[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
[infowar.de] LAT 16.3.02: Ushering In the Warfare Information Age
Los Angeles Times March 16, 2002
Ushering In the Warfare Information Age
By Peter Pae
Behind triple security doors in an obscure industrial complex, Boeing Co.
engineers at the firm's little-known but pioneering Anaheim unit are
quietly working on a system that could alter the future of warfare.
Resembling a war room that seems modeled after a "Star Wars" movie, a
10-foot-high screen displays a satellite image of a region, with moving
squares and triangles identifying fighter jets, bombers and spy planes. A
second screen shows detailed infrared images of a building targeted for
possible attack. A third provides a live feed from a foot soldier wearing a
small video camera on his helmet.
The images were part of a mock military operation in an unidentified Middle
Eastern region but provided a rare glimpse at what Boeing officials believe
represents the methods of war for the 21st century. What the Pentagon has
in mind over the next decade represents a huge leap over even the seemingly
sophisticated battle-management system it has used in the Afghan conflict.
Under the concept known as integrated battle space, U.S. military leaders
will have unprecedented access to information from anyplace around the
globe, tracking ships, planes, vehicles and individual soldiers from a
command and control center that could be thousands of miles away. In
essence, it would bring together disparate systems so they can talk to one
another and provide a common picture of the battlefield.
Soldiers would carry hand-held computers linked to satellites that would
provide not only their own precise location but also where the enemy might
be. The command center also could transmit detailed maps and images of
enemy compounds to soldiers anywhere in the world. Instead of radio
commands, marching orders may come via e-mail.
"It represents a fundamental reversal of the way wars have been fought for
the past 2½ centuries," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a
Web-based think tank in Virginia.
"Ten years ago, Norman Schwarzkopf had to pack up a small town and move it
to Saudi Arabia to fight the Gulf War. You won't have to do that anymore.
It'll be a lot like telecommuting."
And again, engineers in Anaheim are leading the way. A former Rockwell
International Corp. operation that Boeing acquired in 1996, the unit has
been a major technology center for decades, developing defense and
aerospace systems that have reshaped aerospace history.
The guidance and control system for the Minuteman intercontinental
ballistic missile was developed in Anaheim, altering the course of the Cold
War. The division also developed major components of the Apollo space
program that put the first man on the moon. It did much of the pioneering
work on night vision during the 1970s.
Now, it is the development center for the nation's multibillion-dollar
missile defense program and is competing to reshape and modernize the Coast
Last week, the unit won one of its biggest trophies, a contract to develop
combat systems for the Army that has a potential value of at least $4
billion over the next five years. As the lead system integrator, a Boeing
team will draw up plans for a system of new weapons and technologies that
the Army hopes will turn it into a lighter, faster and more lethal force.
The Army contract was a huge win because it validated a risky push by
Boeing officials to focus its resources and engineering talent on a
business that seemed more like a pie in the sky than a potential
At a time when most defense contractors were focusing on developing
next-generation weapons, Boeing two years ago began looking at producing a
system of systems that would integrate disparate weapons and technologies
to provide a coherent strategy for fighting a war. A major byproduct of the
move was the creation of the Battlefield Integration Center, a $16-million,
11,000-square-foot compound in Anaheim where much of the integrated battle
space is getting developed and tested.
The timing could not have been better. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
and the subsequent military action in Afghanistan, scores of Pentagon
officials have visited the Anaheim facility. Army officials cited Boeing's
work on integrated battle space as one of the reasons for the company
winning the contract against Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics
Corp. Unlike the competitors, Boeing has had few Army contracts.
Quest for Battle Data
Military strategists have been after the Holy Grail of battlefield
intelligence--the ability to constantly monitor all military
activities--for decades in hopes of lifting the so-called fog of war, but
with the recent convergence of advanced communication equipment, highly
sensitive intelligence-gathering sensors and powerful computer chips, the
dream is becoming a reality.
"Battles have been won or lost on incomplete information," said Loren
Thompson, a longtime Pentagon consultant and lecturer of defense policy at
Georgetown University. "This is one of the ways superior information is
going to dictate victory."
Some elements of the integrated battle space already are taking shape,
particularly with military operations in Afghanistan. For the first time,
the commander of U.S. forces fighting overseas is running the operation
from within the U.S. at the headquarters of the Central Command in Tampa, Fla.
Some military leaders have said Army Gen. Tommy R. Frank should be closer
to action. Frank has defended the decision, saying he is getting all the
information he needs, thanks to the advances in high-speed communications
and information technology. The distant command center may represent the
emergence of a new way of fighting, he said.
"We can view and we can access any battle space," Air Force Chief of Staff
Gen. John P. Jumper said at a recent defense conference. "When air and
space combine together in the right ways . . . we can find, fix, track,
target, engage and assess anything of significance on the face of Earth."
But Jumper added, "Right now, I would argue, these are capabilities that
exists in bits and pieces. It is our job to pull it all together, to be
able to think in terms of integration."
One vivid example was displayed last fall when, for the first time, the
White House was able to watch a live video feed of an attack on Taliban
forces in Afghanistan transmitted by a flying spy drone. The video
transmission was relayed by satellite to the Florida command center, which
then sent it on to Washington.
In another mission, an Army special operations soldier was able to call in
an airstrike, communicating directly with an Air Force bomber. Previously,
the Army would have had to request a strike through central command, which
then would relay the information to Air Force command to carry out a
strike, wasting invaluable time.
Many of the top defense contractors are scrambling to tap the growing
market for integrated battle space, and all of the armed services are
developing their own concepts for the technology, also known as network
centric warfare, but Boeing engineers hope to field a system of systems
that can be used and seen across all the services.
So far, Lockheed Martin Corp. has been a key player in creating such a
system for the Navy, while Raytheon Corp. has been looking to fuse many of
its weapons and systems for the Air Force. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman
Corp. is making a hostile bid for TRW Inc. so that it can tap the company's
space and defense-electronics expertise and have the businesses it needs to
field its own version of an integrated battle space.
Defense analysts said winning the Army contract was a major boost to
Boeing's effort in what many believe is the growth business of the future.
Boeing officials said they began talking about bringing together various
businesses that the aerospace firm operates to provide the integrated
battle space concept in 2000. The company made it a major business
initiative as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld began pushing for
bringing the military into the digital age.
"We've had some of Rumsfeld's people in here and this has been music to
their ears," said Roger Roberts, vice president of Boeing Integrated
Defense Systems. "We believe the vision for [an integrated battle space]
can be realized within the decade."
The work could be lucrative. Boeing believes that putting together various
elements of the integrated battle space, including work in unmanned aerial
reconnaissance aircraft and equipping an older generation of Airborne
Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, already represents a market of
perhaps $7 billion to $8 billion a year. That could grow to more than $20
billion in the next decade, Boeing officials said.
"We believe this will be a major growth area for us," said James F.
Albaugh, president of Boeing's Space and Communications unit. He noted that
one key reason for acquiring the satellite-making business of Hughes
Electronics for $3.8 billion last year was to tap its expertise in
space-based communications, which will be integral to developing the
requirements for an integrated battle space.
Immediately, part of the effort could include equipping airborne tankers--a
constellation of which is constantly in the air to refuel fighters and
bombers--with antennae and electronic equipment that allow the aircraft to
relay data and communications from the battlefield to far-flung command and
"The technology is already here," said Ret. Lt. Gen. Carl O'Berry, a former
deputy chief for command, control, communications and computers for the Air
Force and now head of Boeing's strategic architecture unit. "We just need
to integrate it."
Mail an infowar -
- infopeace -
de mit "unsubscribe" im Text.