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Net-Centric

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Network centric warfare, a term that was in vogue a few years ago, has been rehabilitated by Admiral Gary Roughead, recently appointed to the important position of Commander, Fleet Forces Command, i.e., head of the Navys Atlantic and Pacific ship and air type commanders.

Admiral Roughead spoke at a three-day conference in Virginia Beach on 19–21 June, sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). Roughead took over the Fleet Forces Command on 17 May.

He said that U.S. warships need improved capabilities to detect contacts, process data, and distribute the information to other platforms. In an address at the transformation warfare conference, Admiral Roughead expressed concern that the fleet needs a better picture of what other ships and aircraft are at sea as well as in the underwater dimension.

Our strike groups are challenged in persistent surveillance today. And in 2010, I believe that were going to be suffering even more so in the area of persistent surveillance, he said. Maritime domain awareness is where it all begins. We cannot conduct the operations that we must if we dont have a good sense of whats out there, moving on, above or under the sea.

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A New Zealand-based performance athletic company has developed a fabric they say can actually analyze trauma to the body and beam telemetry data to a control center so medics will know where and how severely a trooper has been hit.

Manufactured by Zephyr Technology Ltd., the Impact SF fabric can also be integrated into composite materials used in vehicle and aircraft manufacturing. Information on an impact either blunt force or ballistic can be transmitted wirelessly to a computer terminal which provides data on an impacts severity, type and direction.

With the U.S. militarys combat strategy growing more distributed, technologies like this could help keep track of injuries on a wider battlefield where medics and corpsmen are spread thin. The technology also seems like it would benefit helicopter crews, who are often exposed to ground fire and could use the extra set of electronic eyes to detect impact points on the fuselage.

(Gouge: RC)
Christian

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In the 1990s, Admiral Arthur Cebrowski began pushing the unorthodox idea that the Pentagon had to change itself, from a relatively-small collection of heavy, plodding forces to a larger array of lighter, quicker, cheaper, better-networked units. By 2001, the notion — known alternatively as “revolution in military affairs” or “force transformation” — had become official doctrine. The Army began a massive modernization effort, based, in part, around Cebrowski’s ideas. Presidential candidate George W. Bush embraced the concept during the 2000 election. Donald Rumsfeld adopted it as the cornerstone of his return to the Pentagon, and installed Cebrowski as the director of a new department: the Office of Force Transformation, or OFT.
Cebrowski.jpgThe office initiated a series of novel, seemingly off-the-wall projects: armored vehicles equipped with pain rays, sneaky ships silently bringing commandos to shore, orbiting mirrors to send lasers across the globe.
But early last year, Cebrowski was forced to retire, as he fought a losing battle with cancer. Observers wondered whether OFT and its projects would survive his passing.
The office, at least, probably will not, according to Defense News. Pending approval by deputy defense secretary Gordon England, “the office [will] be dissolved by Sept. 30.“
Defense analyst Bob Work thinks it “may be an indication of just how hard it is to balance the competing demands for transformation in the midst of this protracted campaign” in the Global War on Terror. The Armchair Generalist fears this could be the final “nail in the coffin” for transformation. But military theorist Tom Barnett, long allied with Cebrowski, sees the shift as the final move in bringing Cebrowski’s ideas into the heart of the U.S. military.
“Art’s success in mainstreaming his thinking meant that OFT always had a limited shelf life. [His ideas are] everywhere now,” Barnett writes. “Art himself saw this coming and had no problem with it. He simply would have moved on to the next great definition.“
Besides, the office is “not really shutting down,” an OFT source tells Defense Tech.

It is being split apart and embedded in two other areas of OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense]. The analysis and study portion of OFT is to be rolled into a new office as part of a larger reorg of OSD Policy. [More about that here — ed.] All of the other initiatives here, like… Redirected Energy and Operationally Responsive Space are to go into a new office under [Director, Defense Research and Engineering] John Young…
So, in a sense, this is a good move. Since OSD had no interest in appointing anyone to replace Cebrowski, the office was hobbled.… If this is approved, OSD is saying we like this OFT approach [so much] that we are willing to apply it more broadly across the entire department.

Could be. But with costs piling higher and higher for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and with the budgets for many “transformational” projects swelling, fast — I worry that this could jeopardize Cebrowski’s work, not institutionalize it.

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If any current U.S. space program deserves the name “Transformational,” its the Department of Defenses ambitious Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) program. The aim of the program is to provide real-time, high bandwidth connections between military assets ships, planes, drones, units, even individual ground vehicles anywhere in the world, providing a critical component of network-centric warfare.
Unfortunately, “transformational” is a synonym for another word: risky. Estimates currently project that the program, when and if completed, will cost as much as $18 billion highlighting the program for close scrutiny from Congress.
But for this week, team TSAT can celebrate a success. In a test conducted in conjunction with MIT, Boeing & Ball Aerospace demonstrated the inter-satellite laser link (Boeing) and pointing system (Ball Aerospace). This laser link will ultimately provide the 40 gigabits per second backbone that connects the planned 5 satellites together, which are slated to be launched in 2013.
For more information, check out Defense Industry Dailys Special Report on TSAT.
Ryan Caron, CDI

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This war in Iraq was launched on a theory: That, with the right communication and reconnaissance gear, American armed forces would be quicksilver-fast and supremely lethal. A country could be conquered with only a fraction of the soldiers needed in the past.
iraqtech_illo_485.jpgDuring the initial invasion in March 2003, this idea of “network-centric warfare” worked more or less as promised — even though most of the frontline troops weren’t wired up. It was enough that the commanders were connected.
But now, more than three years into the Iraq conflict, the network is still largely incomplete. Local command centers have a torrent of information pouring in. For soldiers and marines on the ground, this war isn’t any more wired that the last one. “There is a connectivity gap,” a draft Army War College report notes. “Information is not reaching the lowest levels.“
And that’s a problem, because the insurgents are stitching together a newtwork of their own. Using throwaway cellphones and anonymous e-mail accounts, these guerrillas rely on a loose web of connections, not a top-down command structure. And they don’t fight in large groups that can be easily tracked by high-tech command posts. They have to be hunted down in dark neighborhoods, found amid thousands of civilians, and taken out one by one.
David Axe — recently back from his 6th trip to Iraq — and I have a special report in this month’s Popular Science, on “Winning (and Losing) the First Wired War.” Give it a read. And see how this network-centric ideal is playing out, for real.

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