Qualifying naval weapons to enter the era of network-centric warfare

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There is a lot of talk at the moment about the concept of Network‭ -‬Centric Warfare‭ (‬NCW‭), ‬where communications are documented at‭ ‬all levels of the armed forces during wartime operations‭, ‬while providing a comprehensive picture of the theaters of operations‭, ‬relying on digital communication systems and data processing by laptops or portable central computers‭, ‬which are directly connected to the sensors‭, ‬and military experts expect this concept to be the mainstay of military action in the coming years‭.‬

As the advanced navies are about to enter a new phase‭, ‬in which computer network systems and information technology play a role‭ ‬that may be more important than the importance of warships‭, ‬aircraft and submarines that benefit from this information‭, ‬through‭ ‬the concept of network-centric warfare that depends on taking advantage of extensive investments in the fields of communication‭ ‬systems and intelligence‭, ‬command and control‭, ‬so that naval units‭, ‬stationed near the coast‭, ‬can increase their military capabilities‭, ‬through what information systems provide to these units with the necessary real-time intelligence about enemy locations‭,‬‭ ‬and the ability to quickly react to expected threats‭.‬

Historically‭, ‬in the age of gunboats‭, ‬naval commanders could see all the activity around them through a simple telescope‭, ‬but today‭, ‬they need to perceive events across oceans‭, ‬in the sky‭, ‬and deep on land‭, ‬thousands of miles away‭, ‬through systems that allow them to reach this level of situational awareness‭, ‬while they can collect information obtained from a host of sensors‭, ‬including radar‭, ‬video images‭, ‬underwater sensors‭, ‬visual reports sent from naval ships‭, ‬automatic tracking systems‭, ‬and the results of identifying targets from air and sea platforms‭, ‬and then invest this information appropriately‭.‬

Network-centric warfare concept

Network-centric warfare can be defined as‭ ‬“a concept of operations based on informational superiority‭, ‬which generates increased combat power through a network of sensors‭ ‬for decision makers and weapons systems‭, ‬to achieve a common awareness of danger‭, ‬increased speed of decision-making‭, ‬greater degree of destruction‭, ‬and increased effectiveness of survival‭, ‬and a degree of self-harmony with changing circumstances‭. ‬Network‭-‬centric warfare also aims to use integrated intelligence information‭, ‬which is supposed to be provided by satellites‭, ‬warplanes‭,‬‭ ‬unmanned aerial vehicles‭, ‬and other sensors‭, ‬in order to identify the correct targets and destroy them with precision-guided munitions‭.‬

The concept of network-centric warfare depends on the convergence of information technologies with military operations‭, ‬where information is transferred from different sensors‭, ‬carried by land‭, ‬air and sea‭, ‬to weapons of killing and destruction‭, ‬in the digital battlefield‭. ‬With the gradual transition from the industrial age to the information age‭, ‬modern armed forces are moving to‭ ‬be able to electronically control the battlefield and communicate with each other on all fronts‭, ‬and this leads to changing how‭ ‬the war is conducted‭, ‬and helping the military to adapt to the field‭, ‬which has become geographically undefined‭. ‬According to the concept of network-centric warfare‭, ‬complex comprehensive information networks are created to achieve information superiority‭ ‬over the enemy‭. ‬In other words‭, ‬knowing more information about friendly forces‭, ‬about the battlefield‭, ‬and about the enemy‭, ‬and‭ ‬preventing him from knowing information about friendly forces‭, ‬and this heralds new capabilities and prospects in wars‭, ‬where operations end successfully and quickly‭, ‬and at a lower cost‭. ‬All the elements of the armed forces units‭: ‬soldiers‭, ‬commanders‭, ‬and weapons‭, ‬will be linked together electronically‭, ‬completely‭, ‬in a network way‭, ‬to provide them with a joint operational picture of what is happening in every place of the battle space‭, ‬and the area in which operations are carried out‭, ‬and this image allows leaders to make decisions more quickly and possess precision fire‭, ‬with heavy impact on the enemy‭.‬

