The goal of Multi-Domain Operations is to get something that works well enough to test in real-world conditions and get feedback from real pilots. Then you take that data and improve your solution and run the improved version through another test- then rinse and repeat until you get something good enough to field to actual combat forces.
We have product categories that we care a lot about. We want to be able to integrate sensors. We want to get data off of them. We want to secure the process. We want to be able to put applications on the system and connect capability and people together. And we want to output an effect, like jamming a radar, to hacking a network, to blowing everything up.
The system features new methods of data sharing between air and ground forces, a common operational view that can track updated positions, and most prominently, a data connection to allow F-22s and F-35s to share data without exposing their positions.
The F-35 was designed to take in large amounts of data regarding battlefield positions and situations. The F-22 has a more limited mission and capability -- and the F-22's Intra-Flight Data Link and the F-35's Multifunction Advanced Data Link are currently incompatible.
The fighter planes, and other platforms, have different communications protocols and radio frequencies, and were not designed with a digital gateway to integrate their communications capabilities.
"The main point is that we want both the F-22 and the F-35 to be able to share communication over a link that allows them to do so in a way that protects their survivability."
Imagine a network of manned and unmanned systems, with relatively expendable drones actively emitting signals while the rest of the force stays silent, stealthy, and survivable. Imagine a multi-domain command and control network that can pull together forces from air, land, sea, networks reorganizing as needed on the fly. The goal: create a dispersed, flexible force our adversaries’ centralized systems can’t keep up with.
How would that work? A commander inputs the task the force needs to do, identifies the units to be made available for tasking, enters some constraints like geographic bounds, timing, etc., and the system comes back with some proposed courses of action.
To develop the courses of action, the system runs an auction across all the units available to determine which can best accomplish the tasking like match passenger’s desired pickup points and destinations with available drivers, in seconds, millions of times a day.
Of course, the artificial intelligence driving this kind of Joint All-Domain Command & Control system would be complex, distinguishing between ride type and it would need to know the capabilities of different types of drones, planes, ships, ground vehicles, satellites, and more.
Then it needs to calculate which was best able to do a mission based on both its inherent capabilities and its current location. Instead of just knowing where to drop off a passenger, it would need to figure out the best kind of munitions to drop, or jamming to conduct, or network tool to deploy, against a wide variety of targets.
Traditional military organization is like a jigsaw puzzle, where every piece can fit in one and only one place in the larger picture; the future organization needs to be like a set of tiny building blocks can be combined in all sorts of ways to make an infinite variety of images.
This kind of networked force could survive enemy attack – physical destruction, hacking, or jamming – by reorganizing itself to pass data around the damaged nodes, making it difficult for adversaries to knock out by jamming a few key links or physically destroying major headquarters, bases, ships, and satellites
“The tools available to field commanders are insufficient to enable them to develop and plan creative operations. As a result, commanders, particularly junior ones who lack large planning staffs, will tend to fall back on doctrine, habits, and traditions that the enemy can predict.” We heed to enable leaders up and down the chain of command to creatively plan, adapt, and recompose their forces and operations.”
These new tools would help commanders rapidly retask and reorganize a new kind of force. Instead of relying on large, powerful aircraft that can do all aspects of an electronic warfare mission alone by themselves – which simplifies both US planning and the enemy’s countermeasures – the future force would disaggregate capabilities across multiple manned and unmanned platforms.
Expendable drones might emit radar signals, while other drones and manned systems would passively receive the radar returns, then compare notes over hard-to-detect datalinks to figure out where the enemy forces were. Other expendable drones – possibly launched from a manned mothership — could transmit the powerful signals required for jamming, but every unit in the network would have the capacity to passively listen for 3D game model transmissions.
“Basically, we address the one thing on everybody’s mind. “How do you do more for less. Budgets aren’t growing, so we really want to effectively manage budgets. This is a great way to do it, because you’re not bending metal, you’re not trying to find a way to put a new component in. You’re able to take whatever’s out there and put it in fast and see what the improvements are.”
