The most important tasks for the wingman were to help avoid an attack by an unseen enemy, contribute to the formation’s situational awareness, and watch out for obvious signs the leader had either missed something or made an error. At the very heart of the idea was an acceptance that the pilot is fallible and, in the heat of battle, task saturation was likely to result in mistakes and errors in tactical decision-making.
In the early years of aviation, a wingman would be positioned slightly behind the lead aircraft in close visual proximity to the wings of the leader. But as advances in technology introduced new inter and intra-flight data links and increased levels of integration with airborne early warning/control systems, formations became invariably separated beyond visual range of each other and able to benefit from shared situational awareness.
There are, of course, still times when a wingman is required to be in close visual range, but these are becoming more suited to non-tactical reasons such as transits through controlled airspace or through poor weather conditions.
So what started out as a role providing visual lookout support has now been transformed by the introduction of multi-sensor fusion displays and data links, with mutual support by proximity now measured in miles rather than metres. The fundamental purpose of a wingman has changed over the years from supporting and protecting the leader, to one which is focused on the greater concentration of firepower and more effective application and multiplication of force.
Yet perhaps the most transformational aspect of the evolving wingman role is that of the unmanned ‘Loyal Wingman’, a wingman that does as it is told and does not get distracted by the fear and chaos of battle.
The manned-unmanned narrative is now sensibly shifting towards “and” rather than “or”. Manned and unmanned teaming is a powerful concept which leverages the strengths and mitigates the weakness of each platform and concentrates the mind on the important operational aspects, such as imaginative new roles and the challenges of integration.
It should come as no surprise, then, to see the expansion of the loyal wingman concept in recent times into the other warfighting domains.
Recent developments in unmanned surface and sub-surface combatants are opening new ways of warfighting and creating opportunities to reconceptualise joint operations and move away from the platform-on-platform engagements which have traditionally characterised the battlespace.
The new unmanned platforms are expected to carry a range of sensors and weapon systems almost certainly configured for anti-surface warfare and maritime strike. Yet the potential for broader counter-air missions set within the cooperative engagement framework opens up new possibilities and significantly leverages existing manned surface fleet capability as well as providing a means of enabling integrated fire control, with the air layer containing E-2D Hawkeye, F-35C, F/A-18F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers.
The distributed architecture will require a complex web of advanced datalinks and communication systems to make it operate as a combat system. Designing and building this ‘kill web’ so that it can enable the delivery of manned-unmanned firepower across domains will be a huge challenge not least due to the laws of physics.
And then the ability to train, test, evaluate and validate tactics and procedures will add a whole new level of complexity to generate the ‘trusted autonomy’ required for warfighting. And that is exactly why we should do it.
Now robots understand verbal instructions, carry out a task, and report back. The potential rewards are tremendous. A robot that can understand commands and has a degree of machine intelligence would one day be able to go ahead of troops and check for ambushes. It could also reduce the number of human soldiers needed on the ground.
Soldiers will soon use VR technology widely to train for such experiences as jumping from an airplane. You can create a virtual reality of the exact environment you would be in and it’s extremely realistic. so you don’t have to go through the stress and expense of getting on the plane and learning exactly where to put your hands on the door.
Virtual reality enables you to practice time after time and get better at it. Soldiers in a recent VR session found digital jump training so realistic they automatically assumed the jump position and “reached out where they needed to put their hands.”
The new techniques won’t stop with training. Troops in the field already “receive information on enemy location, friendly location, targeting – all things to absorb and react to.
We are putting real-time input from different sources into one package. “What we’ve done is basically put a digital wrapper around the soldier that allows them to take different inputs. "We can interchange sensors, algorithms and it becomes plug and play.”
Every time a parachute unit hits the ground, it shatters. A well-ordered formation breaks apart into individuals, strewn across the landscape and unsure of where their comrades and commanders have landed. Leaders race to reform a fighting force before the enemy can pick the scattered paratroopers off.
Now we are testing to see how much faster could that force form up and move out if paratroopers could see each others’ locations in real time on a digital map. What new tactics would become possible?
Yes, drones, satellites, and datalinks have dramatically improved the amount of information available today to static command posts and troops in vehicles. But more advanced communications systems have been too bulky and too hungry for electricity for paratroopers, still relying on backpack push-to-talk radios. “It hasn’t changed much for the dismounted infantryman. It was more like wrestling in the dark when you don’t really know where your hands and your feet are all the time.”