The beginning of the twenty-first century witnessed a shift in the weapons‭, ‬tactics and methods of fighting wars‭, ‬which was evident in their transition from platforms‭’ ‬warfare to network-centric‭  ‬warfare‭, ‬which consists of a wide-range network of sensors‭, ‬enabling combat units‭, ‬whether on the ground‭, ‬in the air‭, ‬or at sea‭, ‬to have access to critical information in real time‭, ‬which‭ ‬they need‭, ‬and through which front line forces‭, ‬land‭, ‬air and sea‭, ‬are linked together‭, ‬as well as with their leaders and support elements‭, ‬anywhere in the world‭. ‬Building networks doubled the capacity of partners‭, ‬and benefited from their energies at the‭ ‬required time and place‭, ‬and allowed the forces to develop the speed and style of command and control‭, ‬and thus‭, ‬led to complete‭ ‬coordination among the units involved in the fighting through the rapid provision of programmed and coordinated information‭, ‬in‭ ‬the interest of the joint arms battle‭.‬

The progress that took place in the field of reconnaissance‭, ‬surveillance‭, ‬and communications technologies and systems has become one of the hallmarks of modern warfare‭, ‬as the forces shifted towards working within the framework of joint operations‭, ‬with the support of a huge and sophisticated system of sensors and reconnaissance platforms‭, ‬manned and unmanned‭, ‬which feed the field‭ ‬commands‭, ‬and the forces at all levels‭, ‬with all the field information they need‭. ‬On the other hand‭, ‬the forces have become more coherent and dynamic thanks to the modern communications and command and control networks‭, ‬which provide the commanders and forces with a comprehensive and clear view of the battlefield‭, ‬the areas of deployment and movement of hostile and friendly forces‭, ‬and the ability to change the concentration and tasks of the forces‭, ‬according to field conditions‭.‬

Network-centric warfare is based on communication networks‭, ‬rather than military operations per se‭, ‬as it works to transmit a large volume of information about the nature of the battle and the strength of the belligerents‭, ‬and thus‭, ‬reflects the necessary‭ ‬characteristics for success‭. ‬The transformation from central platforms to network-centrics is not a simple task‭, ‬and it may take‭ ‬a long time to complete the transformation of the armed forces‭, ‬which in turn leads to a doubling of combat capabilities‭, ‬continuity‭, ‬speed of implementation‭, ‬and initiative‭.‬

Expeditionary Sensor Grid‭ ‬

The US Navy plans to deploy a network of thousands of sensors on land‭, ‬at sea and in the air‭, ‬which will be linked together by an information transmission network‭. ‬If this idea succeeds‭, ‬it is expected that it will lead to a comprehensive change in the type and composition of naval forces in future wars‭. ‬The idea for this network‭, ‬called the Expeditionary Sensor Grid‭ (‬ESG‭), ‬emerged‭ ‬at the Naval Warfare Development Center‭, ‬which develops future methods of naval warfare‭. ‬The network includes about 10,000‭ ‬sensors‭, ‬including what is carried on unmanned air and naval vehicles‭, ‬land and sea sensors‭, ‬and unmanned amphibious vessels‭, ‬in addition to containers for various weapons‭, ‬such as missiles‭, ‬mines‭, ‬and torpedoes‭. ‬These sensors will be deployed in a large area‭ ‬to supply forces with quantities enormous information‭. ‬US Navy officials place this network on top of their priorities‭, ‬as it will provide them with detailed knowledge of everything that is going on on the battlefield‭. ‬In addition to the tactical importance of the network‭, ‬it is expected that it will also affect the shape and nature of the naval vessels‭, ‬aircraft and submarines used by naval fleets‭. ‬The success of such a network ensures informational superiority‭, ‬and thus‭, ‬the possibility of saving huge funds for the development and launch of radars‭, ‬guidance systems and infrared sensors‭, ‬which are indispensable on board of all naval vessels and aircraft operating in the Navy‭. ‬With regard to network-centric warfare in the US Navy‭, ‬this part of the network work can be imagined like this‭: ‬a pilot of F/A-18‭ ‬Hornet‭, ‬which is launched from the aircraft carrier‭, ‬hovers over the battlefield‭, ‬and a signal appears from the data link‭, ‬indicating the appearance of a tank in the battlefield‭, ‬with a complete plan for the‭ ‬aircraft to attack it‭. ‬The plan includes the aircraft’s path‭, ‬altitude‭, ‬weapons readiness‭, ‬target coordinates‭, ‬and a proposed path for the return of the aircraft to the aircraft carrier after the attack‭. ‬The pilot may appear in front of a picture showing the locations of friendly forces close to the target‭. ‬The information was transmitted to the attacking aircraft and to command and control centers‭, ‬connected to information transmission links‭, ‬from another‭ “‬Hornet‭” ‬aircraft performing reconnaissance missions‭, ‬by infrared sensors‭. ‬On the aircraft carrier from which the attacking Hornet took off‭, ‬as well as on the ground‭, ‬commanders know where their forces are‭, ‬how the attacks are conducted‭, ‬and who can finish the job‭, ‬if necessary‭.‬

