Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence Systems

In Operation Desert Shield/Storm




The Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations during the early months of this decade were driven by a new generation of technology, particularly in command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) systems. Unprecedented applications of modern technologies were evident at all echelons The C3I systems used were essentially sophisticated modern battlefield information systems. Through their use, military commanders kept track of allied coalition and Iraqi forces while directing operations in near real time.

Using revolutionary techniques, tactics and procedures, U.S. Central Command excelled in the application of modern information technologies to perform C31 functions. They included new secure telephone units to pass voice, data and pictures, diverse military and commercial space based satellite resources, distributed automated C3 systems, laser and fiber optics signaling systems and large numbers of near real-time intelligence systems capable of providing correlated and annotated information in image (picture) and database form to all military echelons.

Application of Modern C3I Technologies

Desert Shield/Storm was the first sustained large-scale joint/coalition military operation, in the microprocessor era. The impressive but unprecedented application of automated systems (computers) was apparent across the spectrum of military functions; however, it was most evident in automated C31 applications. Some examples are discussed below.

Command and Control

The unpredictably rapid deployment of roughly one-half million men and women (with supporting weapons, infrastructure and logistics support) across the world in a few weeks in an extremely efficient manner was enabled by the innovative use of distributed automated command and control systems to keep all echelons in synchronization while allowing maximum flexibility to commanders of diverse military components. Operation plans were adapted, dramatically, innovatively and impressively to achieve performance levels which were not anticipated. Thereby, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) was able to respond to the unprecedented conditions of the unique mission at hand. To ensure the success of that mission, automated C31 systems performed a myriad of tasks involving collection, transmission, storage, correlation and display of information on coalition and enemy forces.


The thousands of computers employed varied in size, shape and function, from microprocessor chips embedded in a variety of military devices to laptop units, desktop personal (micro) computers (PCs), cabinet sized mini-computers and vans full of main-frame computers (such as the Hitachi and IBM 9377/90 systems brought to the desert by the U.S. Marine Corps performing a wide range of automation support functions). In many cases these were interconnected over local area networks (LAN) and wide area networks (WAN) using multi-channel terrestrial and (military and commercial) satellite transmission systems.


Another unprecedented application of modern technology was historically the most extensive use of intelligence imagery to support a military operation. Diverse sophisticated photo-optical, infrared and electromagnetic sensors continuously observed Iraq's forces from a variety of platforms and transmitted their observations in picture, data and textual formats to military commanders in the desert and contiguous regions. This information was disseminated widely using a diverse set of telecommunications media to all the military components, including those at lower command echelons. The level and volume of imagery dissemination on a continuous basis was by far the most comprehensive ever.

In previous conflicts such near-real time (NRT) detailed graphical information about the enemy's forces and supporting defense infrastructure was only available, on a limited basis, to national command authorities and select elements of regional, unified and specified command headquarters staff.

However, in this Operation the volume of imagery produced by both national and organic systems was almost overwhelming. But, transmission of imagery information to the operating forces required higher capacity telecommunications systems than those supporting other types of information exchange. Nevertheless, through the use of military and commercial (including experimental) communications satellites, those needs were met. The capabilities initiated in this operation were, however, only a beginning to improvements for subsequent and future national security operations, greatly increasing the efficiency of imagery information exchange among all components and echelons. Among the opportunities recognized from the application of modern information technologies were common networking/alternate routing systems to respond to anticipated threats to the supporting communications infrastructure. This and similar threats to Iraq's information infrastructure represents a significant step toward information operation concepts and strategies which continued to evolve and mature throughout the decade.

Further, inasmuch as many separate systems were used for imagery exchange by individual commands, armed services and agencies across the federal government, additional work was begun to ensure that future imagery terminals were capable of effectively exchanging imagery information with any other terminal over an efficient integrated network connecting all echelons by using standard communications protocols and interfaces. Work led by the Congressionally-sponsored Intelligence Communications Architecture (INCA) Project in months just preceding these operations produced a National Imagery Transmission Format (NITF) Standard which played an important part in expediting progress in imagery exchange interoperability; however, additional elements in telecommunications connections among imagery terminals needed standardized and more efficient integrated network services were needed before complete widespread interoperability would arrive. Nevertheless, it was these operations and the successfully innovative application of modern information technologies which led the way to the major improvements in interoperability across the DoD Information Infrastructure in recent years and more efficient multimedia intercomputer network services supporting imagery exchange across the DoD Information Systems Network (DISN) and related Service/Agency networks.

Worthy of note in this conflict was the systems developed under the Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) Program. They provided a valuable mixture of systems capable of moving a variety of intelligence information from national sources to the battlefield using multiple media.

