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[] WPO 03.03.03: Digitized Battlefield Puts Friend And Foe In Sight,

Washington Post March 3, 2003 Pg. 15

Digitized Battlefield Puts Friend And Foe In Sight

High-Speed Data, Global Positioning for Armored Units Key to Rapid 
Maneuver, Precision Attack

By Vernon Loeb, Washington Post Staff Writer

CAMP DOHA, Kuwait -- In the Iraqi desert 100 miles north of here is Medina 
Ridge, site of a 1991 Gulf War battle in which a brigade of M1 Abrams tanks 
destroyed more than 100 Iraqi tanks and armored personnel carriers in 
minutes from a mile and a half away, well out of the Iraqis' range.

Now, on the eve of a possible rematch, the lopsided technological advantage 
enjoyed by U.S. tank commanders 12 years ago has become even more 
overwhelming as Army forces have digitized the battlefield and spent 
billions of dollars making high-speed data the key to rapid maneuver and 
precision attack.

The upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks, equipped with powerful computers, laser 
designators and improved infrared sights, can operate either as 
reconnaissance sensors, passing target coordinates back to command 
headquarters, attack helicopters or artillery units, or as killers, 
destroying Iraqi armor with even greater precision and range than they did 
in 1991.

The Army's computer revolution, still gathering momentum on the digital 
battlefield, is even more advanced in the realm of materiel, with 
computers, data networks and radio frequency tags enabling a FedEx-like 
tracking system that commanders now describe as "precision-guided logistics."

Like an Abrams tank tracking an Iraqi target at the opposite end of the 
battlefield, logistics officers commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Claude 
Christianson at Camp Arifjan, a newly opened materiel hub 40 miles south of 
here, can track a shipping container loaded with ammunition, food, spare 
parts, and tools on the other side of the world in real time and tell 
what's in the front half from what's in the back.

"War has changed dramatically since Desert Storm," said Col. John F. Antal, 
director of operations for the U.S. Army's 3rd Corps, explaining that the 
ability to see targets at great distances and hit them with extreme 
accuracy "freezes the enemy, placing them on the horns of a dilemma."

"They can hide in small groups, with a tank here or there. Or they can mass 
to fight us," Antal said. "If they hide, we'll dig them out. If they choose 
to mass, we'll kill them with our precision-guided munitions."

The backbone of the digital Army is a network that enables commanders 
across the battlefield -- and around the world -- to track the movement of 
friendly forces as a battle unfolds and plot their relationship to enemy 
targets as the hostile forces emerge.

In the 4th Infantry Division, now set to deploy to Turkey for a possible 
invasion of Iraq from the north, every Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting 
Vehicle or battlefield Humvee is equipped with a Global Positioning System 
receiver, a data link and digital information screen, much like GPS systems 
now available commercially in automobiles.

The difference, for commanders, is that each vehicle-mounted computer 
screen plots not only their locations, but those of all other friendly 
forces moving in concert with them -- and bounces that data off satellites 
to command posts all over the world.

Instead of a road map, these tactical computer screens typically display 
downloaded satellite imagery of the terrain being traversed. Across this 
glowing, high-resolution photograph, "friendly" tanks, Bradleys and Humvees 
move as blue dots. Enemy targets, identified miles in the distance by 
digital sensors or scout troops, are entered into the network by 
headquarters analysts and appear as red dots.

"As a commander in the old days, I spent most of my time on the radio 
trying to figure out where my friendly force was," said Antal, whose Corps 
command oversees both the 4th Infantry and the 1st Cavalry, the Army's two 
leading digital divisions. "That may sound funny, but when you're spread 
out over 15 kilometers," it is not easy to do.

With the new tactical intranet, Antal said, "I have a common operating 
picture. I see all of the 'blue' forces -- and being able to see all of the 
blue forces is a tremendous advantage."

If a tank commander wants to deploy his forces in a flanking maneuver, 
Antal said, he used to have to verbally explain the move over the radio to 
every tank in the unit. Now he can draw it on his computer screen with an 
electronic pencil and have that diagram immediately transmitted to every 
other tank.

"A picture is worth 1,000 words," he said. "It's kind of the difference 
between DOS and Windows."

Lt. Col. Gregory Julian, a public affairs officer at Camp Doha who 
commanded a tank company during the battle of Medina Ridge, remembers the 
makeshift tracking system improvised during the Gulf War: Soldiers heated 
up tin cans with utility lights and put them on top of a tank's turret. 
This enabled others in their formation to tell the difference between 
friend and foe when they looked through their night vision devices.To show 
reporters how the new system works, commanders here in Kuwait tracked the 
real-time movement of friendly vehicles across a battlefield in southern 
Afghanistan via satellite. With the touch of an electronic pencil, an 
officer identified one of the blue dots on the screen on the computer 
screen as an armored Humvee from the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion 
and gave its 10-digit GPS coordinates near Kandahar.

The latest M1A2 Abrams System Enhancement Package (SEP) tanks in the 4th 
Infantry Division come equipped with new infrared sighting systems that can 
magnify images by 50 times. This means that those commanders can see, night 
or day, with great clarity, whether a vehicle five or more miles in the 
distance is a tank or a school bus full of children -- and rapidly transmit 
that data across the battlefield. It can destroy targets up to 21/2 miles 
away with its 120mm cannon, or use its laser designator to identify targets 
five miles away for precision artillery or air attacks by helicopters or 
strike aircraft.

"We've invested heavily in precision," said Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the 
Army's chief of staff, who met here last month with ground force 
commanders. "I think what it will demonstrate is the tremendous amount of 
work that went on in the '90s. We called it 'digitization' then. We 
described it as the need for 'situational awareness,' a term that has 
become generally accepted today, which defines our need to see ourselves, 
see our friends and see our adversaries."

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