The‭ “‬Hornet‭” ‬aircraft‭, ‬on the aircraft carrier‭ “‬John F‭. ‬Kennedy‭”, ‬designated for reconnaissance missions‭, ‬use the advanced infrared aiming system‭, ‬Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared Receiver‭ (‬ATFLIR‭). ‬It can also be used on the F-15‭ ‬Eagle and F-16‭ ‬Falcon combat aircraft‭, ‬where it can detect and identify targets at ranges up to three or five times that of other systems currently in use‭. ‬In anti-submarine warfare‭, ‬the formation and construction of the sub water picture is not based on information from a single platform‭, ‬but on information documented and combined from different sensors‭, ‬and spread over a wide area‭. ‬Many types‭ ‬of sensors can be used‭, ‬such as ship sensors‭, ‬seabed sensors‭, ‬unmanned underwater vehicles sensors‭, ‬aircraft sensors‭, ‬helicopters or submarines sonars‭…‬etc‭.‬

Data Distribution System

The Data Distribution System‭ (‬DDS‭) ‬constitutes a large-scale‭, ‬high-capacity‭, ‬highly confidential data transmission network between Cooperative Engagement processors that distribute key sensor data to all members of the Navy in real time‭, ‬allowing all platforms to control the fire‭. ‬Highly effective transmission power‭, ‬spectrum propagation of wide frequency‭, ‬and accurate timing are all required specifications‭, ‬for which the system uses an electronically‭- ‬scanned array of antennas to transmit and receive encoded data‭. ‬These mechanisms have been on the table since 1987‭, ‬but the practical initiatives for them came after two years of prior studies on the feasibility of entering into new equations in the field of military communications of a tactical nature‭, ‬and actual production began in 2002‭ ‬with plans to equip 250‭ ‬marine units with the Cooperative Engagement Capability processor and to equip surface ships‭, ‬surveillance aircraft‭, ‬training and test sites‭, ‬and US Marine Corps platforms‭.‬

The US Naval Systems Command is developing the Cooperative Engagement Capability‭ (‬CEC‭) ‬sensor network system‭, ‬designed to provide early detection and consistent tracking of aerial threats such as cruise missiles‭, ‬manned aircraft‭, ‬and drones‭. ‬This capability relies on a military communication system‭, ‬with electronic countermeasures‭, ‬and constitutes a protection for the fighting force‭. ‬The system is a secure‭, ‬high-speed interconnected weapons network that connects naval sensors to air defense systems‭.‬

In this context‭, ‬the cooperative engagement mechanism constituted the required paradigm shift‭, ‬and crossed the Atlantic to reach‭ ‬the United Kingdom‭, ‬to cooperate in this advanced modern program‭, ‬with the aim of rehabilitating the first system on Type-23‭ ‬frigates‭. ‬As for the Royal Navy’s Type 45‭ ‬destroyers and new aircraft carriers‭, ‬they will be equipped with a joint engagement capability‭, ‬which is ready‭. ‬The US‭ ‬Naval Systems Command is developing a network of sensors in Cooperative Engagement Capability‭ (‬CEC‭) ‬designed to provide early detection and consistent tracking of air threats‭, ‬such as cruise missiles‭, ‬manned and unmanned aircraft‭.‬

