Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert has described the U.S. Navy as America’s away team. The sports reference reflects one of the CNO’s main tenets: “Operate forward.” The goal is to ensure that our nation’s conflicts are conducted in the backyards of our adversaries, not ours. We take the fight to them.
But any sports enthusiast knows about the home-field advantage, the benefits that accrue to the local team when playing in its own environment, which it knows better than the visiting team does. This applies in warfare as well. Taking the fight to the enemy risks giving him the home-field advantage.
The only way around it is to know the enemy’s battlespace better than he does. In The Art of War, Sun Tzu famously said: “Know the enemy, know yourself; your victory will never be endangered. Know the ground, know the weather; your victory will then be total.” In a very real sense, that approximates the military concept of battlespace awareness, one of the fundamental capabilities of information dominance.
An addendum to Sun Tzu’s quote could be to “know the target,” which means sensing, observing, and analyzing to activate the kill chain. By fully integrating the Navy’s information capabilities and resources to optimize decision-making and maximize warfighting effects, information dominance provides an operational advantage . . . let’s call it taking the home-field advantage with us, where needed, when needed.
In 2011 testimony to Congress, Admiral Greenert said, “Control of information . . . is already growing more important than the control of territory in modern warfare.”
Battlespace Awareness (BA) involves obtaining and using superior information about the battlespace to make faster and better decisions to deter or defeat the enemy. It includes accurate and timely knowledge of the current and future physical and electromagnetic environments, understanding adversary intent and capabilities, and detecting and communicating location with sufficient fidelity to target kinetic or non-kinetic effects. BA requires more than a snapshot view—it needs penetrating, persistent, and predictive capabilities. Ultimately, BA allows joint forces to operate more freely within the battlespace and stay ahead of the adversary’s decision cycle.
The foundational level of BA is knowledge of the physical environment and its impacts on operations. This has historically been the domain of the Navy’s oceanography community. This aspect of BA includes information characterizing everything from the sea bed to space.
Know the Environment
Weather and sea conditions are the most familiar physical attributes of interest, but various warfare areas have specific needs: ocean thermal characteristics for sonar operations, sediment conditions for mine warfare, surf conditions for amphibious operations, terrain trafficability for ground forces, atmospheric temperature and moisture distribution for electronic warfare, radar and electro-optical propagation, and upper level winds for air operations. It also includes space weather—monitoring and predicting the energized particles from the solar wind that can impact satellite sensors and high-frequency communication systems and ground-based electrical transmissions. Knowledge of the current and forecasted environment is integral to warfighter decisions regarding optimal force allocation, operational maneuver, weapons employment, and targeting.
Today, the “environment” includes the electromagnetic spectrum. Assured access to the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) is necessary to gather, analyze, and share information, maintain joint interoperability, and control an increasing number of automated assets. This is made more challenging by emerging EMS anti-access and electronic-warfare technologies, as well as competition for finite spectrum resources from the wireless broadband industry and consumer demands for increased bandwidth. Electromagnetic-spectrum maneuver warfare is an operational approach to using EMS and the cyberspace domain for both offensive and defensive effects. Deep knowledge of the EMS and cyberspace allows us to better protect our networks, infiltrate and jam the enemy’s networks, and leverage all of our sensors and transmitters so that we can better employ our forces while altering the enemy’s perception of the battlespace and minimizing his freedom of maneuver within it.
Knowing the environment starts with data collection, moves through analyses and prediction, and results in application to warfighting decisions. This construct is data-intensive and generally begins long before hostilities.
Sensing and Data Collection: The Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC) is responsible for characterizing and predicting the physical environment, and providing timely and mission-critical environmental know-ledge for incorporation into operational decision-making. To accomplish this, NMOC uses a wide array of manned and unmanned, in situ and remote sensors. These include satellite-based sensors, unmanned vehicles, data-gathering buoys, radar, sonar, and direct observations and measurements.
The 2013 Trident Warrior exercise focused on controlled experiments with new technologies using today’s command-and-control infrastructure, sensors, and systems. For achieving knowledge of the physical environment the exercise tested sensors, assimilation of the data in near real-time, production of forecasts via reach-back to high-performance computers, and determination of impacts on warfighting.
