In the ever-evolving landscape of modern warfare, command posts serve as the nerve centers of military operations. They are critical hubs where commanders make informed decisions, coordinate actions, and direct troops on the battlefield. However, as the nature of conflicts and the threat landscape continue to evolve, command posts are facing increasing challenges that demand innovative solutions. In this article, we will explore the future of command posts, focusing on how advancements in technology and strategic thinking are enhancing their security, mobility, and efficiency to enable enhanced military operations.
Command posts are the nerve centers of military operations. They are where commanders make decisions, coordinate forces, and track the progress of the fight. In today’s increasingly complex and interconnected world, command posts must be able to adapt to new threats and challenges.
Advanced Threats and Emerging Technologies:
The future battlefield will introduce new challenges, including hypersonic weapons, weaponized satellites, and direct energy weapons. These technologies pose a severe threat to land-based facilities, especially operational command posts.
The future command post is an increasingly tantalizing target. Near-peer enemy threats can detect and target mission command nodes using modern assets such as UAS. Directed-energy weapons, for instance, can target both network infrastructure and specific military and commercial communications nodes. As adversaries gain access to these advanced capabilities, the need for robust defenses and countermeasures becomes critical.
The Vulnerability of Command Posts:
The Army recognizes that tactical command posts are vulnerable to discovery and destruction by adversaries. These command posts are especially vulnerable due to their physical and electromagnetic signature, in addition to the lack of speed and mobility. As new weapons and tactics emerge, the shrinking battlefield and reduced response time further increase the threat to these mission-essential facilities.As such, protection and ensuring operational availability has and will remain critically important.
Enhanced Security: Shielding the Command Post
Security has always been a paramount concern for command posts, and the future brings forth even greater challenges. In response, military forces are investing in cutting-edge technologies to fortify the security of command posts.
Command post systems are being redesigned to withstand threats and minimize the risk of disruption. This includes improved physical protection measures, advanced camouflage techniques, and redundancy in communication networks and infrastructure.
Integrated sensor systems, advanced surveillance technologies, and sophisticated access control mechanisms are being deployed to detect and deter potential threats. Furthermore, advancements in cybersecurity measures are crucial in protecting command post networks from cyberattacks, ensuring the integrity of critical information.
Currently, peer competitors would be able to easily locate a command post through its electromagnetic signals, or even signatures are given off by power generators. As rivals improve their ability to rapidly link sensors to shooters, the kill chain timeline is dramatically reduced, highlighting the urgent need for investments to mitigate these risks. The Army recognizes the criticality of countering electronic warfare and new weapons to maintain operational effectiveness.
To tackle this challenge, efforts are underway to reduce electronic signatures and explore innovative ideas borrowed from industry. For instance, the concept of reducing the signature of every radio within a command post has been proposed. By tapping into industry expertise, the goal is to enable command posts to “hide in plain sight” by making their radio signatures blend in with ambient noise.
Enhanced Mobility: Agile Command Posts on the Move
Modern military operations often require command posts to be rapidly deployed, relocated, or even embedded within forward units.
Traditional tent-based command posts require significant setup and breakdown times, resulting in delays in establishing critical network infrastructure and limiting commanders’ situational awareness. It currently takes about 50 hours to break one down and about as long to get one up and running and re-establish communications once a new location is located enhancing the risk of being attacked. The cumbersome process of deploying tents, generators, network servers, and running cables increases the vulnerability of personnel and systems. The shifting nature of modern warfare demands a more agile and responsive approach to command post operations.
To meet these demands, military organizations are embracing enhanced mobility for their command post setups. Mobile command vehicles equipped with state-of-the-art communication systems, satellite connectivity, and self-sustaining power sources enable commanders to maintain real-time situational awareness and decision-making capabilities while on the move. These mobile command posts allow for greater agility, adaptability, and survivability in dynamic battlefield environments.
The Role of Distributed and Dispersed Headquarters:
Distributing and dispersing headquarters elements and personnel is critical to maintaining effective command and control capabilities. This approach ensures that command posts are not concentrated in a single location, thereby reducing vulnerability and the potential for catastrophic consequences if attacked. By dispersing personnel and decentralizing command functions, military forces can enhance operational resilience, maintain communication links, and facilitate decision-making even in the face of disruptions.
Enhanced Efficiency: Streamlining Command and Control
Efficiency is a key driver for successful military operations, and command posts play a vital role in optimizing decision-making processes and resource allocation. The future of command posts lies in leveraging advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data analytics. These technologies can process vast amounts of information, provide real-time insights, and support commanders in making well-informed decisions. Automated systems for data fusion, predictive analysis, and intelligent visualization tools enhance the efficiency of command posts, reducing response times and increasing operational effectiveness.
