technology Systems-led team consisting of Lucent Technologies, SRI International, Program Advanced Group, Raytheon, Litton, and Bell Laboratories.
The team will demonstrate the architecture in two phases. The first phase, presently under way, consists of a series of systems integration tests to determine what works and how the components can be integrated. This provides an opportunity for the user to provide early feedback on the architecture and features of the system. The overall architecture and the system-of-systems it includes will be demonstrated during Exercise Kernel Blitz in 1999. To maximize resources, it will be conducted concurrently with a Fleet Battle Experiment executed by the Maritime Battle Center and the Urban Warrior Advanced Warfighting Experiment under the direction of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.
The second phase will examine the architecture's ability to incorporate new technologies and achieve increased scope and reliability. This phase will culminate in another major system demonstration during 2001 that will be linked to the Capable Warrior Advanced Warfighting Experiment, also to be conducted by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.
The architecture is designed to last over the next decade and still accommodate technological change. Essentially, it is a modular architecture compliant with industry and joint standards; as components age, newer ones will be inserted. It will net with current communications systems used by the services in littoral operations, such as the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System and the Enhanced Position Locating and Reporting System, and it will incorporate key legacy systems. This is a major achievement because of the interoperability problems between new and old technologies.
The architecture's critical node is the command center on board the command ship. It will consist of a command cell, a combat information cell, planning and shaping cell, and engagement coordination cell. The last cell will direct naval surface fire support using the Land Attack Warfare System and also will be able to manage airspace. Fires ashore will be directed by the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Decision System.
The command center will integrate command and fire-support functions. Fire support systems will receive real-time sensor information, enabling shooters to engage targets rapidly. This integration also will allow commanders to direct a wide range of joint weapon systems and mass their fires against a specific target—implementing the "Ring of Fire" concept that was examined in Fleet Battle Experiment Alfa and Hunter Warrior Advanced Warfighting Experiment. (See "Naval Fire Support: Ring of Fire," Proceedings, November 1997, pages 54-56.)
A central information processor on the command ship will store information in a database containing information on terrain, weather, sensors, units, weapons, readiness, and intelligence. The processor will be networked with other databases outside the theater by interfacing with emerging capabilities fielded under IT-21, the Global Broadcast Service, and others.
Because of the importance of the command ship, the test bed for these technologies will be critical. The Third Fleet command ship, the USS Coronado (AGF-l1), presently fills this role. Although commissioned in 1970, her upgraded spaces include the most sophisticated command-and-control technologies in the fleet. Moreover, her ELB-ACTD test bed modular spaces will facilitate continued testing and demonstration as technology advances.
Airborne nodes, such as aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles, will be used to establish over-the-horizon wireless wide area networks in the littoral battlespace. The network will link all computer nodes, airborne, at sea, and ashore, carrying high data and voice rates. Tactical units and sensors ashore will operate on local area networks interconnected with the wide-area network. Theater and strategic sensors also will be tied to the overall network.
This architecture will be a tactical information network that creates a common tactical picture distributed to warfighter displays, enabling them to retrieve information by making queries and accessing databases. These displays can portray multisource data on any object in the battlespace. Warfighters will be able to focus on increasing levels of detailed information behind a specific display object or icon using "drill-down" technology.
Automation will enable commanders to use voice commands to display data, including the tracks of ships, aircraft, or other contacts. Standing requests for information—an enemy missile launch, for example—will be displayed as they are detected.
In the event the communications network is disabled, it will automatically fall back on alternative networks. An airborne, commercially based, wireless mobile wide-area network will be backed up with a military packet data radio net. Satellite communications will provide wideband communications to all ships and stationary command nodes ashore. The commercial satellite system, Iridium, will provide narrowband voice communications between operations centers and warfighters. Should the overall system need replacement, an "Internet-in-the-Sky" will be used for wideband communications while land-mobile radios will provide narrowband.
The implications of this architecture for the sea services are profound. It will resolve many of the shortfalls associated with Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS); it represents the transition from communications nets to information networks that the OMFTS concept demands. It also will give Marines the communications systems that provide units with control over the information they need. Ultimately, it will streamline our fire support coordination procedures to improve responsiveness.