The unmanned assets included two ScanEagle UAVs, nine SLOCUM Seaglider unmanned underwater vehicles, four SHARC Waveglider unmanned surface vehicles, five wave buoys, and two flux buoys. The test included in-flight data collection and transmission, and assimilation of the data into tactical-scale predictions using the Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System.
Increasingly the Navy is developing “through-the-sensor” technologies that allow environmental data to be gathered from operational sensors. An example of this is the Hazardous Weather and Data Display Capability, which extracts and displays weather data from scans of the AN/SPS-43E long-range air-search radar.
The exercise proved our ability to quickly acquire and move environmental data from organic assets to shipboard users and improve the accuracy of our in-situ predictions in concert with the products of our state-of-the-art numerical modeling centers.
Knowledge of the ocean bottom is an example of long-term environmental data supporting warfighters. Bathymetric data are essential to creating digital nautical charts, produced for the Department of Defense by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, as well as for mine detection and effective sonar operations. The Navy currently operates six state-of-the-art Pathfinder-class survey ships for hydrographic surveying and collecting other data of the marine environment. These vessels are equipped with unmanned underwater vehicles to provide surveying capabilities in more difficult-to-reach areas.
For near-coastal shallow-water surveys, the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO) maintains two 34-foot hydrographic launches, a fleet of fully autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles, airborne light-detection and ranging sensors, and rapidly deployable fleet survey teams.
Analyses and Prediction: Collected data is distributed through a network of interoperable Navy and joint information systems, then assimilated and fused in high-performance computing centers like the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey, California, and the NAVO Defense Supercomputing Resource Center at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Navy supercomputers run highly sophisticated models predicting global and regional atmospheric and oceanic conditions, as well as specialized predictions for tropical cyclones, ocean currents, wave heights and direction, ocean thermal structure, and sea-ice concentration and movement. This collected and fused data is analyzed and used to accurately describe the current state of the ocean and atmosphere that the warfighter will encounter during operations.
The Navy is currently working with other federal agencies to expand weather prediction beyond the existing five- to seven-day window. The goal is to develop numerical computer models that look beyond just atmospheric features, also incorporating global data from ocean, terrain, ice, and space. Known as the Earth System Prediction Capability (ESPC), this pioneering program takes advantage of more easily obtained data from remote sensors and increased computing capacity by federal supercomputing centers.
Part of the characterization of the battlespace includes the provision of celestial positions (astrometric maps) and Earth-orientation parameters to provide absolute positional reference for land, sea, air, and space platforms.
Know the Enemy
Intelligence, with its highly specialized role of providing foreknowledge of enemy disposition, intent, and action, is central to information dominance and elemental to its tenet of battlespace awareness. The critical intelligence warfighters need is dynamic and perishable, and only obtained by penetrating deep into the secrets our potential enemies are determined to protect. That is precisely what distinguishes “intelligence” from “information.” Whereas “information” largely consists of facts and data exchanged between users and consumers, “intelligence” requires deliberate, active, targeted collection, rigor of analysis, and prompt dissemination that yields a decisive advantage to a decision maker. Producing and delivering timely intelligence has never been more challenging, especially given the pervasiveness and speed of information technologies used by our potential adversaries.
Dominance of the battlespace requires persistent, predictive intelligence and a deep-penetrating understanding of any potential enemy’s capability and intent—in other words, the threat he poses. Intelligence provides critical understanding of enemy force structure, location and disposition, logistics trains, capabilities, vulnerabilities, and goals. Understanding the enemy evolves from knowing and then predicting his normal operational characteristics and being ahead of his actions and reactions.
As a global force, the U.S. Navy is required to gain and maintain a deep understanding of the human component of multiple battlespace environments. One aspect of this is maritime-domain awareness (MDA), formally defined as “the effective understanding of anything associated with the global Maritime Domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment of the United States.”
MDA is built from the integration of all-source intelligence, law-enforcement information, and open-source data. This is heavily dependent on information sharing, requiring unprecedented cooperation among the various elements of the public and private sectors, both nationally and internationally.