Integration and Interoperability: The Connected Command Post
The future of command posts relies on seamless integration and interoperability with other military assets and systems. Commanders need to access a wide array of data sources, including intelligence feeds, sensor networks, and real-time battlefield information. Achieving this requires robust communication infrastructure, standardized protocols, and collaborative networks. By integrating various platforms and systems into a unified command and control architecture, command posts can leverage a comprehensive picture of the battlefield, enabling faster decision-making and coordinated actions
How Technology is Changing the Future of Command Posts
Technology is playing a major role in shaping the future of command posts. New technologies, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and big data, are making it possible to create command posts that are more secure, mobile, and efficient.
Sensors and Sensemaking
Enabling operational success on the battlefield in the future will require seamless, resilient, and fast communication, interfaces, and decision-making processes. Automation at various levels, including the integration of AI, will augment human skills and enhance the decision-making process. The exponential increase in sensor availability and usage will provide ubiquitous access to data, blurring the lines between strategic, operational, and tactical levels of warfare. However, incorporating nonorganic sensors into the command and control (C2) structure will require expanded capabilities and cooperation through agreements with governments and ministries that own these sensors.
Wireless Command Post (WCP)
A Wireless Command Post (WCP) represents a cutting-edge approach to command and control in military operations. By leveraging wireless communication technologies, the WCP enables secure and reliable transmission of classified and unclassified information in expeditionary and tactical settings. This innovative solution eliminates the need for extensive cabling infrastructure traditionally required in command posts, providing greater flexibility and mobility for warfighters. The WCP allows for the use of Wi-Fi and LTE-enabled commercial mobile devices, empowering commanders and personnel with advanced communication capabilities at the tactical edge. With reduced logistical constraints and improved situational awareness, the Wireless Command Post enhances operational efficiency and contributes to mission success in dynamic and rapidly changing environments.
In today’s dynamic battlefield environment, communications cannot be limited to stationary positions. Adversarial technological advancements necessitate secure communications capabilities while on the move. Mobile command posts should offer smaller form factors that can be integrated into individual soldier equipment or mounted on vehicles like High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs). These components need to be ruggedized to adapt to various terrains, withstand harsh conditions, and ensure reliable communication in challenging environments.
Operating “blind” in a tactical environment puts warfighters at a significant disadvantage, jeopardizing mission success and increasing the risk of casualties. Networking on-the-move capabilities are essential to ensure seamless communication between transportation vehicles, aircraft operators, and warfighters. Direct communication channels, such as integration with warfighters’ headsets, allow for continuous situational awareness during transit.
VR/AR-based Man-machine command interface
The integration of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies in the man-machine command interface holds immense potential for enhancing military operations. Commanders can effectively visualize and disseminate critical information on a common operating picture (COP), enabling timely and accurate knowledge of enemy locations and survivability information. By utilizing a single app riding on the infrastructure, command posts can be streamlined, reducing their size and simplifying set-up and break-down procedures.
One significant advancement lies in the replacement of complex wiring systems with secure WiFi, developed in collaboration with the National Security Agency. This transition reduces the complexity of setting up command posts, allowing for easier mobility. Additionally, server stacks can be optimized by reducing weight and power consumption, enabling them to be mounted on vehicles and enhancing their portability.
The man-machine command interface should also focus on improving the user interface to alleviate the challenges commanders face when searching for relevant data. Virtual and augmented reality technologies will play a crucial role in establishing new command and control (C2) relationships with emerging actors. These capabilities provide commanders with the ability to virtually “visit” distant locations without the need for physical travel, enabling distributed and dispersed command posts. This approach enhances resilience and supports the vital C2 infrastructure.
Cloud computing is making it possible to deploy command posts more quickly and easily. Cloud-based command posts can be accessed from anywhere, which means that commanders can stay connected to the fight even when they are on the move.
Cloud resources also allow for a constant, consistent view of the operational environment, from home station to the edge of battle. With the advent of civilian technologies such as commercial satellite connections and 5G, there come improvements in connectivity and shortened latency. Additionally, given the diverse nature of these technologies, it is difficult to block or deny all of them simultaneously.
Hybrid cloud computing represents a transformative approach that enables commanders to achieve a balance between resilience and efficiency in various operational environments. By combining off-premises resources with geographically local computing, hybrid cloud computing addresses the challenges posed by disconnected, intermittent, and low-bandwidth conditions while effectively managing the size, weight, power, and cooling requirements of on-premises server stacks alongside command and control nodes. This approach offers several advantages, including accelerated deployment and relocation processes, reduced power consumption, and minimized reliance on dedicated stacked server platforms. The flexibility and adaptability of hybrid cloud computing contribute to streamlined operations, enhanced resource utilization, and optimized command and control capabilities.
