Suche innerhalb des Archivs / Search the Archive All words Any words

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[] Re: - IT der US-Armee enttäuscht im Irak,

Und hier das Original. Wirklich lesenswert.

How Technology Failed in Iraq

The Iraq War was supposed to be a preview of the new U.S. military: a
light, swift force that relies as much on sensors and communications
networks as on heavy armor and huge numbers. But once the shooting
started, technology fell far short of expectations.

By David Talbot
November 2004

The largest counterattack of the Iraq War unfolded in the early-morning
hours of April 3, 2003, near a key Euphrates River bridge about 30
kilometers southwest of Baghdad, code-named Objective Peach. The battle
was a fairly conventional fight between tanks and other armored
vehicles?almost a throwback to an earlier era of war fighting,
especially when viewed against the bloody chaos of the subsequent
insurgency. Its scale made it the single biggest test to date of the
Pentagon?s initial attempts to transform the military into a smaller,
smarter, sensor-dependent, networked force.

In theory, the size of the Iraqi attack should have been clear well in
advance. U.S. troops were supported by unprecedented technology
deployment. During the war, hundreds of aircraft- and satellite-mounted
motion sensors, heat detectors, and image and communications
eavesdroppers hovered above Iraq. The four armed services coordinated
their actions as never before. U.S. commanders in Qatar and Kuwait
enjoyed 42 times the bandwidth available to their counterparts in the
first Gulf War. High-bandwidth links were set up for intelligence units
in the field. A new vehicle-tracking system marked the location of key
U.S. fighting units and even allowed text e-mails to reach front-line
tanks. This digital firepower convinced many in the Pentagon that the
war could be fought with a far smaller force than the one it expected to

Yet at Objective Peach, Lt. Col. Ernest ?Rock? Marcone, a battalion
commander with the 69th Armor of the Third Infantry Division, was almost
devoid of information about Iraqi strength or position. ?I would argue
that I was the intelligence-gathering device for my higher
headquarters,? Marcone says. His unit was at the very tip of the U.S.
Army?s final lunge north toward Baghdad; the marines advanced on a
parallel front. Objective Peach offered a direct approach to the Saddam
International Airport (since rechristened Baghdad International
Airport). ?Next to the fall of Baghdad,? says Marcone, ?that bridge was
the most important piece of terrain in the theater, and no one can tell
me what?s defending it. Not how many troops, what units, what tanks,
anything. There is zero information getting to me. Someone may have
known above me, but the information didn?t get to me on the ground.?
Marcone?s men were ambushed repeatedly on the approach to the bridge.
But the scale of the intelligence deficit was clear after Marcone took
the bridge on April 2.

As night fell, the situation grew threatening. Marcone arrayed his
battalion in a defensive position on the far side of the bridge and
awaited the arrival of bogged-down reinforcements. One communications
intercept did reach him: a single Iraqi brigade was moving south from
the airport. But Marcone says no sensors, no network, conveyed the far
more dangerous reality, which confronted him at 3:00 a.m. April 3. He
faced not one brigade but three: between 25 and 30 tanks, plus 70 to 80
armored personnel carriers, artillery, and between 5,000 and 10,000
Iraqi soldiers coming from three directions. This mass of firepower and
soldiers attacked a U.S. force of 1,000 soldiers supported by just 30
tanks and 14 Bradley fighting vehicles. The Iraqi deployment was just
the kind of conventional, massed force that?s easiest to detect. Yet ?We
got nothing until they slammed into us,? Marcone recalls.

Objective Peach was not atypical of dozens of smaller encounters in the
war. Portions of a forthcoming, largely classified report on the entire
Iraq campaign, under preparation by the Santa Monica, CA, think tank
Rand and shared in summary with Technology Review, confirm that in this
war, one key node fell off the U.S. intelligence network: the front-line
troops. ?What we uncovered in general in Iraq is, there appeared to be
something I refer to as a ?digital divide,?? says Walter Perry, a senior
researcher at Rand?s Arlington, VA, office and a former army signals
officer in Vietnam. ?At the division level or above, the view of the
battle space was adequate to their needs. They were getting good feeds
>from the sensors,? Perry says. But among front-line army commanders like
Marcone?as well as his counterparts in the U.S. Marines??Everybody said
the same thing. It was a universal comment: ?We had terrible situational
awareness,?? he adds. The same verdict was delivered after the first
Gulf War?s ground battle, but experts had hoped the more robust
technology used in the 2003 conflict would solve the problem.

