Military ready to roll out new technologies if needed in Iraq

'If our military is to defeat our adversaries, we must improve how we share information.'

'Gen. Richard B. Myers

As the United States prepares for potential conflict with Iraq, the military is readying an arsenal of next-generation weaponry and systems to wage a high-tech war.

Much as radar pushed battlefield technology forward in World War II and helicopters altered warfare in Vietnam, new technologies such as rapid-planning software and upgraded satellite communications are designed to give U.S. forces the upper hand in a second Persian Gulf conflict.

'The technical community is on the front line in this global war on terrorism,' said Navy Adm. Walter F. Doran, commander of the Pacific Fleet, this month at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's West 2003 conference in San Diego.

'That's our asymmetric advantage. We will turn to technology vendors with our requirements, and they will develop the systems and technology,' he said. 'We will train and lead our sailors, and they will operate the most advanced systems in the world.'

The United States is ready to bring to the battlefield systems that will teach Iraq a few lessons, said Rear Adm. Douglas Crowder, director of the Navy Operations Group.

'Lesson 1 is that you can't allow the U.S. military the time to muster its forces. If you do, we'll kick your butt,' Crowder said. 'The second lesson is you can no longer take on the United States force for force. We loved Desert Storm 1, and there is a good possibility we're going to love Desert Storm 2.'

Mother of invention

With each conflict in the last 100 years, the United States has advanced its technological arsenal, Defense Department brass said. In Afghanistan, U.S. forces used Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to carry out many missions and made major advances in establishing the Common Operational Picture (COP) system, giving warfighters a better look at both friendly and enemy forces, officials said.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that in Afghanistan he saw how soldiers used the COP mapping system. It integrates numerous military surveillance and communications systems to get a wide view of the battlefield'an improvement over the paper maps and acetone that were heavily used a few years ago, he said.

In addition, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is testing technologies that can be used in the war against terrorism.

In early 2000, DARPA and the Air Force launched a joint experiment called Rapid Network Tool to address shortfalls in a tactical communications system, known as the Link 16 network. Link 16 supports a message format that operates over the Joint Tactical Integrated Display System. The network embeds standardized information packets in radio transmissions and can tailor messages for specific users.

DARPA's Rapid Network Tool, now in use in Afghanistan, reconfigures a theaterwide Link 16 network for military aircraft in a few hours as opposed to a process that previously took several weeks, according to DARPA officials.

The Defense research arm also is working with the Joint Special Operations Command on rapid-planning software for special operations command and control systems. The Active Templates program lets military planners sketch out battle strategies against a time line, according to DARPA.

All comes together

The system is designed to merge plans from units connected to the network and coordinate changes as plans solidify. Commanders can then use the data to track the progress of a battle.

Myers said the Joint Chiefs is spearheading work on a new strategy defining how military branches share information and secure C2 assets for fighting wars. 'If our military is to defeat our adversaries, we must improve how we share information,' Myers said.

The Joint Chiefs is putting together an operational Joint Capstone Document to exploit what Myers called 'our nation's asymmetrical advantages.' The strategy should be ready by year's end, Myers said.

In a war against Iraq, military leaders expect to place greater emphasis on interoperable systems and information sharing.

'We need to break down the barriers between the intelligence and the military, and get everyone on one plot,' said Air Force Col. Tom Hyde, chief of Checkmate, the Air Force chief of staff's Directorate for Air and Space Strategy Development. 'We can go to meetings where we present a piece of information and some guy says, 'Oh yeah, we knew that.' It's on the borderline of criminal sometimes.'

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