Since around 1970, there have been extraordinary improvements in the technical means of collecting, storing, analyzing, and transmitting information.“The amount of data both required and produced by defence systems and processes is rapidly increasing and becoming more difficult to manage. Big data concepts attempt to harness massive amounts of information and distill that information into something that a human can use to make a decision.Big data is a data set that is too large and complex to manage and process with standard methods or tools. This could be due to high data volume (amount of data), velocity (speed of data in and out) or variety (range of data types and sources). Consumer product companies are mining Facebook, Google, and other data to understand customer preferences, global trends, and public opinion on matters of interest.
The new information age has seen rise of social media, bloggers, smart phones, plethora of cable and satellite news channels. The terror groups like ISIS use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and internet forums to spread their messages, recruit members and gather intelligence. “The advent of the mobile phone means that everybody is now a cameraman. The smart phone made the Arab spring possible, but it has also enabled Da’esh to promulgate its propaganda, write Nick Watts,” Deputy Director General of the U K Defence Forum.
The ongoing Internet of things reolution, the internetworking of physical devices (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), vehicles, buildings, and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
The ongoing 5th generation revolution provides mobile networking with speeds up to 10 gigabits per second and ultra-low latency around one millisecond holds enormous promise, including fast Internet for everyone, smart cities, driverless cars, critical health care, “internet of things” revolution, and reliable and secure communications for critical infrastructures and services.
The ultimate fact of the information age is the proliferation of IT, which “incorporates information systems and resources (hardware, software, and wetware) used by military and civilian decisionmakers to send, receive, control, and manipulate information necessary to enable 21st-century decisionmaking.
Impact on Military
The Information Age is also transforming all military operations by providing commanders with information unprecedented in quantity and quality.“We are on the eve of a new era in the business of warfighting and combined arms. In this information age of warfare, advantage will be achieved through the speed and integration of information. If we follow the right path, tomorrow’s commanders will seamlessly direct joint and coalition forces in a way that simultaneously capitalizes on our advantages on land; at sea; and in the air, space, and cyberspace,” says Gen. Dave Goldfein, the chief of the U.S. Air Force. The primary warfighting attributes will be decision speed and operational agility.
In current and future warfare, information superiority could be the single most decisive factor. Brian Nichiporuk, the author of “U.S. Military Opportunities,” discusses IW concepts and postulates: The goals of an offensive information-warfare campaign are to deny, corrupt, degrade, or destroy the enemy’s sources of information on the battlefield. Doing so successfully, while maintaining the operational security of your own information sources, is the key to achieving “information superiority”—that is, the ability to see the battlefield while your opponent cannot.
“The security challenges we face and the nature of potential adversaries demands that information is placed at the heart of operational capability rather than remaining an accessory to it. This means delivering assured networks and platforms that can operate in a contested electro-magnetic environment. Military advantage will also depend on an ability to harness the potential of Big Data analytics, open source intelligence and making visualisation a key tool in decision making,” write General Sir Richard Barrons,Commander Joint Forces Command.
Militaries around the world are developing new strategies for this new information age. “As Joint Doctrine 2/13 references, information has always been critical to successful confict outcomes. But with the increase in speed, volume and variety of information and data now available to us, we urgently need to rethink the processes, skills, and technology we use to evaluate and gain operational advantage,” writes Bill Holford, VP, BT Global Defence, BTGS.
US’s Third Offset Strategy
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said, “We don’t face a single monolithic or implacable adversary like we did in the Cold War. We face multiple potential competitors, from small regional states like North Korea and Iran, to large advanced states like Russia and China, to non-state adversaries and actors with advanced capabilities. Each of these are probably going to require a different approach and a different strategy, which is why we actually say “offset strategies.”
This offset strategy that we pursue in the Pacific is focused primarily on overcoming anti-access and area of denial network. As applied to Europe, for example, we’re probably going to have to have a high technology component as well as an innovative whole-of-government concept to counter the ambiguous hybrid threats we saw in Crimea and we continue to see in Ukraine today.
Gen. Dave Goldfein, the chief of the U.S. Air Force describes a speed-infused future of combined arms — across domains and entire partnerships. In short, our asymmetric advantage in future battles depends on harnessing the vast amount of information our sensors can generate, fusing it quickly into decision-quality information, and creating effects simultaneously from all domains and all functional components anywhere in the world.
The first is a vertical integration of all operating domains (air, land, sea, space, cyber, and sub-surface). In each of these domains, we simultaneously sense the globe and create effects. Both the challenge and the opportunity is to better stitch these domains together in ways that allow the massive volume of data we collect to enter a common operating system that can store, share, and compare at machine speed.
