The Mosaic War Redefining the battlefield


No matter how times change‭, ‬the principles of war as perceived by the renowned Chinese general and military strategist‭ “‬Sun Tzu‭”‬‭ ‬in his book‭ “‬The Art of War‭” ‬remain relevant to our present day‭. ‬His famous quote‭ ” ‬Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows‭; ‬the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing‭” ‬has perpetually driven armies to design their strategies‭, ‬ensuring that military power does not remain in a fixed strategic form‭. ‬

The final shape of military power is its lack of form‭, ‬just as water lacks a fixed form‭. ‬This is because a victorious strategy cannot be replicated‭, ‬as anticipating the enemy’s reaction every time is impossible‭. ‬In other words‭, ‬adaptable and changing strength in accordance with the enemy leads to victory‭. ‬This precisely encapsulates the concept of the Mosaic War‭.‬

Technological advancements over the past decades in the military domain have brought about significant changes in combat doctrines and army structures‭.‬

Groundbreaking innovations in robotics‭, ‬artificial intelligence‭, ‬nanotechnology‭, ‬drones‭, ‬and more have gradually replaced conventional soldiers on the modern battlefield‭. ‬

This has led to a reduction in the number of military specialists in high-tech fields and the main objectives of military strategists and researchers became the creation of cost-effective opportunities to overcome adversaries‭, ‬the desire for multi-dimensional protection and minimizing loss of life‭.‬

Moreover‭, ‬complex and unforeseen events worldwide have altered the ways military conflicts are thought about and managed‭.‬

As a result‭, ‬the United States deemed it necessary to establish a new conceptual framework for future military conflicts‭, ‬as well as a strategic approach to achieve complete victory in any type of warfare‭. ‬

According to a new report released by the Advanced Defence Research Projects Agency‭, ‬the U.S‭. ‬Army is being urged to adopt a new‭, ‬adaptable‭, ‬and flexible force design to eliminate individual points of failure‭. ‬Such points include critical data links that could jeopardize U.S‭. ‬forces in peer-to-peer combat scenarios‭.‬

Core Concept

Since Operation Desert Storm in 1991‭, ‬competitors have systematically observed the American way of warfare‭. ‬They studied the advantages and methods of the U.S‭. ‬military‭, ‬developing strategies and systems to counter those advantages and exploit weaknesses in the design of U.S‭. ‬forces‭. ‬

Faced with new challenges from China and Russia‭, ‬both of which closely observed U.S‭. ‬strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan and learned from it‭, ‬the U.S‭. ‬sounded the alarm about the risks posed by Chinese and Russian revisionist ambitions in its 2018‭ ‬National Defence Strategy‭.‬

To confront these challenges‭, ‬military planners aim to transform the design of the U.S‭. ‬Army into a new force that can withstand‭ ‬and prevail in the conflicts of system warfare‭. ‬Developing a new concept/strategy that brings together‭ “‬all the puzzle pieces‭” ‬of advanced technologies and coordinates them effectively against any potential adversary‭, ‬is imperative to achieve swift and complete victory‭. ‬

Key among these concepts/strategies are‭ “‬multi-domain operations‭” ‬and the‭ “‬Mosaic War‭”. ‬These aim to integrate the innovations of military science and art‭, ‬advanced technology‭, ‬operational methodologies‭, ‬and structural organization‭.‬

The Mosaic War concept emerged as a way to wage warfare that harnesses the power of information networks‭, ‬advanced processing‭, ‬and classified functions to restore the American military’s competitive edge in peer-to-peer conflicts‭. ‬

The Mosaic War design was developed to address future strategic environment requirements and current force limitations‭. ‬The term‭ “‬mosaic‭” ‬reflects how elements of a smaller force structure can be rearranged into various configurations or displays of power‭,‬‭ ‬just like the diverse coloured tiles used by artists to create multiple images‭.‬

The mosaic force design utilizes various and categorized platforms in collaboration with available capabilities to formulate an‭ ‬operational system using highly flexible networks‭, ‬exceeding the necessity for obtaining multiple kill paths‭, ‬and rendering the‭ ‬system as a whole more survivable‭, ‬thereby reducing the critical target value of any single node on the network‭.‬

Timothy Grayson‭, ‬Director of the Strategic Technology Office at the Advanced Defence Research Projects Agency‭, ‬states‭: “‬The army‭ ‬can spend its time developing weapons that are faster or more protective or deadlier than its competitors‭, ‬but in the end‭, ‬potential adversaries will come up with something to counter them‭.” ‬