The Office of Naval Intelligence’s Sealink Advanced Analysis (S2A) provides global maritime situational awareness by supplying intelligence data and fusion services to automatically generate and maintain worldwide vessel tracks. S2A provides global, persistent, cooperative, and non-cooperative maritime vessel-tracking information valuable to commanders, intelligence analysts, joint warfighters, senior decision makers, and interagency offices within the intelligence community.
The forward maritime-operations centers (MOCs) serve as critical intelligence providers for Navy component commanders and assigned forces, providing key support functions for unique maritime intelligence that is not readily replicated elsewhere. Although normally functioning at the operational level, the MOC must also have the flexibility to provide tactical intelligence to assigned forces should the capability of the afloat strike-group intelligence team be degraded. At the same time, the afloat strike group must have the capability to reach back directly to the joint-intelligence operations centers should the MOC capability be degraded. The challenge here becomes the anti-access problem, as well as growing kinetic and non-kinetic threats to the MOC itself; directing intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance (ISR) and intelligence tasking, collection, analysis, and production capacities of naval assets in the area of responsibility; archiving and retrieving tactical-level contributions of afloat units; and serving as the center of excellence for theater maritime operational intelligence.
Intelligence is also a primary driver for positive identification of the enemy, which is the foundation from which all effective military action flows, achieved when U.S. and friendly forces know with near-instantaneous certainty the precise disposition of enemy forces and assets to enable kinetic or non-kinetic military action. Intelligence plays a critical role in this process by accurately interpreting feeds from all manner of ISR sources, and providing products and training for target and system recognition to friendly operating forces.
Because the U.S. Navy faces a wide variety of threats and potential enemies worldwide, the information-dominance community specialists who focus on various state and non-state adversaries develop a unique and intense understanding of their “home field” across the spectrum of operations, from peacetime steaming and engagement to crisis or wartime encounter. Insights gained by “knowing the enemy” allow superior decision-making, leading to deterrence or defeat of the enemy during conflict.
Know the Target
Knowing the target requires sufficient persistent BA sensors to identify the activity of interest (a platform, an operation, or an organization) and to observe ongoing activity and gain regular and in-depth knowledge of an adversary’s location, operations, and intent. Traditionally, this has been captured under the ISR construct. As tensions escalate, regular periodic observation sufficient for peacetime BA may evolve to continuous focused observation able to convert to a targeting solution quickly (ISR&T). The Navy currently has a wide variety of means to “know the target,” from fixed-remote to manned to unmanned sensors.
Fixed-Remote Sensors: The Navy’s Fixed Surveillance System (FSS) is composed of a series of arrays deployed on the ocean floor in deep-ocean areas, across straits and other choke points, or in strategic shallow-water littoral areas. It consists of the Sound Surveillance System, a long array of hydrophones; the Fixed Distributed System (FDS), a large-area distributed field of acoustic arrays; and the FDS-C, a less expensive commercial-off-the-shelf version of FDS. FSS provides threat-location information to tactical forces and contributes to an accurate maritime picture for the joint-force commander. Due to strategic positioning and long lifetime, these capabilities provide indications and warning of potentially hostile maritime activity before conflicts begin.
Manned Sensors: Manned sensors play a critical role in BA, presenting an ability to rapidly reposition and execute multitasking operations through operator oversight. Specific examples are found in both the undersea and air domains.
The UQQ-2 Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) capability consists of a fleet of five ships providing passive detection of submarine activity and real-time reporting to theater commanders and operational units. SURTASS employs the TL-29A twin-line passive acoustic towed array, offering significant passive detection capability in both deep-ocean and littoral environments using directional noise rejection and a bearing ambiguity-resolution capability.
The WQT-2 SURTASS/Low Frequency Active (LFA) system is the active adjunct to the SURTASS. LFA consists of a surface ship-deployed vertical-source array with active transducers deployed from a center well hatch, power amplifiers, and an array-handling system. It uses the SURTASS passive array as the receiver and is capable of long-range detections of submarine and surface-ship contacts.
The Navy’s manned airborne BA assets are the EP-3E Aries II, the Navy’s dedicated airborne ISR&T platform. EP-3Es provide long-range, high-endurance support in addition to performing cooperative maritime operations. Multiple-intelligence sensors, powerful communication and data links, and employment on the flexible and dependable P-3 aircraft ensure effective AISR&T support to conventional and nonconventional warfare across the range of military operations.
