We have industry infused into concept development as we do now and that’s all the Team effort. “We’re not just writing concepts that say, ‘Hey, we need to do this. Industry go build me this thing’.”
Team is surveying the tech landscape, seeing how some breakthroughs will lead to others, and then create scenarios and concepts for how those technologies will shape not just what the Army does but what adversaries might do as well.
So we are saying-- if this was possible. Would you change the way you write your Multi-Domain concept?” … That conversation was the purpose or intention of Wargaming Team.”
The job of technology forecasting has changed dramatically over the past few decades, thanks largely to the exponential growth of computing power. For example, artificial intelligence can help predict which new Wargame Exercises will be most reproducible so we will be able to get clues on the likely direction of future technological development and suggest the most profitable R&D investments.
Team takes a similar approach to understanding what breakthroughs are going to shift Wargaming investment, research, and development in the years ahead. But the team also connects those insights to what the Army is actually doing, using a “Multi-Domain Decision Tree” to apply data and analytics to see how one breakthrough will set the field to allow another breakthrough to help the military determine both how to invest and how to train.
“The goal of the Multi-Domain Decision Tree is to provide a pathway from Wargaming projects to operational advantage. “Whenever we take an idea, that idea is usually good in a wargame exercise, but then we have to figure out, how do we put that into a robust, less controlled environment? That’s a lot of what we do in tech development efforts.”
We have to figure out how we integrate into a Multi-Domain system that can actually be procured and bought and delivered and how to have an acquisition system to make that sourcing…efficient.”
“Any particular discovery has to be matured, moved, iterated on, in order to actually deliver something that the Army wants and it is that pathway out that the Multi-Domain Decision Trees are trying to build.”
Understanding those interconnections among advancing experimental fields is creating new insights into future war, allowing the team to build out scenarios and ultimately recommendations for new concepts of operation.
One upcoming report will focus on moving forces around the battlefield. “Maneuver has changed. “We’re drilling down into the character of maneuver. We’re considering things like cognitive maneuver that we really haven’t considered before.
What happens in the information environment, for example, it can have measurable impacts in terms of your freedom of action. You can improve yours and limit your adversaries in terms of cognitive maneuver.”
Emerging technology, and the possibility of better integrating Multi-Domain information into attack plans, is also changing the Army’s thinking on standoff attacks — attacking a target from a safe distance. Traditionally, that has meant lobbing missiles into enemy territory. But the advent of information warfare and autonomous armed drones is changing the fundamentals of overwhelming an adversary from a distance.
“In the past, massing meant getting all your guns pointed at the same target and you pound it with as much artillery as you can. You have enough in a small area eventually the probability of hitting the target will allow you to achieve the effect you want to achieve.
But because of the nature of either the non-kinetic effects you are trying to employ…and the ability to layer different types of intelligence” — signals intelligence, open-source intelligence, satellite photos, etc. — “if they’re all connected, they can give you a precision that we haven’t had before.”
The ability to much better collect intelligence from the battlefield and then deliver massive effects of various forms to any target is ultimately how the U.S. would prevail in a major conflict — or at least, that’s what the current concepts indicate.
“We have the ability to mass in multiple domains, not just the kinetic, physical surface to surface domains. And we have this ability to mass with precision. That’s new and different. That’s what makes up convergence, this idea that you can mass with precision, in depth, as in well into enemy territory, to achieve overwhelming cognitive effects. Your adversary is now limited in his field of action and you have increased your field of action to maneuver to an area of relative advantage.
In a massive simulated Multi-Domain conflict, the players adapted rapidly to futuristic technologies and tactics. But their command-and-control networks couldn't keep up.
Robotic mini-tanks, High-speed scout aircraft, High-powered jammers and Long-range artillery, more than 16,000 simulated troops and 13 locations were all part of the recent Unified Challenge wargame modeling a host of current future Army weapons, but the 400 human players found one thing painfully lacking: a real-time digital picture that could track their fast-moving, far-flung forces over the land, air and the airwaves.
As the Army hastens to turn its emerging Multi-Domain Operations concept for future conflict , it urgently needs a command system that can keep up with the complexity. It was Air Force that figured this out first: They’ve been focused on Multi-Domain Command & Control (MDC2) as the critical piece of the problem from the start.