With the new network available to leaders at every level down to the four-man fire team, “that commander at all times knows exactly where his hands and his feet are. We’ll eventually get to the point with the smart goggles now in testing that will go to every infantry soldier – “where we know all the fingers and toes are too.”
Do commanders really need to know the location of every private? “In the chaos of an airborne assault, commanders actually do care about where individuals are.. Today, for instance, we can’t call in artillery or airstrikes too close to the landing zone for fear they’ll hit stray paratroopers he hasn’t accounted for yet. With goggles on every soldier, calls could be put in in heavy firepower in even in the first critical, vulnerable minutes after hitting the ground and not have to worry about friendly fire.
“Right now, we try to jump consolidated- put as many members of this brigade on a single piece of terrain as possible.” In other words, you drop the entire brigade in the same location to make it easier to link up. But if you’re already linked virtually as soon as you hit the ground, you can be spread out.”
Instead of one big drop from lots of vulnerable transport aircraft, which require blasting a wide path through enemy air defenses, you could do several small drops from a few planes and exploit smaller holes in the enemy defensive system. Instead of a brigade or battalion hitting the ground in one place, getting organized, and moving out against multiple objectives, you can hit each objective at once, giving the enemy less time to respond.
Even after the initial landing, the new network lets the troops spread out more without losing the ability to support each other, because it has longer range than the current FM radios. “Right now, the problem is, not how fast I can move, its can communications reach far enough?’”
Currently, the brigade has to send out specialist FM transmission teams to relay messages to keep units in contact when they’re separated by distance or radio-wave-blocking terrain like hills or buildings. Those teams have to set up on high ground to ensure unobstructed transmissions, where they then start pumping out lots of radio signals. That makes them easy for an enemy to find. And the brigade doesn’t have many retrans teams. Only battalion commanders and above have any.
By contrast, every company in the new network will get its own relay drone. Because long-range radios are bulky and power-hungry, these drones aren’t portable systems. They have to be carried on the company commander’s vehicle air-dropped in with the first wave to carry special equipment – which is also the only vehicle in a standard rifle company.
Even in flight, the drones need an electrical cord back down to that vehicle to draw power, so they can only fly in circles, tethered to a specific location. But they don’t have to set up on high ground, since they’re effectively instant radio towers. A bulkier version of the drone, it “greatly enhanced our ability to extend our mesh network,” That meant forward units could push forward aggressively and remain in touch.
Longer range communications are even more important on the brigade level. We have a cavalry squadron, but today the commander can’t send them out very far before they are no longer able to report back, which defeats the point of doing reconnaissance. With the new network, there is the ability to push the scouts out farther, allowing them to find the enemy faster. That, in turn, gives the rest of the brigade more warning time to attack, dig in or evade.
Longer range also helps link the brigade to supporting units, like AH-64 helicopter gunships. Today, “unless they’re within FM range of one command post, they’re going to be hard for us to talk to. But with the new system a frontline platoon leader, for instance, talk to the gunship pilot “the entire time that Apache is moving through my battlespace… from the minute the wheels are up.”
Keeping the tech light is critical to a unit that moves mostly on foot. So is making it easy to use and to maintain. While the brigade has its own Forward Support Battalion, it has nowhere near the deep bench of mechanics and technicians that an armored or helicopter unit has. Adding that many personnel and all their gear would make the brigade much bulkier and slower to deploy, defeating the point of a light infantry unit.
“Is the equipment going to the right echelon? Do we have the technological capability to maintain it?” For brigade commanders, this is one of the biggest concerns, it’s one of the things they asked us to pay the most attention to. We don’t want to … have to give the rifle platoon a vehicle and a trailer and a generator.”
We don’t want paratroopers to become dependent on technology, not when hacking, jamming and ordinary breakdowns can take it away.
“In everything we do, we have to take into consideration what happens when that technological advantage is denied to us, for whatever reason. That means training in “basic skills” like using map, compass, and human contact.
“But even with these big advances, the infantry’s a hands-on business. “Sometimes you just need to put your hand on somebody’s shoulder and have a conversation eye to eye.
With the next generation of network technology expected to become more widespread, we are exploring how the new hardware could improve global asset management, “smart depots" and augmented or virtual reality. The technology will help with training, network security and artificial intelligence capabilities.