The Pentagon points to the Iraq War?s many networking successes. During
the blinding sandstorm that lasted from March 25 to 28, 2003, a U.S.
radar plane detected an Iraqi Republican Guard unit maneuvering near
U.S. troops. Bombers moved in to attack using satellite-guided bombs
that were unaffected by poor visibility. And the vehicle-tracking system
(known as Blue Force Tracker) successfully ensured that commanders knew
the locations of friendly units. Overall, command headquarters in Qatar
and Kuwait sported ?truly a very impressive digital connectivity? that
?had many of the characteristics of future network warfare that we
want,? Brig. Gen. Robert Cone, then director of the Pentagon?s Joint
Center for Operational Analysis and Lessons Learned, said in a Pentagon
briefing last year.

Yet connectivity in Qatar was matched by a data dearth in the Iraqi
desert. It was a problem all the ground forces suffered. Some units
outran the range of high-bandwidth communications relays. Downloads took
hours. Software locked up. And the enemy was sometimes difficult to see
in the first place. As the marines? own ?lessons learned? report puts
it, ?The [First Marine] Division found the enemy by running into them,
much as forces have done since the beginning of warfare.? Describing the
army?s battle at Objective Peach, John Gordon, another senior researcher
at Rand and also a retired army officer, put it this way: ?That?s the
way it was done in 1944.?

On April 2, 2003, army lieutenant colonel Ernest ?Rock? Marcone led an
armored battalion with about 1,000 U.S. troops to seize ?Objective
Peach? (inset), a bridge across the Euphrates River, the last natural
barrier before Baghdad. That night, the battalion was surprised by the
largest counterattack of the war. Sensing and communications
technologies failed to warn of the attack?s vast scale?between 5,000 and
10,000 Iraqi troops and about 100 tanks or other vehicles. The U.S.
success in the battle was the result of superior tactics and equipment.

Information is Armor

Military intellectuals call them ?revolutions in military affairs.?
Every few decades, a new technology or a new ?doctrine,? to use the
military jargon, changes the nature of war. Single technologies, like
gunpowder or nuclear weapons, spur some of these revolutions. New
doctrines, like Napoleonic staff organization or Nazi blitz tactics,
drive others. And some are the result of many simultaneous advances,
like the airplanes, chemical weapons, and machine guns of World War
I?which achieved new rates of slaughter.

The newest revolution is known to Pentagon planners as ?force
transformation.? The idea is that robotic planes and ground vehicles,
empowered by an ever expanding range of sensing, targeting, imaging, and
communications capabilities (new technologies), would support teams of
networked soldiers (a new doctrine). According to its most expansive
definition, force transformation is intended to solve the problem of
?asymmetric warfare? in the 21st century, where U.S. forces are not
directly confronted by conventional militaries but rather must quell
insurgencies, destroy terrorist cells, or mitigate regional instability.
Among other things, more nimble, networked forces could employ tactics
like ?swarming??precise, coordinated strikes from many directions at

The technologies driving force transformation are incredibly
complicated. It will take at least 31 million lines of computer code to
run something called Future Combat Systems, the centerpiece of the
Pentagon?s transformation effort. An army-run program expected to cost
more than $100 billion, it consists of a suite of new manned and
unmanned machines, all loaded with the latest sensors, roaming the air
and ground. Software will process sensor data, identify friend and foe,
set targets, issue alerts, coordinate actions, and guide decisions. New
kinds of wireless communications devices?controlled by yet more software
and relaying communications via satellites?will allow seamless links
between units. Currently, 23 partner companies, many with their own
platoons of subcontractors, are building the systems; Boeing of Chicago
and Science Applications International of San Diego are charged with
tying them all together and crafting a ?system of systems? by 2014.

In this grand vision, information isn?t merely power. It?s armor, too.
Tanks weighing 64 metric tons could be largely phased out, giving way to
lightly armored vehicles?at first, the new 17-metric-ton Stryker troop
carrier?that can avoid heavy enemy fire if need be. These lighter
vehicles could ride to war inside cargo planes; today, transporting
large numbers of the heaviest tanks requires weeks of transport via land
and sea. ?The basic notion behind military transformation is that
information technologies allow you to substitute information for mass.
If you buy into that, the whole force structure changes,? says Stuart
Johnson, a research professor at the Center for Technology and National
Security Policy at National Defense University in Washington, DC. ?But
the vision of all this is totally dependent on information technologies
and the network. If that part of the equation breaks down, what you have
are small, less capable battle platforms that are more vulnerable.?