“Plans are nothing; planning is everything”. But there is always a question hanging around at this point: How do we know what the ‘correct’ lessons to learn are? And did the outcome happen because of the planning or the execution? It is cheap and simple for units to conduct planning exercises and train their planning staff.
But what about the execution? What about the current operations team?
Some say command post exercises current training model does not meet modern requirements. More time and resource needs to be directed to those making decisions and supporting the execution of an operation. In presenting some potential solutions to improve execution training, it becomes clear there is just not enough invested sufficient time or effort into training the execute.
In contrast to the case for more realistic field training, there is also the case for more focus on decision making. Current operations teams should be able to play, and replay, decision-making reps to hone their ability. This would allow a focus on experiment and to be able to learn from failure.
Planning Versus Execution
When the execution tent receives the hand over take over of the plan the planning team have completed their part and can move on to the next planning cycle. “Plans are of little importance but planning is essential” then the value is held in ‘the planning’. In contrast to the plans team, the operations cell have not benefited from the ‘planning’ and only have the ‘plan’.
An inexperienced current operations team can butcher a good plan, but a well-drilled and experienced current operations team can save a bad plan. Operations teams, then, need more training and experience for when it all goes wrong. There is currently no way for units to know if the outcome is due to the quality of the plan or the quality of the execution.
After action reviews normally take one of two formats. The first is a group discussion. These discussions are usually dominated by the most vocal team members with a linear view of the action. The second is a series of smaller working groups, which attempt to get a wider collection of points from a more diverse pool. Both formats invariably end up as an analysis of ‘why did we make the decisions we did and what lessons can we take away from the consequences’. Both approaches lack diversity of ideas and are fixed in personal biases.
As this approach looks at how the action unfolded and why, there is no way to analyse whether or not the specific decisions that were made were the best decisions for that situation. This is because once a decision is made and action is taken, that unit is creating the one path of reality. There is no scope to explore alternative future realities and this limits the staff ability to experiment and learn from failure.
The ‘improve’ points generated might have been the best actions for the situation. By the same logic, they may not be. Current training design does not allow the staff to actually know if they should ‘sustain’ the lessons identified if there is no comparison against which to assess the relative merits. This approach lacks both data and intellectual rigour.
The feedback that military training audiences receives during an AAR is either an internal introspection as units discuss their opinions, or external subjective feedback-- with some stats, e.g. vehicles destroyed bolted on from the observer. Both modes of feedback will have been shaped by those individuals’ experiences and biases. The key point is that the military would benefit from training design that allows units to repeat scenarios.
Reps, Reps, Reps
It is well-known that repetition and purposeful practice hones performance through iterative development and compounding knowledge. In order to best exploit this, there needs be a format of training where more decisions can be made and a system in which those decisions and actions can be judged and compared. Military currently has a good model of training in so far as it allows free play ‘fighting’ either deployed in the field or through simulation.
How do we encourage the consideration of tactics today?” This is especially pertinent if operators have no way of rewinding to try different tactical decisions. In these scenarios there is only ever one outcome to analyse and this limits the utility of the AAR process. There is no way to understand what is good and what is bad.
These training systems are good because they create friction and unpredictable dilemmas in which to test military operators. But if we don’t fail, then have we even tried?
Our execution teams run through one sequence of missions in a linear manner several times a year. This is not enough to inculcate good practise and hone the skills needed. Either more time needs to be given to the execution of missions to put those in current operations through the necessary iterations and frictions, or there needs to be an alteration in training design to maximise the reps.
What can we do about it? Change training design.
Military has acknowledged the requirement for more execution, but it has moved in this direction cheaply and slowly. Some wargames offer a method of training the execution team. Yet despite stemming from a brilliant idea, to find a cheaper way to execute, the game is confusing and unintuitive. Worse, Military has yet to invest sufficient time into it. More must be done if wargaming is to survive, let alone thrive.