The problem is that Multi-Domain Command & Control isn’t even a formal development program yet, let alone a working system you can try out in an exercise. That means, so far, “we’re using current mission command systems for future weapons systems. We need a more sophisticated and powerful Common Operational Picture (COP) that can show commanders and their staffs what’s happening in real time over longer distances, at a faster pace, and in more domains.
“There’s just too much going on and it’s happening too fast. But the fix isn’t just new network tools. It will take new thinking. “Leaders must have a cognitive understanding of the operational environment. It’s not just seeing something on a display. “It needs to be in your head rather than on a screen in front of you.”
“We need to take a hard look at…how we train leaders to plan and execute…multi-domain operations. “It was a learning process. The speed, the agility at which they moved and operated was very different. The commanders and the staffs that we had here were really impressive. “They rapidly learned how to plan, coordinate, synchronize, all the different tools that we provided.”
“By probably the second week, halfway through the exercise “they had created their own tools, digital products that we kept” for future use. But those improvised, short-term network fixes are no substitute for a new command-and-control system purpose-built for the new way of war.
Ultimately, the military is looking at artificial intelligence (AI) to help commanders and staffs make sense of masses of information quickly — but that wasn’t ready to go in this simulation, It is extremely difficult to simulate AI without the AI itself.”
Unified Challenge Multi-Domain Operations Simulation was a massive and expensive endeavor that took a year of planning. Unified Challenge was so labor-intensive, in fact, the Army isn’t currently planning any further wargames with so many human players and so much detailed simulation, instead turning to a series of smaller and more focused experiments.
The two weeks of wargaming, plus a week of prep time for participants, involved 400 human players at 13 locations across the country. The troops took on the roles of commanders and staffs at the division, brigade, battalion, and company level, directing over 16,000 simulated soldiers — four brigades — whose weapons and vehicles were modeled in detail.
The simulation was sufficiently detailed to output reports on exactly how many rounds were fired and how much fuel had to be provided. The Army wouldn’t divulge the scenario, but we can make some guesses. Without Navy or Marine Corps participation, the simulated war zone was, in the words of stray remark by one briefer that the simulated combat zone was cramped — “this a pretty tight area to operate in.”
For all this detail, however, there was one major omission: Troop behaviour. While a “will to fight” model is in development, it wasn’t ready for Unified Challenge, and determining when troops are likely to break from casualties, exhaustion, or shock is highly subjective. So the simulated troops performed far more consistently than real humans do in combat.
That said, Unified Challenge did go a long way to replicate the stress, confusion, and adrenaline at command posts as the human players directed their virtual forces for two weeks of warfare. It’s the complexity at those command posts which the wargame really was wrestling with — and which will prove a daunting challenge in the future.
Why is the new concept, Multi-Domain Operations, so complicated to command and control? To understand the future, you need to understand the past.
For decades, US military planners have used a rigidly step-by-step approach to reduce the chaos of conflict to manageable tasks. First, US forces deploy by train, truck, plane and ship. Then Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps airpower decimates enemy defenses. Finally, ground troops roll in. US forces are assumed to have unlimited access to the sea, the air, and the electromagnetic spectrum, allowing them to move forces, supplies and data unopposed.
After years of study, the Army and the Air Force decided the best way to fight back was to fight in all domains at once. The Navy and Marines remain skeptical. Instead of the rigid old-school sequence, the US would simultaneously attack via land, sea, air, space, and the electromagnetic spectrum.
But such a symphony of violence is extremely complicated to coordinate. For example, the traditional system would divide up the map, leaving distant areas for Air Force strikes while reserving targets closer to the frontline for Army artillery.
But in Multi-Domain Operations, what forces can hit what targets may change moment to moment. Hacking or jamming an enemy radar, for instance, might briefly open a corridor for aircraft, only to have it close again as the enemy adapts.
So how do you decide, in each fleeting instance, whether to use an F-35, the Army’s new long-range artillery, or something entirely different, say a network attack that can shut down the enemy without risking lives?