In the information age of warfare, relying on mostly human analysis is far too slow and the volume of data collected is far too great to achieve the decision speed required. This is where many of the Third Offset technological concepts of machine-to-machine dialogue, human-machine teaming, artificial intelligence, and autonomy come into play. As the data is quickly turned into decision-quality information, we must then create simultaneous effects from these same domains that can be rapidly choreographed into an attack plan that overwhelms any adversary’s ability to counter and respond.
As just one example, think of how we have evolved in the employment of 5th-generation stealth technology in recent years. In the F-117 stealth fighter, there was a switch in the cockpit we affectionately labeled the “stealth switch.” When flipped, all the sensors stowed, all the radios and other emissions ceased, and we shut off the world and went to work. Key to 1st-generation stealth technology was operating in a closed system — shut off from the outside world — in a single domain (air), and sequentially, going in first with everyone else following. It was a revolutionary concept that defined the employment of early low-observable technology and proved itself on the opening night of Operation Desert Storm.
Today’s F-35 begins machine-to-machine dialogue before the pilot straps on the aircraft. It checks into the network and begins comparing information by running through a series of algorithms that eventually determine confidence values of the data at machine speeds resulting in symbology presented on the visor of the pilot (human-machine teaming). This same information is replicated not only throughout the formation but also at command-and-control headquarters across the network.
At a recent Red Flag training exercise, the F-35B debuted with Marine Corps Capt. Jordan Hedges in the lead. Long before the large formation of Air Force, Navy, and Marine aircraft completed their air refueling and prepared to enter “enemy airspace”, a battle was raging in the cyber and space domains. Real-time decision-quality information from operations in these domains was passed to Capt. Hedges and members of the formation. Much like a quarterback, he began calling audibles for the joint team based on information displayed in a way that allowed him to better understand the fight taking place simultaneously in the air, on the surface, in space, and in cyber. In the middle of the fight, while leading the 100-plus aircraft package to their targets despite a robust integrated surface and air-to-air threat (i.e. A2/AD), he was tasked to move assets based on an intelligence tip about a high-value-target convoy. While all of this was going in, he was simultaneously tasked to support a Special Operations team insertion to a defended objective and then orchestrate the rescue of a downed pilot behind enemy lines.
Open system, simultaneous, multi-domain, vertically and horizontally integrated, with the result being decision speed and operational agility. This is just a snapshot into the future of combined arms in the information age of warfare.
Integrate across domains and components
The second level of integration is the horizontal connection of the various functional communities that must coordinate and integrate their activities so the sum of our operations is always greater than merely adding together the individual parts. This begins across components when a combatant commander demands vicious harmony in order to ensure the joint force hits on all cylinders. But it is far more than a military challenge. Much as we must stitch together domains vertically to sense the globe, provide decision-quality information, and create multi-domain effects, we must also stitch together the variety of stakeholders horizontally who offer the ability to contribute to creating multiple dilemmas for our adversaries.
This is going to require us to find creative ways to better share information with our international teammates as we prosecute campaigns “by, with, and through allies and partners.” As improved technology fosters mission growth (think no further than the current cyber and ISR enterprise that didn’t exist 15 years ago), there has been a corresponding increase in the security levels of information. This has often made coalition warfare more challenging, not less, as we work to fully leverage one of our great national strengths: the ability to build and sustain alliances and coalitions who share common values and interests. Not one of our adversaries or competitors in the 4+1 framework can claim this as a strength.
There are a number of stakeholders who operate today in space, including military, civilian, inter-agency, commercial, and coalition partners. Should a conflict extend into space, there is currently no mechanism to coordinate and integrate activity in order to ensure that information available to one stakeholder is available to others, that our operations more effectively defend our assets and information, and that we better employ our capabilities as a family of systems, not individual elements operating independently.
Today’s Joint Inter-Agency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSPOC) experiment at Schriever Air Force Base is a useful example of this horizontal integration concept in operation. The JICSPOC experiment is helping us better understand how to stitch all of our space stakeholders together horizontally as an enterprise to better defend and create effects in and from space. Because space capabilities are connected to all domains, better horizontal integration also improves operations vertically as data becomes decision-quality information for more leaders in the network.
War in the information age will continue to rely on a foundation of trust and confidence across the joint and combined team. The relationships we have built over the past quarter-century of conflict at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels set the table now for a revolutionary approach to future combined arms. In the end, it will be our ability to achieve decision speed and the operational agility to lift and shift forces and capabilities across all domains and functional components simultaneously that will produce not only a warfighting capability our enemy can’t hope to match, but also a lasting deterrent in the 21st century.
Russia’s IW campaigns
Computer hacking, disinformation and propaganda are prime weapons in the 21st century arsenal. Russia has deployed these non-lethal but very potent weapons during its invasion of the Crimea and in its ongoing conflict with Ukraine. According to US intelligence officials, Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services are now deploying this arsenal in an attempt to either influence the US presidential election or undermine confidence in the democratic process.
The Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine, and eventual annexation of Crimea in 2014, serves as the current model of a sustained IW campaign and provides examples of successes and failures in these efforts, write William R. Gery, SeYoung Lee, and Jacob Ninas. Russian IW, known as Reflexive Control, has its origins in Soviet doctrine and serves as a key component in their hybrid warfare operations.
Reflexive Control “relies . . . on Russia’s ability to take advantage of preexisting dispositions among its enemies to choose its preferred courses of action.”During operations in Ukraine, Russia’s primary impediments included Western European powers and the United States. Russia took multiple actions to seize the advantage of preexisting dispositions among its enemies in order to conduct successful operations in Ukraine and, at the same time, avoid a large-scale confrontation with the West.
As part of Reflexive Control, Russia utilized a well-coordinated denial-and-deception plan, called maskirovka, through the use of “little green men” to establish checkpoints and secure key terrain in Ukraine. These little green men operated with speed and efficiency, and wore no identifying patches or unit insignia. This lack of identification allowed Russia to deny any association with these forces, which were later acknowledged as Russian troops. By controlling information and being able to deny its involvement in the occupation of Ukraine during the early stages of the conflict, Russia was viewed as an interested party by the international community—as opposed to a belligerent. This fed directly into Russia’s view that Western Europe and the United States did not desire a direct conflict and would not press the issue of Russian involvement, even if discovered, write William R. Gery, SeYoung Lee, and Jacob Ninas.
Vasiliy Mikryukov, a doctor of pedagogical sciences and a member of the Academy of Military Science, argues that the operation in Syria is equally a classic example of Russia exploiting reflexive control theory (Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, April 12). Mikryukov noted that the VKS operation caught the US and its allies by surprise, and it proved President Barack Obama’s contention that Russia would find itself in a “quagmire” as entirely misjudged. Mikryukov referred to reflexive control as a method of influencing an opponent to think or behave in a certain manner for the benefit of achieving strategic gains.
The recent Russia’s military operation in Syria tested many Network-Centric Warfare Experiments. Igor Korotchenko, the editor of Natsional’naya Oborona, notes the use of a military internet, which established high-speed secure data transfer between units. Moscow-based military-diplomatic sources were explaining to media that the use of Su-34 jets to strike targets was an important feature, and one that highlighted the network-centric dimension of some air operations. These platforms were network-enabled and, according to such sources, were testing the developing capability to operate in a single information network. Syria represents the fourth occasion, following Kosovo, Georgia and Ukraine, on which decisive Russian military intervention has substantially altered the situation in Moscow’s favour.
In Crimea, Russian troops proved that Moscow can use highly trained and disciplined soldiers to execute a swift, effective campaign, one which resulted in the seizure of a large chunk of territory. And in Syria, Russia demonstrated a significant growth in its capability to project force far from its borders, as well as tangible changes to its arsenal.
Keir Giles in his research paper says: “ A distinctive aspect of information operations in Ukraine itself, and one with important implications for how cyber war may be waged in future, is the way Russian activity in the cyber domain facilitates broader information warfare aims,” and potentially even more significant for the nature of future cyber operations is the new interface between cyber and kinetic operations.
China stresses information age military capability
China intends to become a strong information technology power, will beef up cyber security systems and will enhance its capability to win an “informationized war,” the government stated in a document.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council jointly issued the “Outline of National IT Development Strategy” on Wednesday. The plans to steer the country’s IT development for the next decade have for the first time included military development for the information age. “To adapt to the recent changes in the national security situation … information technology will resolutely become the direction of military modernization,” the document states. It also said the Chinese military needs to enhance real combat capability based on network information systems, which will focus on taking control of information in wartime.
“Informatisation” (xinxihua) means that information technologies, especially those capabilities relating to command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), are considered paramount to expanding military effectiveness. This entails, among other things, dominating the electromagnetic spectrum through integrated network electronic warfare as well as exploiting technological advances in microelectronics, sensors, propulsion, stealth, and special materials to outfit the PLA with precision-strike weapons, including ballistic and anti-ship or land-attack cruise missiles,” writes Richard A. Bitzinger.
China established a Strategic Support Force at the end of last year, to go alongside the army, navy, air force and Rocket Force. Experts said the Strategic Support Force includes cyber war and space war troops. Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert, said China’s military is still significantly far from a real informationized military. “Presently China is not there yet, as most of the country’s army are still mechanized forces,” Song told the Global Times on Wednesday.
China needs to work on advanced Internet technologies to be a rule-maker instead of a game-player, so as to have a bigger say and to better protect its national defense and military information, he said. He added that an informationized military means connecting every soldier and every weapon among all troops so that when they are operating they are not only receivers of information but also contributors.
“The biggest difficulty lies in the lack of informationization in the core technology and key equipment, such as large-scale combat platforms and warning systems, Li said. He added that the informationization of China’s most advanced weapons still needs to be improved,” Li Jie, another Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times.
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