Policy revision aims to defeat friendly fire
- By George I. Seffers
- Aug 14, 2000
Military officials in recent years have become increasingly worried that
the sheer number of weapon systems to fill the airspace of the future battlefield
will overwhelm battlefield command and control efforts and lead to a rise
in deaths by friendly fire. But a recently published joint operations manual
should ease many of those fears.
The manual, "Multiservice Procedures For Integrated Combat Airspace
Command and Control" (ICAC2), was published in June, drafted by the Air
Land Sea Application (ALSA) center and signed by the doctrine development
commands within each military service. ALSA is a cross-departmental organization
chartered by the four services to rapidly respond to interoperability issues
by developing multiservice tactics, techniques and procedures.
The problem is that as the services seek to minimize casualties, they
are relying increasingly on planes, unmanned aerial vehicles, smart bombs
and missiles, and are filling the air with too many weapons to be effectively
controlled. The potential result is that friendly forces might be at greater
risk of fratricide.
Experts agree that saturated airspace is a major concern. "Regardless
of whether you think air power alone can win, airspace control is the essence
of any battlefield," said Ken Allard, senior associate with the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C. "This
increasingly means the electronic element of command and control has to
be as tightly coordinated in practice as it is in theory."
The problem would be most serious during a full-scale war, but other
missions also raise concerns. Pilots flying into saturated airspace are
"I flew in Operation Northern Watch, where we didn't even have Army
guys on the ground with things like [the Multiple Launch Rocket System],
but it's still a concern," said a former Air Force fighter pilot. Operation
Northern Watch enforces the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.
Military command and control systems are, for the most part, information
systems designed to provide military leaders with greater control of forces
and weaponry and a better view of the battlefield. Each service has developed
many individual systems without data- sharing capabilities between systems.
"Effectively coordinating, integrating and deconflicting airspace used
by friendly forces will be a challenge in future operations," the document
Army Maj. Rick Starkey, a joint action officer with ALSA, said of the
manual, "It's all about increasing effectiveness and decreasing fratricide."
The ICAC2 manual addresses the fratricide concerns by detailing information
that must be shared, including specificity, transmittal times, originators,
addresses and normal modes of transmission. It also codifies 25 critical
nodes, such as the Air Force Operations Center and the Joint Lair Operations
Center, and the communications links between them in order to readily identify
the means of transmitting airspace data, according to the ALSA World Wide
In addition, the document places most airspace command and control responsibilities
on the shoulders of those filling three positions — the joint forces air
component commander, the airspace control authority and the area air defense
commander. Those officials will work closely together, making critical airspace
command and control decisions and reducing the risk of battlefield surprises,
such as Army missiles being fired while Air Force pilots are in the air.
"A lot of times, those three positions can be filled by the same person.
Ideally speaking, that would be the case because it simplifies things,"
Though no one document can address every concern for every battlefield
situation, Starkey said the new ICAC2 manual goes a long way toward resolving
airspace command and control concerns.
"There are always going to be new issues based on any particular theater.
This does not solve every theater's problems, but it does set up responsibilities
for any airspace commander and certainly gives them a procedure from which
to work on," he said.