Comm in combat

As part of an ongoing battle exercise this week off the coast of South Korea, the Navy is demonstrating for the first time its ability to use information technology to coordinate missile attacks and other battle activity with other services.

The Navy's Fleet Battle Experiment-Delta (FBE-D) builds on a satellite-based wide-area network that ties seven ships from the U.S. 7th Fleet with Army and Air Force units stationed on the Korean peninsula.

The Navy has conducted several experiments to test the concept of "network-centric" warfare, in which ships use information technology to exchange tactical and logistics information. But the current exercise marks the first experiment to include the other services in the network.

Capt. Mike Miller, operations officer for the 7th Fleet interviewed by telephone aboard the USS Blue Ridge command ship, emphasized that the WAN installed to support FBE-D, the fourth in a series of Navy networked warfare experiments, does far more than just move around a bunch of dumb bits and bytes.

"This is a distributed, collaborative WAN installed in, through and around the Korean peninsula that gives us the ability to rapidly assimilate targeting and tracking data, including digital calls for fire, and convert that into weapons targeting information," Miller said. The land WAN supports U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) units as well as units from the Republic of Korea's army, navy and air force.

The FBE WAN includes wideband satellite pipes from the Blue Ridge as well as smaller super-high frequency and extremely high frequency satellite links from the other ships in the exercise.

The primary purpose of this network is to connect the Navy's Land Attack Warfare System (LAWS) with the Army's Automated Deep Operations Command System (ADOCS) at command posts scattered throughout the peninsula.

Those computer-based systems feature powerful collaborative planning tools that help commanders choose the best weapon— land-based artillery, ship-mounted missiles or Air Force fighter-bombers— to attack a target.

Cmdr. Mark Monti, 7th Fleet FBE coordinator, said the ADOCS/LAWS system provides commanders with an integrated theater database featuring pop-up menus that provide a high level of detail to commanders "down to the number of rounds left in the magazine" of a particular artillery battery or ship.

LAWS, which runs in a Microsoft Corp. Windows environment on Intel Corp. Pentium PCs, provides commanders with detail about the disposition of enemy forces, which in the Korean peninsula are not a scenario but the reality.

Capt. Tom Travis, director of the Navy's Maritime Battle Center, said that by using the network to integrate ADOCS and LAWS, commanders of naval, ground and air forces "are able to share a common frame of reference. Navy assets are now visible to the Army, and Army assets are now visible to the Navy or Air Force."

Although ADOCS originally was designed to allow Army units to call for artillery or multiple launch rocket systems, "now we can [also] service those calls for fire," Travis said.

Miller said the North Korean army has "a million and a half men under arms" with massive amounts of artillery stationed just across the border.

Gen. John H. Tilelli Jr., commander of USFK, views those artillery pieces— many of which can easily fire a round at downtown Seoul— as such a threat that "he considers counter-battery [fire] his No. 1 warfare priority," Miller said, and he welcomes the additional firepower the 7th Fleet can provide.

The 7th Fleet also has been tasked with a key role countering Special Operations Forces in any Korean conflict, according to Monti, and FBE-D will test the ability of using LAWS to pass information about a simulated attack by what he called the "hundreds of hovercraft" employed by North Korean SOF units.

Monti called countering the potential SOF threat "critical.... And [this system] allows us to communicate quickly with critical hubs in the theater. It allows us to coordinate which groups to target and how."


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