Surveillance and Reconnaissance

The Defense Support Program and Joint Surveillance and Tracking Radar System (STARS) are two other examples of Defense Department investments in modern technologies which bore fruit and were proven extremely effective in keeping an eye on the enemy in diverse national security operations. They were effective in guiding weapons systems to remove offensive and defensive capabilities of the enemy (i.e. SCUD missile launchers).


Communications Systems

It must be recognized, however, that neither command and control nor intelligence systems could have performed as well as they did without similarly advanced telecommunications technologies to support the unprecedented levels of intercomputer information exchange and electronic transmission of optical, infra-red and electromagnetically derived images. Through the innovative applications of the most modern telecommunications techniques, vastly improved military and commercial communications systems were fielded to support U.S. and coalition forces in the operation. Intercomputer multimedia information exchange and wide dissemination of imagery levied heavy loading and timeliness (speed of delivery) requirements on the tactical (mobile/transportable) telecommunications resources of the individual component armed forces and on the DoD-wide Defense Communications System (DCS). It was particularly problematic for this operation that the area lacked significant information infrastructure of any type. Nevertheless, the staff of the CENTCOM Commander-in-Chief, the Military Departments supporting the component commands, the Defense Communications Agency (DCA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), other national organizations and U.S. Commands for Europe, Pacific and Special Operations joined synergistically to provide a formidable and very effective space-based and terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure supporting all military functions (not merely C2 and intelligence).

Secure Voice Systems

Examples of some of the most innovative applications of modern communications technology warrant special recognition. Prominent is the deployment of hundreds of new secure telephone units (STU-III) developed by NSA only a short time before these operations. Both intra and inter theater secure voice communications worked very well. The credit for much of that goes to STU-Ills. They made it possible for military units to exchange sensitive and classified information while using public (U.S. and international) telephone networks. STU-III sets not only allow secure (private) voice conversations, but also provide a capability for secure connections of computers, including image processors, over public circuit-switched networks. STU-IIIs avoid previous constraints of logistically supporting cryptographic keys by being able to pass and update the keys over the telephone circuit itself. The system is thus immune to threats of spies such as the Walker Family, who sold cryptographic keys to U.S. adversaries in the previous decade. Though STU-IIIs were not designed with tactical use in mind, they were applied very effectively and subsequently enhanced to be even more effective tools deployed in modern military operations.

It is also noteworthy that the USCENTCOM Red Switch was located in Florida and that secure voice communications using that switch were routed there for connections (even when both callers were in the desert). The role and appropriate location of red switches for future operations was subsequently re-assessed.

Packet Switched Networking

Still another noteworthy new use of information technology for communications in the desert was the extension to operational/tactical echelon units of robust packet-switched data networking. As was stated above, this was the first major sustained military operation in the microprocessor era. The extent and significance of automated systems (computers) impacts on supporting telecommunications systems were not completely anticipated. Subsequently, once that impact was acknowledged (early-on), USCINCCENT requested that DCA install Defense Data Network (DDN) connection in the battlefield area. Initially, unclassified DDN connectivity was established, with DDN Secure Network (DSNET) connections following later.

These connections were subsequently extended to Service tactical systems/networks. This early application of packet-switched networks among deployed units enabled more efficient exchange of imagery, facsimile, message, teleconferencing and data base updates and queries on one inter-connected network. This was a precursor to modern web-based services of our DII. Though packet-switching technology matured during the previous decade and had been used extensively on the Defense Data Network (DDN) (securely connecting fixed military facilities worldwide), it had never before been extended to lower echelon (battlefield) forces in a major sustained conflict. Deployment of the DDN Secure Networks (DSNET-1 (Secret), DSNET-2 (Top Secret) and DSNET-3 (SCI)) to the battlefield and their further extension to tactical computer systems at lower echelons provided much needed relief to the circuit switched systems, designed for voice telephone calls, which were stressed by bursty intercomputer communications. Together they represented a major step toward the worldwide DoD Information System Network supporting operating units and their supporting establishment today.

Integrated Tactical-Strategic Data Networking

The impetus for the tactical extension of the DDN originated with a large joint proof-of-concept demonstration the preceding year. That demonstration confirmed the concept, feasibility and value integrated tactical-strategic data networking (ITDN). The ITDN was earmarked by Congress and the OSD as an emerging DoD Program. The ITDN demonstration included the application of a new BLACKER Communications Security System developed, by NSA. BLACKER enhanced packet-switched networks by providing end-end encryption of intercomputer communications at varying security levels over a common network.

Subsequent DoD systems integration and shared networking improvements evolved from those early DDN/ITDN capabilities to extend to tactical echelons the capabilities for seamless theater-wide efficient interconnection of automated information systems.