Enhancing maritime communication capabilities

The French Navy uses the latest expertise of European system integrators to enhance the effectiveness of maritime communications‭, ‬realize the concept of network-enhanced operations and enhance broadband information exchange capabilities with French Navy aircraft‭. ‬This program will crystallize the resolve and determination of the French Navy in pursuing the realization of the concept of network-enhanced operations‭, ‬and enhancing the broadband information exchange capabilities of the information systems aboard French ships‭, ‬by providing interoperability through many communication networks shared in the military structure of France and‭ ‬its allies‭.‬

The French Navy’s Air Force Communications Network is operated by the Joint Forces Directorate for Defense Infrastructure Networks and Information Systems DIRSI‭. ‬This will introduce an administrative capacity for a redundant communications network‭, ‬designed to monitor and manage the equipment that makes up the French Navy’s air force‭, ‬from two locations on land‭.‬

The US Navy fleet is being provided with a Secondary Network Relay‭ (‬SNR‭) ‬Unit as part of the Combat Forces Tactical Networking Program for Command‭, ‬Control‭, ‬Communication‭, ‬Computer‭, ‬and Intelligence‭ (‬C4I‭) ‬systems‭. ‬This unit allows the establishment of an improvised wireless network via Internet protocols used for tactical data exchange‭, ‬enhanced field awareness‭, ‬and collective planning using existing communication systems aboard naval fleets‭.‬

SNR is the best choice as a web-based protocol networking system to provide operational interoperability between Combined Maritime Forces and allied forces‭, ‬by providing a common standard for collaborative planning and tactical information sharing‭. ‬The secondary network communication unit is actually an architecture that includes communication relay capabilities‭, ‬such as a text chat display‭, ‬a signal-total display‭, ‬and a data remote control unit‭.‬

The role of data links

The Navy has its own communications requirements and navies around the world have been at the forefront of developing Data Link‭ ‬technology to allow all units in the fleet to share data‭. ‬Many navies aspire to link weapon fire management systems to all units‭ ‬in the fleet on the same data link network‭, ‬so that senior commanders can initiate the engagement from a distance‭. ‬This is the‭ ‬case for radar surveillance information‭, ‬which modern navies would like to combine to generate a comprehensive picture of enemy‭ ‬activity in real time‭. ‬In this picture‭, ‬all units in the fleet then participate on different data links‭, ‬such as JTIDS‭, ‬Link-16‭ ‬and others‭.‬

The Tactical Data Link‭, ‬Link-11‭, ‬is used to exchange data between command and control systems and sensor carrier units‭. ‬It is the primary link for the United States Navy and NATO countries‭. ‬It operates on the UHF-HF frequency space‭. ‬It can work with satellites‭. ‬Large range‭, ‬encrypted‭, ‬and the number of subscribers in the link is up to 62‭ ‬subscribers‭. ‬The link has two data transmission rates‭: ‬the fast rate‭ (‬2250‭ ‬pulses/sec‭) ‬and the slow rate‭ (‬1364‭ ‬pulses‭ /‬sec‭).‬

For NATO naval forces‭, ‬the Link-11‭ ‬and its improved successor‭, ‬Link-22‭, ‬are synonymous with the Link-16‭ ‬in the maritime sector‭, ‬and are designed to provide communication with air‭, ‬sea and land platforms‭, ‬and operate in up to four networks‭. ‬Connections are‭ ‬synchronously independent and can be recorded on up to eight networks‭. ‬The Link-11‭ ‬provides a range of 300‭ ‬nautical miles using‭ ‬HF broadcasts‭, ‬and this range is also covered by the UHF frequency‭, ‬which is hampered by land curvature and terrain‭.‬