There are better systems already in place, which can be used to simulate tactical actions and generate different scenarios. The benefits of electronic systems is that they are easier to use and they already exist across the infrastructure. Whatever system is used, training design must be changed to enable more reps.
Both systems should be used like a chess player honing their skills. Chess players can set up boards of famous matches and play them out considering the decisions required. Instead of seeing training as a linear model, the chess board can be reset to allow a different decision. This enables comparison.
Execution training should expose the current operations cells to decision-making stressors and force them from the plan. To do this, this the military must amend how it runs training exercises and focus on maximising decision-making opportunities, over getting exercising troops into a realistic battle rhythm.
The benefits of field training are significant; but we should not lose focus on what we need to train. The ability of operations teams to control a plan, not necessarily to operate in the cold.
A benefit of a type of staff training is that creates more decisions and thus more feedback. This provides valuable data output that can be harvested, interrogated, and fed back. In turn, this increases realism and can be used to challenge current assumptions. This could deepen the pool of information that a future artificial intelligence could use.
Focusing on decision making
Currently, command post exercises require the current operations team to track the battle rhythm reports and returns, as well as fighting the enemy. There is little focus on decision-making. Acknowledging that reports and returns are an important part of administrative routine, there are more important things the current operations team need to train.
A focus on decision making would see current operations cells put under stress by conducting two or three iterations of the same scenarios. This would allow the current operations to make slightly different decisions along the way and test different methods. The plan would remain the same, but the various decision points throughout could be explored. This would result in a wealth of information to analyse and compare. Reps, reps, reps.
To use a real-life example: All levels sports teams play training matches in which they run through their moves and different patterns of play. The coaches will pause when they wish to discuss an individual’s decision or when they want to show everyone the bigger picture, the shape of the team, or to explain opportunities or threats. They often send the ball back two or three phases to restart the action and to address the coach’s point. Imagine this level of replay and the value it could bring to an execution team.
To achieve this would take more exercise planning and engaged higher and lower command cells to speed up the reset. Yet, with the right system in place, exercises can be fast-forwarded through mundane routine to focus on critical areas and decision-making. This would be mutually beneficial as the red forces would also benefit from more focused decision making training.
1. Operations of a system of systems are dependent on extremely rigid rules, roles, and responsibilities. Multi-domain seeks to construct a system-wide federation of interoperable platforms, capabilities, and enablers that have stand-alone value, can collaborate and remain operationally effective while absorbing failures and losses.
2. As a loosely coupled system, a multi-domain force design can quickly assimilate and use new capabilities as they mature.
3. Advanced information networks enable a multi-domain force design; it does not seek to connect all things all of the time. The interdependence of capabilities means they must have the ability to connect in a highly automated manner when needed.
4. The distribution of too much data to too many entities in a network can slow its operations, since each entity will need to filter massive amounts of information to determine what is necessary. Sometimes less is more.
5. Getting the right information to the right entity when needed does not require constant connectivity. What a multi-domain network does require is information processing at the combat edge. This will require smart tools and routers to identify data that specific entities need and the best path to pass the information to them.
6. Multi-domain does not reach back to pull information from a fixed distant control center Relying on rear-area processing can create risk that actors in a combat zone will not get the information they need.
7. The physical distances involved also induce latency into the system that can mean the difference between mission success and failure.
8. Increased computational power and faster processing speeds will allow the development of processing nodes that can be placed at the forward edge of an area of operation to push information to multi-domain operations.
9. Creating multi-domain will provide the means to break with old, well-ingrained approaches to waging war, including the tight, centralized command, control, communications, and execution practices that have become habituated.
10. Changing training practices to ensure battle management officers are able to make decisions at the combat edge will be essential to multi-domain warfare. The force cannot win systems warfare in the information age with a single or even small handful of network or nodal entry points that impose too many timing problems into observation, orientation and decision time into operations and concede an important