The implications for the Navy are equally significant. As the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jay L. Johnson has said, "The United States Navy of the 21st century will be increasingly focused on projecting power landward." Today's fleet reflects this. Aegis cruisers and destroyers are armed with Tomahawk land attack missiles. Five-inch gun ranges will be boosted from 13 to 63 nautical miles by the Extended Range Guided Munition. The DD-21 will have a greater land-attack capability to include a new vertical gun with a 100-nautical mile range. Even the new nuclear-powered attack submarine will have 12 tubes for Tomahawks. The effectiveness of such land attack systems depends on detecting targets at greater ranges and coordinating the land and sea battle; this makes a landward command-and-control architecture critical to the Navy's future.
This architecture also will increase tactical interconnectivity within a task force, battle group, or amphibious ready group. Within a given operating area, widely dispersed ships and tactical aircraft will be linked digitally. This tactical interconnectivity, along with longer weapons ranges, will allow these assets to engage targets rapidly with distributed offensive firepower. The result will be a more effective use of attack assets.
The fleet's need for this architecture is immediate and growing. A recent study, The Role of Sea Power in U.S. National Security in the 21st Century, stated that "Potential Third World adversaries are acquiring the means to strike targets at far greater distances and with greater precision than ever before." Moreover, these systems are being integrated into coherent defenses. Iran is a case in point. In the Strait of Hormuz, Iran is deploying interlocking capabilities, comprised of multiple layers of integrated air defense systems, diesel submarines, sea mines, and antiship missiles.
The new architecture will position the Navy to lead joint operations. "C4ISR is the essential ingredient in binding the nation's armed services, defense and intelligence agencies, and other government agencies and private organizations into a viable, coherent force," writes Captain Richard L. Wright, who headed the Navy staff's Surface Warfare Division. In the early stages of any littoral operation, a sea-based tactical C4ISR architecture is likely to be the only one in theater that will be capable of supporting joint expeditionary operations such as those envisioned by the Defense Science Board. This architecture will become the nucleus around which all other forces will form.
"IT-21 has world-wide applications," writes Admiral Archie Clemins, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, who originated the concept. Applying it to the more austere littoral regions, though, will demand a concerted effort—an architecture that can be established rapidly over such an area and be extended down to the tactical level. Such an architecture will enhance significantly the Navy's ability to project power ashore and will place it at the center of joint expeditionary operations. It is the essence of Tactical IT . . . From the Sea.
Mr. Belen is the ELB-ACTD Director at the Office of Naval Research.
The Failure of the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle
By Master Chief Machinist’s Mate (Surface Warfare) Mark Butler, U.S. Navy
Throughout the Surface Navy, senior enlisted Sailors are seeing that the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC) is not working. Not only is it not working, it is a failure that needs to be fixed. If that fix isn't made soon, we will fail the Sailors who look to us for leadership, and more important, we will fail in our mission.
Claiming that the training cycle is broken is easy, but we must subject the claim to analysis to determine the impact. An examination of all the phases of the cycle is in order. Only then can we find solutions to the problems. In this case it may be best to start at the end and examine each step as our ships prepare for sustained operations away from home port and, quite possibly, war.
The deployment ends with the ship in home port, no longer scheduled for an immediate deployment. The manning level begins to fall off. The leadership looks to the future and schedules schools. Quotas are obtained and temporary additional duty funds get a much closer look. At the same time, the ship enters a short yard or maintenance period to accomplish much-needed work. During the maintenance availability, manning continues to drop. Training for the upcoming Light Off Assessment (LOA) begins with the anticipation that the final two weeks of the availability will have the engineering spaces free of contract or yard personnel.
As the maintenance availability ends, it soon becomes painfully obvious that the engineering spaces will not be complete two weeks prior to the LOA. Typically, commands then extend the workday by either working late or starting early. Either way, the Sailor begins to spend more and more time away from home during the period that the highest level Navy leadership has programmed for relaxation and time with the family.
Usually, the engineering work is completed a day or two prior to light off. On occasion it is not and sometimes the assessment is rescheduled. Now, the working hours stack up even higher. Even after a successful LOA, however, the working hours do not diminish. The next step in the IDTC is coming.
HORSE, as it is written on the schedules, has no known meaning as far as the letters indicate; it is not an acronym. It is just something that we put before the Command Assessment of Readiness and Training (CART) entry to inject a little humor into the situation. Invariably, the CART comes so close on the heels of the LOA that there is little time for the command to assess exactly what training is needed. Instead, inspectors, or assessors as they are called now, flock to the ship, check any number of things—and then tell the commanding officer what training is needed.