LAN-WAN Internetworking

The subsequent direction of technology evolution for intercomputer communications in this decade involves the interconnection of local area networks (LANs) with wide area

networks (WANs) such as the DISN. As previously mentioned, LAN technology applications were successfully demonstrated in large numbers at all echelons in this operation. For example USCENTCOM Headquarters and those of most components were supported by interconnected LANs and ADP resources of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill AFB. The USSOCOM Research and Threat Evaluation System (SOCRATES) was a core element in the operation's success. SOCRATES served as a gateway connecting USCENTCOM commanders to national WANs and information sources, including theater orders of battle and other databases. Also, the U.S. Marine Corps deployed scores of LANs at all echelons to connect forces and automation support centers to each other and other networks worldwide.

Satellite Communications Systems

It was apparent (early-on) to USCINCCENT that the large numbers of automated and imagery systems would produce communications requirements beyond the capacity of the traditional military communications systems. Although available DSCS (SHF) and FLTSAT and AFSAT (UHF) military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) systems provided extremely valuable, dependable and flexible connectivity, the magnitude of multimedia communications support required exceeded available resources. This occurred even though several MILSATCOM systems were re-aligned from supporting other U&S Commands to the Persian Gulf Operation. As a result of very cooperative USCENTCOM, Joint Staff and Service and Agency efforts, rapid deployment of international, commercial and (DARPA and NRL) experimental communications satellite services was successful and proved to be extremely effective. However, even with that additional support, the Operation used nearly all of the Joint Staff's contingency communications assets. This severely limited reserve capabilities to respond to other contingencies. Thus, subsequently major efforts were made to increase deployable telecommunications resources. Examples of capabilities that emerged for these efforts were the UHF Follow-on Satellite System, the Commercial Satellite Communications Initiative and the evolving Global Broadcast Service. The emerging improved information infrastructure will also include layered information security services, under the Defense in Depth strategy of the DoD Information Assurance Program.


Automated Network Planning and Management

In the final days of Desert Shield and throughout Desert Storm, most critical communications systems had alternative paths and networking established. Theater-wide communications network planning, operation and management worked well under the firm and effective leadership of the USCINCCENT (J6); however, this was another area that offered fertile ground for improvement. Planning and coordination efforts have continued throughout the decade to produce a joint network planning and management system that exploits the power of modern information technologies. These should begin to include capabilities early on for dynamic management of networks and telecommunications paths for critical circuits, using a variety of media. Through the use of theater-wide networking management with automated network management tools, this can be expedited. This capability is particularly needed to cope with commercial facilities; transmission systems and networks relied upon by our operating forces. These may not always be adequately secured from destruction or electronic countermeasures. Thus pro-active, efficient, integrated near-real time (NRT) adaptive network planning and management systems that cross theater-tactical, component and command boundaries are essential. Possible use of reserve augmentees or units trained and equipped in performing these functions using automation may offer additional benefits to achieve optimal use of communications systems deployed and their integration/interface with the worldwide DISN at the theater-level.


Worldwide Networks

Relating to worldwide connectivity, from the national perspective, it is important to recognize the importance to the success of these operations of communications facilities and systems of other U&S Commands. An example was the work of USEUCOM units in extending communications from VII Corps to supporting systems and elements in Europe and America. The prominent role played by the DCA Office in Europe to the deployment of the DDN in the desert to support systems of the operating forces is another example.

System Survivability

Finally, it is particularly important to keep in mind that, in this conflict; the adversary did not attack our C3I systems. This will not always be the case and systems and operational planners should not assume that those systems are adequately secured from such attacks to destroy or deny access to them by our forces. To the contrary, planners and decision-makers must ensure the capability is there to clarify the threat of potential adversaries and ensure adequate counter-counter measures are available to neutralize them or avoid their effects.

Further, without doubt, unprecedented (perhaps unbelievable) amounts of communications were established in a remote region of the world in a very short time; however, a note of caution must be registered concerning the tendency toward dependence of such monumental communications support. A final lesson for our military commanders and their C31 system planners is to note that dependency and to begin to emphasize the necessity of planning for effective operations when denied that rich telecommunications infrastructure by a more worthy adversary.

Our forces should be capable of operating under some circumstances in near silence with minimal communications and automation to guide them. Industry can help in this direction by applying new technologies to products to support minimizing communications on-air time and bandwidth requirements and survivability using both military and commercial media.


In conclusion, the Department of Defense should be commended for very effectively bringing to bear a new generation of technology to support our national security enterprise for Desert Shield and Desert Storm; thereby, significantly leveraging the effectiveness of the operational forces deployed and saving many lives.

However, the Department must be vigilant in continuing to seek and innovatively apply adaptive technologies to optimize the efficiency and reliability of available military and commercial automation and telecommunications resources, under all conditions, to support the requirements of our operating forces under any threat to our national defense and world order in the dawning millennium.

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