Unmanned Sensors: The Navy is placing increased emphasis on autonomous unmanned systems due to their persistence, versatility, low risk to personnel, and ability to relieve manned platforms of routine missions in order to concentrate on the high-complexity missions.
The Large-Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV) will provide the autonomous capability to deploy and manage a variety of sensors and payloads across multiple mission areas. The Office of Naval Research is leading efforts to achieve the power and energy density necessary to extend LDUUV endurance and the autonomy required for extended safe operations at sea. These multimission systems will enhance our undersea capacity and incrementally expand capability through modularity and standard payload interfaces.
The Navy Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system will provide persistent sea-based ISR with precision-strike capabilities. The UCLASS system will enhance carrier versatility, integrating unmanned air systems into a carrier air wing enabling a single carrier to conduct 24/7 operations in ISR, targeting, strike, and bomb-damage assessment. The UCLASS system will interface to existing shipboard and land-based processing, exploitation, and dissemination systems. The program is structured to deliver an early operational capability in 2020.
The MQ-4C Triton Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System (Triton UAS) is integral to the recapitalization of Navy’s airborne ISR capability inherent in the maritime-patrol and reconnaissance force. Triton UAS on-station persistence sustains the maritime common operational picture, acting as a trip wire for surge forces, enhancing situational awareness of the battlespace, and shortening the sensor-to-shooter kill chain. It will provide orbits of multiple air vehicles providing persistent ISR out to 2,000 nautical miles.
The MQ-8 Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) is designed to operate from the littoral combat ship and other air-capable vessels, as well as land-based sites, for expeditionary operations and support to special-operations forces (SOF). Fire Scout provides day and night real-time ISR, target acquisition, voice-communications relay, and battlefield-management capabilities to the tactical commander. The Navy is developing a rapid-deployment capability to provide VTUAV with increased range, endurance, and payload capacity to support SOF and other emergent missions.
The expeditionary RQ-7B Shadow Marine Corps Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System is integral to the Marine aircraft wings. The Shadow provides dedicated tactical reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, target laser designation, and communications relay in support of Marine air-ground task-force and maritime-control operations.
The RQ-21 Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System is an organic asset for Navy special warfare and Whidbey Island–class dock landing ships to provide tactical ISR capabilities. Sensors include an electro-optic/infrared camera with laser range-finder and illuminator, communications relay (land-based version), and Automatic Identification System capability.
Knowledge of the physical and operational environment facilitates decisions made by operational commanders. Collecting the raw data, processing and analyzing the data, and predicting how that data will change, combine to assist operational commanders in making faster and better decisions than the adversary. Having faster targeting solutions shortens the kill chain. To maintain this advantage, information-technology architecture must evolve smartly to meet data, communications, storage, analysis, and security requirements.
The Fleet is increasingly using “decision-support tools” that fuse environmental, intelligence, and targeting information to quickly deliver sensor settings, optimum routes, weapons timelines, asset allocation, and employment plans at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.
The Navy is working toward a future state where multipurpose sensors will adaptively collect data across multiple disciplines and areas of responsibility. These sensors will be low-cost, deployable, reach-back controlled, and expendable where appropriate. Sensor platforms will communicate and autonomously execute sampling plans that maximize relevance and accuracy, and the data will be standardized and converted to international geospatial formats for near real-time assimilation into databases and prediction systems. When possible, every platform acts as a sensor, and every sensor will be networked.
Achieving this goal will not be easy, and partnerships will help ensure that we promote constant interoperability and cost-effective approaches. The Navy is implementing a Fleet Intelligence Federation that will optimize our manning, collection, and communication assets, to include bandwidth. This federation will leverage the Navy’s information-dominance capabilities and supplement the service’s regional expertise with the capabilities and assets of the combatant commands, the combat-support agencies, the U.S. intelligence community, and our allied partners.
Rear Admiral Filipowski is Director of Warfare Integration for Information Dominance (OPNAV N2/N6F). His operational assignments have ranged from commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Staff, to commanding both U.S. Naval Security Group Activity Yokosuka, Japan, and Navy Information Operations Command Georgia.