He adds that while spending more money and applying advanced technology to our weapon systems to stay ahead is an option‭, ‬ultimately‭, ‬it’s a losing proposition‭, ‬as each step in this competition is more complex‭, ‬challenging‭, ‬costly‭, ‬and time-consuming than‭ ‬the previous one‭.‬

Grayson emphasizes that a part of the mosaic concept is‭ “‬recombining the weapons we already have today in new and amazing ways‭.”‬‭ ‬

The key to this is collective action‭, ‬capabilities assessment‭, ‬and enabling leaders to call upon effects that provide capability‭ ‬smoothly from sea‭, ‬land‭, ‬or air‭, ‬depending on the situation‭.‬

The Concept of Mosaic War

The first to adopt and coin the term‭ “‬Mosaic War‭” ‬was Tom Brinz‭, ‬former Director of the Military Technology Office at the U.S‭. ‬Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency‭ (‬DARPA‭). ‬He defined it as a combat theory proposing that battles should be fought on a‭ ‬large‭, ‬asymmetric‭, ‬and unpredictable scale‭, ‬using a diverse range of weapons and platforms of various categories‭, ‬sizes‭, ‬and types‭. ‬

Each battle should be uniquely executed‭, ‬like the tiles in a mosaic‭, ‬potentially providing a decisive advantage compared to facing similar enemy weapons and platforms‭.‬

When attacking concurrently across a wide front and distributing your sensor and firing systems across numerous platforms‭, ‬you can amass your firepower without needing to amass your forces‭, ‬ie‭. ‬concentrating firepower instead of troops‭. ‬

The concept first emerged within DARPA‭, ‬describing how to conduct multi-domain manoeuvres against adversaries possessing precision strike capabilities‭. ‬Mosaic War places significant importance on viewing battle as an emergent and complex system‭, ‬using low‭-‬cost swarm formations alongside electronic effects to overcome adversaries‭.‬

The central idea is to be inexpensive‭, ‬rapid‭, ‬lethal‭, ‬flexible‭, ‬and adaptable‭. ‬Instead of constructing expensive‭, ‬complex‭, ‬and optimized munitions for a specific target‭, ‬small unmanned systems are delivered with current capabilities in creative and evolving collections‭, ‬which continuously benefit from changing battlefield conditions and emerging vulnerabilities‭. ‬In essence‭, ‬it’s a‭ ‬low-cost process that assembles a team of humans and machines‭, ‬combining flexible swarm systems with strategic intuition that adversaries cannot match‭. ‬When forces attack simultaneously from multiple directions‭, ‬they create a series of dilemmas that cause‭ ‬the enemy’s system to collapse‭. ‬Over the past two years‭, ‬a unique collaboration between DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office and‭ ‬the U.S‭. ‬Naval Academy has led to a series of wargame simulations to test this concept‭. ‬Based on the initial results of this collaboration‭, ‬the Mosaic War concept offers an applicable approach to moving forward in developing multi-domain formations and capabilities in the 21st century‭. ‬To clarify further‭, ‬traditional systems had to be homogenous‭, ‬from fifth-generation fighters to aircraft carriers‭. ‬Often these platforms were expensive‭, ‬fixed‭, ‬and challenging to adapt‭. ‬They resemble jigsaw puzzle pieces‭, ‬where each piece can only connect with an identical one‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬the Mosaic War system was designed to be networked flexibly and‭ ‬configured rapidly to provide versatile operator capabilities‭. ‬Any system‭ (‬or unit‭) ‬with specific functional characteristics can be integrated with others‭, ‬offering the desired combat capability at the time and place chosen by the commander‭.‬

In summary‭, ‬Mosaic War operations represent an‭ “‬out of the box‭” ‬perspective on decision-centric warfare‭. ‬It aims to enhance internal decision-making processes while simultaneously undermining the enemy’s decision-making process‭.‬

Move Like a Butterfly‭, ‬Sting Like a Bee

Boxer Muhammad Ali famously said‭, “‬Float like a butterfly‭, ‬sting like a bee‭.” ‬This philosophy aligns closely with the concept of‭ ‬Mosaic War‭. ‬In traditional warfare‭, ‬the kill chain is defined by the OODA loop‭, ‬which stands for‭ “‬Observation‭, ‬Orientation‭, ‬Decision‭, ‬and Action‭” ‬–‭ ‬the steps necessary for observing a target‭, ‬orienting towards it‭, ‬making a decision‭, ‬and executing the action‭.‬

However‭, ‬in the mosaic operational construct‭, ‬the point-to-point kill chain is replaced by a network of sensor nodes that gather‭, ‬prioritize‭, ‬process‭, ‬and share data‭. ‬