The Iraq War represented something of a midpoint?and an early proving
ground?in the move toward this networked force. The U.S. offensive did
include the old heavy armor, and it didn?t sport all the techno-goodies
envisioned by the promoters of force transformation. But it did presume
that satellite- and aircraft-mounted sensors would support the fighting
units on the ground. The war?s backbone was a land invasion from Kuwait.
Ultimately, some 10,000 vehicles and 300,000 coalition troops rumbled
across the sandy berm at the Kuwaiti border, 500 kilometers from
Baghdad. Desert highways crawled with columns of Abrams tanks, Bradley
fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, tank haulers, Humvees,
and of course, fuel tankers to slake the fleet?s nine-million-liter
daily demand for fuel.

Several communications links were designed to connect these vehicles
with each other and with commanders. First, and most successfully, at
least 2,500 vehicles were tracked via Blue Force Tracker: each vehicle
broadcast its Global Positioning System coordinates and an ID code. This
thin but critical stream of data was in essence a military version of
OnStar. Commanders in Qatar saw its content displayed on a large plasma
screen. Marcone, like some other commanders in the field, also had
access to it, thanks to a last-minute installation in his tank before
the invasion.

?A Critical Vulnerability?

Once the invasion began, breakdowns quickly became the norm. For the
movement of lots of data?such as satellite or spy-plane images?between
high-level commanders and units in the field, the military employed a
microwave-based communications system originally envisioned for war in
Europe. This system relied on antenna relays carried by certain units in
the advancing convoy. Critically, these relays?sometimes called ?Ma Bell
for the army??needed to be stationary to function. Units had to be
within a line of sight to pass information to one another. But in
practice, the convoys were moving too fast, and too far, for the system
to work. Perversely, in three cases, U.S. vehicles were actually
attacked while they stopped to receive intelligence data on enemy
positions. ?A lot of the guys said, ?Enough of this shit,? and turned it
off,? says Perry, flicking his wrist as if clicking off a radio. ??We
can?t afford to wait for this.??

One Third Infantry Division brigade intelligence officer reported to
Rand that when his unit moved, its communications links would fail,
except for the GPS tracking system. The unit would travel for a few
hours, stop, hoist up the antenna, log back onto the intelligence
network, and attempt to download whatever information it could. But
bandwidth and software problems caused its computer system to lock up
for ten to 12 hours at a time, rendering it useless.

Meanwhile, commanders in Qatar and Kuwait had their own problems. Their
connectivity was good?too good. They received so much data from some of
their airborne sensors that they couldn?t process it all; at some
points, they had to stop accepting feeds. When they tried to send
information to the front, of course, they found the line-of-sight
microwave-relay system virtually disabled. At the command levels above
Marcone?s?the brigade and even the division levels?such problems were
ubiquitous. ?The network we had built to pass imagery, et cetera, didn?t
support us. It just didn?t work,? says Col. Peter Bayer, then the
division?s operations officer, who was south of Marcone?s battalion on
the night of April 2 and 3. ?The link for V Corps [the army command] to
the division, the majority of time, didn?t work, to pass a digital image
of something.?

Sometimes, intelligence was passed along verbally, over FM radio. But at
other times vehicles outran even their radio connections. This left just
one means of communication: e-mail. (In addition to tracking vehicles,
Blue Force Tracker, somewhat quaintly, enabled text-only e-mail.) At
times, the e-mail system was used for issuing basic orders to units that
were otherwise out of contact. ?It was intended as a supplement, but it
wound up as the primary method of control,? says Owen Cote, associate
director of the Security Studies Program at MIT. ?The units did outrun
their main lines of communications and networking with each other and
with higher command. But there was this very thin pipe of information
via satellite communications that allowed the high command to see where
units were.?