‭ ‬Link-11‭ ‬has been widely exported to customers such as Brazil‭, ‬which uses it as part of an upgrade package for its P-3‭ ‬Orion aircraft‭, ‬and the Romanian Navy uses the open-system architecture in a data link multiplexer terminal on board of two new frigates‭,‬‭ ‬Type 22‭, ‬imported from Britain‭. ‬This system uses Link-11‭ ‬and Link-22‭, ‬and sends data according to the changeable message format‭.‬

Information fusion technology

The information fusion technology generates marine images that form a true basis for a common situation that is placed at the disposal of naval commanders‭. ‬The images are then shared in real time via data links with broadband communications with warships‭, ‬aircraft‭, ‬and other submarines‭, ‬as well as general commands on land‭, ‬so that commanders at sea can enjoy a common situational awareness to respond quickly to any new developments‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬the Naval Operations Center is of vital importance to military operations‭, ‬in general‭, ‬because it contains a situational awareness system‭, ‬which takes information from all over the world to build a common operational picture‭ (‬may be a close-up of a suspicious ship‭, ‬for example‭, ‬that is updated every few minutes‭, ‬or of a‭ ‬local spot surrounding a military ship or marine unit on shore‭). ‬In the seventies of the twentieth century‭, ‬a system of this type was designed with a frequency of updating the image for about 50‭ ‬thousand registrations‭, ‬and the number increased to about 200‭ ‬thousand operations‭, ‬with additional registrations made by aircraft‭.‬

The European Defense Agency is developing a maritime surveillance network and plans to set up its own operations and data center‭. ‬The center’s overall goal‭, ‬according to the agency‭, ‬is to produce a technical solution that provides a jointly recognized and‭ ‬interconnected maritime image for all participants‭. ‬The center’s program was launched in 2006‭ ‬with the participation of 18‭ ‬EU member states‭, ‬including civil authorities and various EU agencies working in satellite imaging‭, ‬maritime safety‭, ‬border control and research‭. ‬Software is being developed to adapt existing national networks and support and expand data sharing capabilities‭, ‬via online protocols‭, ‬as well as chat and instant messaging‭.‬

On the other hand‭, ‬the European Common Information Sharing Environment‭ (‬CISE‭) ‬program aims to allow sharing of information control between different maritime control authorities‭, ‬such as law enforcement‭, ‬border control‭, ‬transport‭, ‬marine pollution control‭,‬‭ ‬fishing control and customs‭. ‬The program is also expected to link all existing marine monitoring systems without resorting to creating a new system‭. ‬Significant efforts have been made to collect and share data‭, ‬such as vessel locations and shipping details‭, ‬between relevant agencies‭, ‬and to increase the effectiveness of surveillance operations with existing means‭. ‬The British ship‭’‬s operations room adopts a system that can automatically track all known and unknown ships and identify potential threats‭. ‬It is a customized situational awareness system that uses complex video image processing and analysis methods‭, ‬and divides processing and analysis between the ship’s operations room and the control room on land‭. ‬The ship gets updated images every 30‭ ‬seconds thanks to data secured by Link 16‭, ‬and information provided by Bowman’s tactical communications system linked to information provided by the combat system and displayed on the screens of the Royal Navy’s Command Support System‭.‬

Conclusion

Network-centric warfare poses many challenges to the currently known means of naval warfare‭, ‬to the organization of naval fleets‭, ‬and even to the systems and types of ships that need to be developed to cope with this warfare‭. ‬Naval command and control technologies are now widely available‭, ‬and many navies are looking to design systems that meet their specific needs‭, ‬while using commercially ready technologies‭, ‬reducing cost‭, ‬speeding up integration‭, ‬and allowing the easy introduction of non-military sensors‭. ‬As a result of these systems‭, ‬naval commanders have an unprecedented image of the naval battlefield based on situational awareness‭.‬

‬By‭: ‬Major General Dr‭. ‬Ali Muhammad Ali Ragab ‭(‬A Military researcher and strategist‭)‬

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