This data is then integrated into a shared operational picture that is continuously updated instead of tightly integrating all these functions into a single expensive platform‭, ‬such as the F-35‭ ‬fighter‭.‬

In Mosaic War‭, ‬these functions are categorized and distributed among numerous manned and unmanned aircraft that share data and process functions across a dynamically changing network‭.‬

The concept of Mosaic War seeks to move beyond the designs of individual systems and unique inter-service operational standards‭ ‬to develop operations and tools that rely on reliable communication between recognized entities‭, ‬providing limitless potential to impact tactical‭, ‬operational‭, ‬and strategic decision-making levels‭.‬

Mosaic War is a new approach to warfare with several advantages‭:*‬

1‭. ‬Cost-effectiveness‭: ‬It requires fewer resources compared to other strategies‭.‬

2‭. ‬Unpredictability‭: ‬The high number of possibilities makes it difficult for the enemy to predict future events‭.‬

3‭. ‬Flexibility and Adaptability‭: ‬Similar to human immune system properties‭.‬

4‭. ‬Ability to Add Unexpected Elements‭: ‬Highly effective unexpected elements can be added to the battle engagement‭.‬

5‭. ‬Use of Low-Cost Swarm Formations‭: ‬Alongside other electronic and cyber effects to overcome adversaries‭.‬

However‭, ‬there are some drawbacks to Mosaic War as well‭:‬

It can be relatively challenging to control the Mosaic War system‭. ‬There’s no central authority‭, ‬and there’s a large number of platforms to direct‭. ‬Coordinating all the different attacks might be difficult‭, ‬leading to confusion and errors‭, ‬necessitating strong communication due to the classified nature of these systems‭. ‬Rapid and specialized responses are also necessary to counter‭ ‬a wide range of potential threats‭. ‬If not executed correctly‭, ‬this strategy could have unintended consequences and offer the enemy an opportunity for a counterattack‭.‬

The Future of Mosaic War

The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency‭ (‬DARPA‭) ‬envisions an ambitious future for Mosaic War‭, ‬seeing it as a combat philosophy and means to significantly accelerate capability development in the field‭.‬

Mosaic War requires a more fragmented‭, ‬diverse‭, ‬and dynamic force across tactical timelines to deliver unique force packages to‭ ‬surprise and defeat adversaries‭. ‬Consequently‭, ‬Mosaic War requires a departure from focusing on slow-evolving‭, ‬homogeneous platforms and emphasizes simpler force elements that can be rapidly developed‭, ‬deployed‭, ‬and integrated into mission execution‭. ‬According to the Office of Strategic Technology‭, ‬the concept of Mosaic War envisions a U.S‭. ‬force characterized by three attributes‭:‬

1‭ ‬Fractionation‭:‬‭ ‬Fractionation refers to how military force capabilities are concentrated on specific weapon platforms‭. ‬A homogeneous or non-fractionated force provides a large number of capabilities and functions on a single platform‭. ‬For example‭, ‬the F-35‭ ‬is a homogeneous platform with sensing‭, ‬firing‭, ‬command and control‭, ‬and electronic warfare‭ (‬EW‭) ‬capabilities integrated into one platform‭.‬

2‭ ‬Heterogeneity‭:‬‭ ‬Heterogeneity refers to platforms in the military force possessing diverse and distinct capability sets‭. ‬In a non-homogeneous force‭, ‬core system capabilities will share fewer common denominators‭, ‬allowing for greater diversity‭. ‬For instance‭, ‬the same electronic warfare effect might be delivered by a remote-controlled drone‭, ‬a balloon‭, ‬or a low-cost cruise missile‭. ‬Mosaic War envisions a more diverse and distinctively varying U.S‭. ‬force‭.‬

3‭ ‬Composability‭:‬‭ ‬Composability refers to the extent to which force elements can be dynamically combined in various ways to deliver operational effects‭. ‬A non-composable force is heavily constrained by predefined kill chains‭, ‬while a highly composable force eradicates the‭ ‬notion of fixed kill chains‭, ‬enabling the formation of dynamic kill chains from available force elements at mission execution‭. ‬Mosaic War envisions a more composable force‭, ‬aided by artificial intelligence decision-making during mission execution‭. ‬In terms‭ ‬of operations‭, ‬proponents of Mosaic War expect that diversity‭, ‬fractionation‭, ‬and composability will enhance the adaptability‭, ‬scalability‭, ‬and unpredictability of U.S‭. ‬forces‭.‬

‬‭ ‬By‭: ‬Retired Colonel Eng‭. ‬Khaled Al-Ananzah‭ ‬‭(‬Advisor and Trainer in Environmental and Occupational Safety‭)‬

Al Jundi

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