Urban warfare takes creative solutions
- By Dan Caterinicchia, Dan Caterinicchia
- May 26, 2003
Recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq proved what many Defense Department experts already know: Soldiers need better technology to help them fight the often dangerous and costly conflict of urban warfare.
The likelihood of urban environments becoming battlegrounds in the future is increasing as more of the world's population make their homes in cities — 60 percent by 2015 — said Army Lt. Col. Stephen Iwicki, senior intelligence officer on the Objective Force Task Force.
DOD must prepare, he said, by enhancing its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities during peacetime to better prepare for future battles.
Such preparation requires developing creative information technology solutions that move quickly from the laboratory into the field, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Unfortunately, DOD's leadership in this area was moving "glacially," Hughes said. "We need a whole new class of people to study and take on this problem in a different way."
"There's a missing link between the scientist [in the lab] and the operator in the field," Hughes said last week at an urban ISR conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Defense Week.
Urban warfare is no longer about running up four stories with a 120-pound pack and kicking in a door, he said. "It's about understanding what's happening on the 27th or 41st floor of that building without going up there."
That requires an assortment of IT tools and capabilities including: distributed "staring" sensors for constant, real-time imagery and information; beyond-line-of-sight sensors, including some that can see through walls; acoustic sensors for gunshot detection; robotics; and precision target designation, with unmanned aerial vehicles the most likely candidate to fill that role.
Dave Dilegge, a consultant at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said there are "pockets of excellence" in the defense intelligence community, but because urban warfare doesn't fit neatly into air, ground or naval operations, there has been a leadership void in this area.
That may be changing since a new Joint Forces Command office earlier this year found the primary barrier to making progress is the need to enhance urban ISR capabilities, said Dilegge, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who has worked on this issue since 1997.
Urban warfare is becoming more complex, he said. Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom have shown that troops can be firing on the enemy, performing peacekeeping duties and conducting peacemaking activities — all within a three-block radius.
The intelligence on a battlefield must now include information on the landscape, such as sewer systems and subways, Iwicki said.
Before the recent battles in southwest Asia, U.S. forces were fighting in Haiti, Somalia and Kosovo. Those places required the services to start at different positions because of an assortment of variables, including the availability of critical infrastructure for communications and transportation.
Col. Allen Roby, director of the intelligence directorate at the Air Force Command, Control and ISR Center, Langley Air Force Base, Va., said DOD's joint force commanders were taking ISR lessons learned from Operation Enduring Freedom and applying them in Iraq.
"It's a building-block effect," Roby said, adding that it includes exploiting all possible assets, including tactical battlefield tools, national systems, fixed sensors and coalition contributions. Machine-to-machine communication and fusion is needed to function in that "extremely rich data environment."