Fast on the heels of the CART comes the Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA) in a multistep sequence. It is the final phase of the basic work-up schedule designed to prepare the ship and crew for advanced training with a battle group prior to deployment. Often there is a considerable amount of time between completion of the basic phase and the commencement of the final phase and the subsequent deployment. During this time, the commanding officer and the ship finally get to operate with some degree of autonomy. Only then does the ship have the time to conduct meaningful professional development for the crew and wardroom.
After the final battle group training, the ship returns to home port. Following a hectic leave, upkeep, and maintenance period with a final stores loading, the ship departs amid tears, waving from the pier, and Sailors manning the rail. The deployment begins and once again the professional development of officers and crew becomes a possibility.
So where is the failure of the IDTC? The answer lies partly in the crew that deploys on board the "fully trained" ship. When the ship returned from deployment she was losing Sailors faster than she was gaining them. Our assignment system does not assign Sailors to ships that are not scheduled to deploy in the near term. The results: During the time when a Sailor should be getting a fair amount of time with his or her family, he or she is working harder and longer, often ten or more hours per day. This manning shortfall continues through the LOA, CART, and TSTA. In some cases, manning falls to as low as 85% and yet the crew continues to train, steam the ship, stand inspections, and endure assessments. Only at the end of the basic training cycle does the ship finally reach the point where the manning-control authority begins manning for the deployment.
While the new Sailors are arriving, experienced and trained Sailors are departing. This trend continues and soon a significant portion of the crew is different from what we trained. This is particularly true for the wardroom because officers have shorter shipboard tours than enlisted personnel.
The real failure of the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle is that only 60% to 70% of the crew gets the entire amount of allotted training. These Sailors then train the 30% to 40% who missed out. The wardroom also suffers from the same malady but, given the higher turnover rate, as many as 75% might not have received the initial training-including the commanding officer and executive officer! Now we have the top two war-fighters on a ship that could easily be on the front line without the benefit of some of the formal training necessary to fight their ship.
How do we fix this situation? There is no silver bullet that we can shoot and hit the bull's-eye. Instead, numerous areas require improvement.
The first step is to fix the manning situation. When a ship returns from deployment, there must be enough Sailors waiting on the pier to bring manning to 100% (accounting for projected losses for the next six months). This will permit the command to put all the necessary Sailors through school while retaining enough on board to repair the ship. With the proper manning at this point in the cycle, we increase the percentage of Sailors who will be on board after training is complete and who will see the next deployment.
The manning improvement must include the Chief's Mess and the wardroom so that the war-fighters who get the training are there with the trained crew. This may require slightly longer tours for some officers, but we shouldn't have to weigh the needs of a ship and crew against some arbitrary career pattern.
Scheduling is the other part of the preparedness issue. Given the schedule described earlier, the ship has no time to correct the deficiencies noted by the assessment or inspection teams. All too often, squadron and group commanders rush their ships through a schedule so that the commodore can boast that his or her squadron is the most battle ready. Until the schedule is put in the proper training sequence, the benefits to the fleet are lost.
After the Light-Off Assessment, send the ship to sea for two or three weeks and let the crew train! A lot of Sailors may be new on board but there always seems to be enough experience to train the youngsters in basic shipboard duties. Do this with no inspectors on board; when it is complete, the commanding officer can then give the immediate superior in command a reasonable estimate of the ship's readiness. The superior then would have some basis for establishing a training schedule tailored to the particular ship. If the ship's material readiness is up to speed and the crew has conducted its own training, certification through basic phase becomes more certain. Properly executed, there will be significantly fewer negatives for the crew and the effect on the material readiness and training preparedness will be much more positive. We can do things like this.
Manning, scheduling, and the training sequence are only a start. The old saw—"Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance"—remains valid, and the maintenance phase needs the proper support. Several assist visits by small teams would help the ship identify material and training problems that keep a ship from being surprised during certification. To get over the material difficulties, support is needed at the local maintenance activity and it should be easier to get label plates, valve treatments, and self-help parts for small jobs. In other words, all this will require money.
Just as quality of life costs money, so does readiness. In this case, however, there is a double payoff. As the crew improves without the artificial pressure that prevents them from getting the job done right, both their morale and quality of life improve. The money spent on manpower and parts support now becomes more than readiness money; it is also quality-of-life money. When the two are added together, the Sailor gets more time with the family, job satisfaction increases, and the Navy gets a higher level of readiness. Everybody wins.
Master Chief Butler is the Command Master Chief on the USS Halyburton (FFG-40). He also has served as the Command Master Chief on the USS Monongahela (AO-178).