Information Warfare: June 12, 2004

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The U.S. Department of Defense wants to equip all the services with a common command and control (C2) network. From there, the Department of Defense wants to use that network to allow everyone in all the services to quickly exchange data, as well as voice messages, with everyone else, anywhere they may be on the planet via satellite communications. Such a system would provide a true battlefield Internet. This would obviously solve a lot of communications problems, especially with people from different services communicating with each other. Unfortunately, each of the services is developing their own battlefield Internet. But the navy has been ahead of the pack with its ForceNet system. The navy got the idea for this sort of communications during World War II, when task forces of a dozen or more ships had to confront attacks by a hundred or more Japanese aircraft. It was noted that ships acting together, in a coordinated fashion, could put up a better defense. But this needed better communications and some way to handle all the data involved.

The navy began installing computers in warships in 1961, and experimented with speeding up coordination between ships in a task force in order to improve air defense. This led to things like Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS), and systems that allowed the task force commander to take control of the missiles on all the ships in a task force. There have been few air attacks on American warships in the last sixty years to try this out in combat, but there have been many Tomahawk launches. As a resukt, ship captains, and crews, find it unsettling when, without any immediate warning, several of their Tomahawk missiles are launched.

All of this led to ForceNet, which is pretty close to a battlefield Internet, a system that takes all sorts of information from all navy ships, aircraft and short stations and makes it available to everyone else. The U.S. Army is so impressed that they have agreed to adopt the ForceNet technologies to their own network needs. The air force has not signed up yet, but with the army and navy moving ahead, the air force will either adopt ForceNet technology voluntarily, or be forced to when the Department of Defense decides on a standard networking technology in the next few years. 

ForceNet is the most likely system to be adopted because it is the most flexible and open to the use of off-the-shelf Internet and other technology. Officers and sailors are clamoring for this kind of communications. Even the older officers grew up on the Internet, as the Internet first showed up in many colleges in the 1980s. 

 


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