The network wasn?t much better for the marines pushing forward on a
separate front. Indeed, the marines? lessons-learned report says that
First Marine Division commanders were unable to download crucial new
aerial reconnaissance photographs as they approached cities and towns.
High-level commanders had them, but the system for moving them into the
field broke down. This created ?a critical vulnerability during combat
operations,? the report says. ?There were issues with bandwidth,
exploitation, and processes that caused this state of affairs, but the
bottom line was no [access to fresh spy photographs] during the entire

Fortunately for U.S. forces, they faced little resistance during the
Iraq War. The Iraqis launched no air attacks or Scud missiles. Iraqi
soldiers shed uniforms and boots and walked away barefoot, studiously
avoiding eye contact with the Americans. When they did fight, they used
inferior weapons and vehicles. To be sure, U.S. units racing forward
would run into stiff ?meeting engagements??jargon for a surprise
collision with enemy forces. But such meetings would end quickly. ?They
[the U.S. forces] would succeed in these meeting engagements,? Cote
says. ?But we were far from the vision of total knowledge. You can
easily see how we would have paid a big price if it were a more robust

The problems are acknowledged at high levels. However, Art Cebrowski,
retired vice admiral and director of the Pentagon?s Office of Force
Transformation, cites ?existence proofs? that networking was generally
successful in Iraq. In previous conflicts, combat pilots were briefed on
targets before takeoff; hours would elapse between target identification
and an actual attack. In the Iraq War, more than half of aerial sorties
began without targets in mind, Cebrowski says. Instead, targets were
identified on the fly and communicated to the airborne pilots. ?Combat
was moving too fast; opportunities were too fleeting. You had to be in
the networked environment? for it to work, says Cebrowski.

Clearly, networking during the ground war was not as successful. ?There
were certainly cases where people didn?t have the information they
needed. This was a very large operation, so you would expect to see the
good, the bad, and the ugly in it,? Cebrowski acknowledges. But it would
be a mistake to use these problems as an argument against phasing out
heavy armor, he says. Big tanks require not only considerable time and
energy to move into battle but also larger supply convoys that are
themselves susceptible to attack. According to Cebrowski, by keeping
heavily armored tanks your main line of defense, ?you simply move your
vulnerability to another place on the supply chain.?

Alpha Geeks at War

Some defenders of force transformation argue that the troops? problems
were doctrinal, not technological. According to this line of reasoning,
the networking of the Iraq War was incomplete?because it was fatally
grafted onto old-fashioned command and control systems. Sensor
information went up the chain of command. Commanders interpreted it and
made decisions. Then they passed commands, and tried to pass relevant
data, down the chain. The result: time delays and the magnification of
individual communications failures.

Better, some say, that information and decision-making should flow
horizontally. In fact, that?s how the 2001 war in Afghanistan was
fought. Special-operations forces organized into ?A teams? numbering no
more than two dozen soldiers roamed the chilly mountains near the
Pakistan border on horseback, rooting out Taliban forces and seeking
al-Qaeda leaders. The teams and individuals were all linked to one
another. No one person was in tactical command.

But despite the lack of generals making key decisions, each of these
teams of networked soldiers had a key node, an animal once confined to
corporate IT departments: the alpha geek, who managed the flow of
information between his team and the others. The U.S. special forces
also maintained a tactical Web page, collating all the information the
teams collected. And this page was managed by a webmaster in the field:
the metageek of all alpha geeks.

How did the page perform? Postmortems and reports on special-forces
operations in Afghanistan are more secret than those from the Iraq War.
A report on one major special-forces operation, Operation Anaconda?an
attempt to encircle and root out al-Qaeda in March 2002?is due soon from
National Defense University. Still, anecdotes are trickling out of the
special-forces community. And they provide a startlingly different view
of warfare than Marcone?s tank-level vantage. One account, not
previously reported, comes from John Arquilla, an expert in
unconventional warfare at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

The scene was a cold night in the late fall of 2001. In New York City,
the World Trade Center ruins were still smoldering. In Afghanistan, a
U.S. Air Force pilot en route from Uzbekistan noticed flashing lights in
the mountains below, near the Pakistan border. Suspecting that the
flashes might be reflections from hooded headlights of trucks bumping
along, he radioed his observation to the webmaster. The webmaster
relayed the message across a secure network accessible to special forces
in the region. One team replied that it was near the position and would
investigate. The team identified a convoy of trucks carrying Taliban
fighters and got on the radio to ask if any bombers were in range. One
U.S. Navy plane was not far off. Within minutes, the plane bombed the
front and rear of the convoy, sealing off the possibility of escape. Not
long after, a gunship arrived and destroyed the crippled Taliban column.