Advanced network technology will also allow troops to process information faster, key to developing better artificial intelligence. “In order to really use artificial intelligence you’re going to require a lot more bandwidth than we currently have.
1. Saves Time
The first and most valuable benefit Digital Process Automation provides is time-savings. Providing your employees with the right information at the right time and in the specific context will help them do their tasks more quickly and easily while reducing manual tasks. Automating many of these repetitive tasks can save hundreds, even thousands of working hours for organizations.
2. Cost Reduction
Every business faces global pressure to increase their profitability. One approach is to reduce costs. But, reducing the capabilities of the computer center negatively impacts the entire company.
Automation software is a better and more intelligent approach to cost containment and reduction. The greatest opportunity is to increase service to the customer while systematically reducing costs. Management often overlooks this potential for savings.
3. Operational Stability
Another significant advantage of Digital Process Automation is operational stability. By following fixed guidelines, Digital Process Automation eliminates situations in which documents may be displaced, or where processing steps might be missed. This allows your employees to effortlessly provide value to clients while handling all the needed steps to ensure accuracy and security of the process.
4. Prevents Errors
Process changes can lead to work-errors. Digital Process Automation systems can easily adapt to these changes and eliminate risks. With updated-to-date workflows around new document templates, employees can easily follow the predetermined workflow. Such automation helps organizations avoid document processing errors because most of these errors are human errors.
5. Responds to Customer Demand
The ability of Digital Process Automation provides ability organize and digitize processes allows for easy adaptations and improvements. This enables organizations to quickly launch new solutions to scale and to adjust to the needs of the market. This ability of rapid experimentation is crucial for the success of organizations.
As an organization’s technology demands grow, productivity becomes a bigger concern. Typically, as other business areas were given tools to increase their productivity and effectiveness, but network operations took a back seat.
As people use computers more, they place greater demands on the system. More users are generating more jobs, and printed output has increased despite efforts to reduce printed reports. In spite of the trend to online transaction-oriented and client/server systems, batch workloads continue to grow. Production batch jobs still consume the majority of time, and in large shops, jobs are constantly being added.
7. Job Scheduling
Job scheduling increases batch throughput by automating the production batch schedule. In the early days, computer throughput was limited by how fast operators could reset switches on the console not allowing idle time while waiting for the operator to release the next job. You save time and money by eliminating the lag time between jobs and minimizing operator intervention to process more work and significantly improve system use.
Once the job schedule is established, automation executes the commands precisely and in the correct sequence, eliminating operator errors. Forecasting job completion and being able to perform “what if” analyses of schedule changes benefits operations by removing much of the guesswork from daily tasks.
Companies are continually more reliant on networks to conduct day-to-day business like: order entry, reservations, assembly instructions, shipping orders—the list goes on. If the computer is not available, the business suffers.
High availability is clearly one network primary goals. Here too, automated operations can help. A driver may crash, but the situation becomes serious when there is not an adequate backup— or worse, the tape cannot be found. A key advantage to automation is the ability to automate your save and recovery systems to ensure protection from the potential disaster of disk loss, or inadvertent damage to system objects from human error.
Productivity is an obvious benefit of automation. However, reliability is the real gem that sparkles with automation. It is the cornerstone of any good network operations. Without it you have confusion, chaos, and unhappy users. Network operations requires two opposed skill sets.
On one hand, an operations person needs highly technical skills, such as the ability to understand the complexities of an operating system and to analyze and solve problems as they arise. On the other hand, this same person has to be content pushing buttons and loading paper.
Automated operations ensure that jobs are not forgotten or run out of sequence, that prerequisite jobs are completed successfully, that the input data is correct, and that any special processing is performed.
Every company would like to have their enterprise perform like a thoroughbred. In reality, it is more likely to be overburdened with work. Even though advancements in computers make them faster and less expensive every year, the demands on them always catch up and eventually exceed the level of capability that a company’s computer infrastructure possesses. That leaves a lot of companies wanting to improve their system performance.
Two options to improve performance are to upgrade/purchase a newer system—both expensive choices. It’s also possible to tune a system for better performance, but this takes a highly skilled person who is not normally available 24 hours a day. And, once a system is tuned for a specific workload, if the workload changes, the settings are no longer optimum.