NCW – the way ahead
Announced with no fanfare in early October – not even a media release – the NCW Roadmap 2009 is a 70 page document providing an outline of how the ADF needs to achieve key objectives in the next decade and beyond. The document is a comprehensive update of the 2007 Roadmap and provides more specific information about how the ADF aims to be a fully networked force by 2030, consistent with the White Paper released earlier in the year.
The focus of the Roadmap is on the period 2009 – 2019 and identifies the specific capabilities that will be sought through the Defence Capability Plan with the objective of internally networking each individual service by the end of next decade. The equally challenging task of networking the 3 services together and adding in other agencies is scheduled for the period 2020 – 2030.
There are 2 basic aspects to achieving a fully networked force: the technical and physical but also the human and organizational. The former is easier to outline because it relates largely to particular projects with timelines and funding. The second area of ‘human factors’ is recognized as being more nebulous while being equally important.
Concerning the particular projects that will be funded through the DCP, the Roadmap identifies their purpose as:
• creating the foundations for the networked force
• building the networked force
• evolving the networked force towards Force 2030
It is recognized that the underlying mechanism for NCW to work is the smooth flow of secure data:
“The creation of a Single Enterprise Architecture to support the networked force build is fundamental to achieving the necessary collaboration and synchronisation. A key aspect of architectural design is the development and use of architecture framework views to establish a “common language” between diverse stakeholders, to manage the inherent complexity of system of systems, particularly under the inﬂuence of diverse mission requirements, and to enable incremental capability development and integration into the force structure.” (Chapter 2.26).
The Roadmap emphasizes the importance of the “learn by doing” approach the ADF has adopted since first committing to Network Centric Warfare in 2003. References are made to operations in the Middle East (Iraq and Afghanistan) where all 3 Australian services have needed to interact with each other and coalition partners - especially the US - and this necessity has provided insights into the way forward. Specific reference is made to surveillance and intelligence tasks performed by RAAF AP-3C aircraft and also the role of RAAF air traffic controllers in Afghanistan. This latter group - 41 Wing based in Kandahar – saw around 200 RAAF personnel running control and reporting functions across 2/3rds of the country in one of the world’s busiest operational environments. While not mentioned in the document, it is understood that the experience gained by the RAN through the extended deployment in the northern part of the Persian Gulf has also been a valuable experience.
The document summarises the situation today:
“Since the release of the 2007 NCW Roadmap, the ADF has made steady progress in
creating the foundations for NCW in Defence. An initial information and communications infrastructure has been established and is being used to link geographically separated force elements and selected systems.
However, progress across the ADF varies. The maritime and air domains are most advanced because of their longstanding experience with data links, satellite communications and network-type operations with our allies and coalition partners.” (2.29 & 2.30).
An important development is identified as the opening of the Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC) near Bungendore, NSW, which will have the task of supporting deployed operations during the 21st Century. Vital to this has been:
“………the development of HQJOC’s command, control, communication, computing and intelligence systems and their networking into the strategic, operational and tactical levels of Defence. This has been achieved through innovations in the system infrastructure, such as real-time C2 systems, enabling tactical data links (TDL) and data network management for the evolving Joint Interface Control Ofﬁcer and Joint Data Network Ofﬁcer capabilities. Other assets include remote tactical radios, an all informed ‘knowledge wall’ and 12 multi-level security video conference brieﬁng/ contingency rooms.” (2.33)
The human dimension is not overlooked, and HQJOC personnel use tools such as desktop video conferencing and secure instant messaging to improve the quality of decision making.
The 3 services are dealt with separately, starting with the Navy - which the Roadmap says is undergoing the greatest change to maritime communications since the 1960s.
Navy is assessed as having made a good start in moving to a networked force. This is mainly through the implementation of military satellite capability (JP 2008) and the modernization of naval High Frequency communication (SEA 1442, JP 2043). The experience gained to date will be critical for the effective future operations of the 2 LHDs (JP 2048) and the 3 Air Warfare Destroyers (SEA 4000):
“These platforms will need a high level of situational awareness to be effective. They will depend heavily on communications and timely access to all contributors to the surveillance picture, including value added data from sensors such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), submarines and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.”