The episode, as recounted by Arquilla, shows what?s possible. ?That?s
networking. That?s military transformation right there,? Arquilla says.
?Some of the problems in Iraq grew out of an attempt to take this
cascade of information provided by advanced information technology and
try and jam it through the existing stovepipes of the hierarchical
structure, whereas in Afghanistan we had a more fluid approach. This is
war by minutes, and networking technology allows us to wage war by
minutes with a great probability of success.? In this case, service
members on the battlefield collected data, shared that data, made
decisions, and ordered strikes.

Network vs. Insurgents?

Perhaps Pentagon optimists are right. Perhaps the success of Blue Force
Tracker, of the special-forces assault on the Taliban column, and of air
force operations in Iraq accurately foretell the full digital
transformation of war. But to many observers, the disruption of
communications between the main ground combat units in Iraq was not a
very promising sign at all. ?If there is this ?revolution in military
affairs,? and if this revolution is based on technologies that allow you
to network sensors and process information more quickly and spread it
out quickly in digestible form, we are still just scratching the surface
of it,? says Cote of MIT. ?If you look at the performance of a lot of
the components of the first efforts in that direction, it?s a pretty
patchy performance.? And then there?s the question of terror and
insurgency. Even if the Pentagon transforms war fighting, the meaning of
the word ?war? is itself undergoing a transformation. More Americans
died in the September 11 attacks than have subsequently died in
Afghanistan and Iraq. And the Iraq insurgency challenges the meaning of
the Iraq military victory. Future wars will be fought in urban zones by
low-tech fanatics who do not follow the old rules. They are unlikely to
array themselves as convenient targets for the U.S. to detect and
destroy. Indeed, a leading cause of death among U.S. soldiers in Iraq
today is improvised bombs targeting passing vehicles such as Humvees.

Arquilla says some networking technology can be?and is being?brought to
bear against the Iraq insurgency. While actual strategies are secret,
some general tactics are known. Suspicious vehicles can be tracked, and
their connections to other people and locations determined. Small drone
aircraft can deliver video feeds from urban buildings as well as from
desert battlefields. Sensors can help find a sniper by measuring the
acoustical signature of a bullet. And jamming devices can sometimes
block radio-controlled detonation of roadside bombs. But old-fashioned
tips from humans are likely to trump technology. ?Our networks don?t
really have the sensitivity to keep up with unconventional enemies. All
the network does is move information around, but the information itself
is the key to victory,? says Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of
the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, VA. ?It?s a little
hard to derive meaningful lessons from networked war fighting when you
are dealing with such modest threats.?

The welter of postmortems from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars tell many
stories. But one thing is clear: Marcone never knew what was coming at
Objective Peach. Advanced sensors and communications?elements of future
networked warfare designed for difficult, unconventional battles?failed
to tell him about a very conventional massed attack. ?It is my belief
that the Iraqi Republican Guard did nothing special to conceal their
intentions or their movements. They attacked en masse using tactics that
are more recognizable with the Soviet army of World War II,? Marcone

And so at a critical juncture in space (a key Euphrates bridge) and time
(the morning of the day U.S. forces captured the Baghdad airport),
Marcone only learned what he was facing when the shooting began. In the
early-morning hours of April 3, it was old-fashioned training, better
firepower, superior equipment, air support, and enemy incompetence that
led to a lopsided victory for the U.S. troops. ?When the sun came up
that morning, the sight of the cost in human life the Iraqis paid for
that assault, and burning vehicles, was something I will never forget,?
Marcone says. ?It was a gruesome sight. You look down the road that led
to Baghdad, for a mile, mile and a half, you couldn?t walk without
stepping on a body part.?

Yet just eight U.S. soldiers were wounded, none seriously, during the
bridge fighting. Whereas U.S. tanks could withstand a direct hit from
Iraqi shells, Iraqi vehicles would ?go up like a Roman candle? when
struck by U.S. shells, Marcone says. Sitting in an office at Rand,
Gordon puts things bluntly: ?If the army had had Strykers at the front
of the column, lots of guys would have been killed.? At Objective Peach,
what protected Marcone?s men wasn?t information armor, but armor itself.

Liste verlassen: 
Mail an infowar -
 de-request -!
- infopeace -
 de mit "unsubscribe" im Text.