Before you can make that decision, how do you combine the data from all your different forces — satellites, fighters, drones, ground robots, human soldiers with AI-assisted goggles — to form a single coherent picture of what’s happening? And how do you share that picture when enemy hacking and jamming may cut your communications to any given unit at any time?
Network electronic warfare proved a vital tool in this wargame. “If you’re not dominating the electromagnetic spectrum, at least in places… then you’re going to have a very difficult time. But these so-called non-lethal or non-kinetic “effects” weren’t necessarily decisive at the down-and-dirty tactical level of the brigade. Old-fashioned physical fighting is still essential.
So is old-fashioned initiative. Micromanaging your far-flung subordinates or asking your superior for authorization becomes impossible when communications can be cut off at any time. That puts a premium on what the Army calls “mission command,” in which superiors give subordinates a clear objective but also provide wide discretion in how to achieve it.
Mission command “becomes even more important on the future battlefield…when you can have a brigade operating on its own without communications with higher echelons.
The challenge is creating a command-and-control system that can intelligibly display all the data that pours in when the network is working — but then keep on fighting when that digital eye goes blind.
1. Combining highly capable, multifunction aircraft with additive, disaggregated systems
Collaboratively teaming disaggregated capabilities and highly capable aircraft could greatly enhance mission effectiveness. The loss of a disaggregated platform will not jeopardize the functionality of an entire system.
2. Empower collaborative teaming operations that diminish the vulnerability of military architectures.
Although highly capable systems now in the force perform certain functions exceedingly well, their limited numbers constrain a commander’s strategic options. Moreover, the loss a handful of systems, can have a high impact on operations.
3. Disaggregated platforms, even those with advanced capability, will likely be more affordable and can be procured in greater numbers than highly capable platforms.
Sensors and systems integration represent a growing percentage of the cost of major new capabilities. Decreasing the quantity of sensors on future platforms could help decrease their size, weight, complexity, and overall unit cost. Lower program costs will allow DoD to buy more new systems and grow its force capacity.
4. Augmenting highly capable aircraft with disaggregated platforms could accelerate the development, testing, and fielding of a future force design.
The more complex a weapon system, the more time it takes to develop, test, and field it. Shifting toward procuring more disaggregated platforms could help reduce the time needed for DoD to create a force design derived from an overarching operational concept that overcomes deficiencies that competitors can target. needed to support overall strategy.
5. Creating a mixed force of highly capable and disaggregated platforms capable of operating in dynamic, collaborative ways so commanders can tailor task forces to meet operational needs across the conflict spectrum.
A more modular force structure would allow operational commanders to configure task forces better to achieve desired outcomes and help ensure that highly capable systems are not overtaxed supporting low-end missions. If a commander can compose the force that will make up a warfighting system near the time of conflict, then the uncertainty of anticipating the far future and its consequences on the requirements and acquisitions process is lessened.
6. Services must grow its force structure so it can provide the degree of domain control and density of attacks needed to maintain the initiative and prevent an adversary from adapting to its operations.
Services must increase quality and quantity of high-end highly capable platforms, disaggregated systems, and resilient enablers that will connect them in the future battlespace.
7. Services must be able to rapidly field a force composition that surprises future adversaries and denies them the ability to predict and prepare for its military operations.
Surprise cannot be realized by a force that requires months to attain the degree of connectivity needed to ensure its full functionality. Quickly composing disaggregated capabilities into forces that surprise adversaries will require every element of the future force to be highly interoperable.
8. Services networks and information architectures must be flexible, adaptive, and resilient.
This does not mean more hardened and denser. Instead, future architectures should push information to specific forces and capabilities when and where needed, rather than everything to everything and all the time. This degree of flexibility will require the capability to maneuver information across the network and around threats when necessary.
9. Services future force must be able to withstand virtual or actual combat attrition
No platform can be a single point of failure whose loss has a disproportionately negative impact on the force’s operational effectiveness.
10. Force design must provide decision superiority despite the attempts of an adversary to disrupt OODA cycles at all levels of operations.
An operational and information architecture that can both outpace adversary information operations and withstand attempts to degrade Observe–Orient–Decide–Act OODA decision-making cycles will be critical to prevailing in future conflicts.