Cloud computing also could allow staff processes to integrate artificial intelligence algorithms and machine learning to conduct predictive analysis of imagery, detect patterns in enemy sensing and enable predictive sustainment. Reducing the human in the loop minimizes the physical staff presence needed in the close-area fight, which ultimately leads to more survivable command and control nodes, reduced sustainment needs and lower nodal emissions in the enemy contact layer.
Artificial intelligence is being used to automate tasks and improve decision-making. AI-powered command posts can analyze data in real time and identify potential threats. They can also help commanders make better decisions by providing them with insights into the battlefield.
Big data is being used to improve situational awareness. By collecting and analyzing data from a variety of sources, command posts can get a better understanding of the battlefield. This information can be used to make better decisions and track the progress of the fight.
While the abundance of information and the need to integrate multiple data sources can lead to information overload and decision paralysis, leveraging AI, data lakes, deep learning, and advanced analytics will enable sensemaking and decision-making with reduced likelihood of paralysis.
Embracing technology will be crucial for efficiently managing and analyzing the vast amount of data, transforming it into actionable insights instead of overwhelming information. Artificial intelligence, in particular, is reshaping command and control functions, ranging from sensing and processing to sensemaking and decision-making. As innovation continues to evolve, even greater changes lie ahead, influencing both the form and function of command and control systems.
In conjunction with AI, multisensor platforms will optimize the collection and delivery of information to the data cloud. Once in the cloud, AI will facilitate the interpretation of near-raw information, enabling recognition of voices, faces, and shapes in videos or pictures. To fully leverage this capability, sensors will operate continuously rather than being activated only for specific mission-related information.
At the operational level, AI can play a significant role in the operations assessment process, providing accurate situational awareness, analyzing trends, predicting scenarios, and recommending operational actions to achieve desired effects. For example, at an operational-level headquarters, the primary driver is the length of the operations planning. Long-term plans are created for activities that will take place in more than 10 days, while medium-term strategies involve actions to be taken in three to 10 days and ongoing operations take place within three days. AI’s capabilities go beyond human capacity, often identifying correlations and possibilities that staff may overlook.
The overarching process that measures the deviation from the original plan is the operations assessment process, which provides the commander with the recommendations required to get the plan back on track or ensure it remains on track. AI can assist with this operations assessment process by providing accurate situational awareness. It will help the staff to analyze trends and predict scenario possibilities and developments. AI will recommend operational actions to achieve operational effects, and it is likely to suggest activities the staff would not have identified or correlated.
For mounted and dismounted leaders at the brigade level, a high-availability network with multiple nodes and communication routes will be crucial for rapid and accurate communication with higher headquarters, subordinates, and soldiers. Command posts of the future must maintain constant connectivity, reducing the need for human intervention to ensure network availability. Additionally, AI will be essential in managing real-time communications, responding to failures, degradation, and hostile actions, ensuring effective network operations.
Considering the insider threat perspective, command posts should also consider placing sensors within their facilities for comprehensive monitoring. Recording conversations, physical movements, and communications internally can provide valuable insights for process improvement, machine learning, and AI refinement. However, privacy implications must be carefully addressed. While a populated data lake enables insights and information retrieval, formulating the right query becomes critical, potentially enhanced through AI-driven improvements similar to Google search queries.
The future of command posts lies in mobile capabilities that enhance survivability, mobility, and efficiency. By transitioning from traditional tent-based setups to agile mobile platforms, military forces can overcome the limitations of fixed positions and improve their response capabilities. Mobile command posts enable rapid deployment, seamless networking on-the-move, and reduced vulnerability to adversaries.
Advancements in virtual reality and AI are poised to revolutionize decision-making processes in the future. AI will provide commanders with objective analyses and recommendations, surpassing human decision-making capabilities in many scenarios as its exponential improvement continues. As people gain trust in AI’s performance, more responsibilities will be delegated to these systems, potentially leading to the replacement of certain staff positions. To navigate this shift, planners must establish thresholds to determine when, how many, and what types of decisions should be transferred to machines, considering the potential impact of each decision.
The widespread implementation of AI and related technologies will greatly enhance the mobility and dispersion of command posts at both operational and tactical levels. These enhancements are essential for delivering capabilities and achieving desired operational effects on the battlefield.
As advancements continue to evolve, the integration of mobile command post technologies will play a vital role in enhancing the effectiveness and resilience of military operations in the dynamic and challenging modern warfare landscape.
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