The ships will also require access to satellite imagery and hydrographic information for which Link 16 is essential. They will also need Link 11 capability so as to be able to work with legacy platforms. An additional benefit of being fully networked is that life at sea will become easier, with sailors hopefully having full access to the internet – certainly during peacetime operations.
The specific RAN milestone projects are identified as:
JP 2008 Ph 3,4 & 5 JP 1390 JP 2043 JP 2069 Ph 2
JP 2089 Ph 2B; SEA 1442 Ph 3 & 4 SEA 1448 Ph 2A / 2B
JP 2048 Ph 4A/4B JP 2077 Ph 2D SEA 4000 Ph 3
While networking is also essential to future Army operations – as various deployments have demonstrated – the task is judged to be more difficult than for the other 2 services, primarily because of the potential number of “nodes” involved. While a ship or aircraft might constitute a number of nodes based on sensors and command & control architecture (a radar might be one node, the ESM system a second, a SIGINT system a 3rd, and so on) these are relatively few in number. However, with Army it is possible that a “node” could be a single soldier – and there are potentially thousands of them - many more than there are aircraft and ships.
While the regular Army has had relatively little exposure to coalition operations where networking is essential, the opposite is the case with Australian Special Forces who have gained experience working in Afghanistan – especially with US Air Force assets.
The way forward is described:
“The ‘variable message format’ standard will be the backbone of tactical data exchange for the Army, supporting networking and integration on the ground. Three key projects will deliver a networked capability to Army: the Battlespace Communications System – Land (JP 2072); the Battleﬁeld Command Support System and Battle Management System (BMS) (Land 75); and the Soldier Enhancement (Land 125) project.” (2.43)
Milestone projects for the Army are:
JP 2072 Ph 1 /2A /2B/ 3 LAND 75 Ph 3.4 / 4 LAND 125 Ph 3A / 4
JP 2008 Ph 4 / 5A / 5B JP 2065 Ph 1B (AFATADS)
LAND 17 Ph 1 LAND 121 Ph 3 JP 129 Ph 2 / 4
JP 2077 Ph 2B JP 2097 Ph 1B
A curious omission seems to be LAND 121 Phase 4, the Land Rover replacement, where it would seem essential for the vehicles to have some networking capability. Also it is not clear where the Abrams MBTs fit into the mix.
It might be argued that the RAAF has made the most progress moving down the NCW path. Even though key projects such as AEW&C (AIR 5077) and Vigilaire (AIR 5333) have faced considerable problems – not yet fully overcome – the ambitions behind these procurements were very high and some of their potential is now being realized. Add to that the extremely successful – and largely unreported – Hornet Upgrade Programme (AIR 5376), coupled with the imminent arrival of the first Super Hornets and RAAF has a potent mix of assets for the future.
In the 10-year timeframe under consideration the RAAF will receive perhaps the most powerful of all networked platforms – the Joint Strike Fighter. While timelines remain fuzzy both for the acquisition of the aircraft and for the platform to reach full operational capability, there is no doubt that a networked JSF will be an enormous force multiplier. Equipped with a number of powerful sensors and appropriate processors and data links, the JSF will be a crucial “node” in the network.
Another asset likely to appear at the end of next decade is the AP-3C replacement, the Poseidon P-8, an aircraft of enormous capability to collect and disseminate data.
Milestone projects for RAAF are:
AIR 5431 Ph 1 – 3 JP 2008 Ph 4 JP 2047 Ph 3 JP 2072 Ph 2A / 2B
JP 2077 Ph 2B / 2D AIR 5077 Ph 3 AIR 5333 AIR 5405 Ph 1
AIR 5349 Ph 1 AIR 6000 Ph 2A / 2B JP 2006 Ph 5A
JP 2030 Ph 8 JP 2064 Ph 3 JP 2069 Ph 2
Finally there are a number of milestone projects in the Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) domain:
JP 8001 Ph 2B DEF 7013 Ph 4 JP 2008 Ph 4 / 5A / 5B JP 2030 Ph 8
JP 2065 Ph 2 JP 2069 Ph 2 JP 2096 Ph1 JP 2099 Ph 1
JP 2044 Ph 4 JP 2047 Ph 3
It should be noted the large number of Joint Projects which – by definition – are essential for networking. It should also be noted that there are more than 30 projects that need to be interconnected, on time and on budget, just to form the NCW individual service framework.