Birth of a New Warfare Era

In the Barren Desert of the Arabian Peninsula

Military operations in the Persian Gulf in the early months of this decade were driven by a new generation of technology which spawned the era of information operations which will dominate national security operations of the emerging 21st Century. Subsequently, modern information technologies have not only greatly increased the complexity and sophistication of modern weapons (planes, ships and arms) and logistics systems (shipping, maintenance and supply), but have dramatically increased the potential effectiveness of command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) systems.

In Operation Desert Storm, unprecedented applications of a new generation of modern information technologies were evident at all military echelons. The C3I systems in use were essentially sophisticated battlefield information systems. Military commanders used them to track, on a near instantaneous basis, their own and Iraq's military forces while exploiting Iraqi weaknesses. It was not by accident that the Iraqi "hunker down" strategy emerged as the eyes and ears of its forces were disabled and denied connectivity to the muscle of its ground and air weapons.

Even before Operation Desert Storm, in Operation Desert Shield, new frontiers were crossed in applying modern information technologies to perform C3I functions. Revolutionary techniques included the adaptation of new secure telephone units to pass voice, data and pictures, distributed automated command and control systems and the use of large numbers of near instantaneous intelligence systems capable of providing information in picture form to all military echelons instantaneously and simultaneously. These were useful in determining new targets of critical information exchange nodes of Iraq's own information infrastructure and C3I systems.

These were the first sustained large-scale joint and coalition military operations 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 C3I applications. For example, the unpredictable nature of the rapid deployment of the monumental coalition force to the desert, including hundreds of thousands of men and women, in under 12 weeks, required the unprecedented use of distributed automated command and control systems to synchronize all echelons while allowing maximum flexibility by commanders of the diverse international components. With modern C3I systems as enabling resources, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) was able to respond almost instantly to the urgent threat and unique mission at hand, under the most dire circumstances. This would not have been possible without computerized C3I systems performing myriad tasks involving collection, transmission, storage, correlation and display of information regarding friendly and enemy forces. . Computers used varied in size and shape, from microprocessor chips embedded in a variety of military devices to laptop units, desktop personal (micro) computers, cabinet-sized mini-computers and vans full of mainframe computers (such as the IBM 9377/90 systems brought to the desert by the U.S. Marine Corps).

That unprecedented deployment of information technologies also featured the most extensive use in history of intelligence imagery to support a military operation. Diverse sophisticated optical and electromagnetic sensors continuously observed Iraq's forces and transmitted the observations in photographic and other formats to military commanders in the desert and contiguous regions. This pictorial information was disseminated widely to all the military components, including those at lower command echelons. The level and volume of current intelligence imagery dissemination on a continuous basis was (by far) the most comprehensive ever. In previous conflicts, such graphic information about the enemy was only available to national command authorities and select elements of regional unified and specified command headquarters. A new era of warfare, tapping the unprecedented information services enabled by modern information technologies, had truly emerged.

The weapons and supporting information systems deployed to that barren desert (with only sparce information infrastructure) could not have performed as they did without the advanced telecommunications technologies that were made available by both military units and commercial services. They supported unprecedented levels of multimedia inter-computer information exchange and electronic transmission of optical and electromagnetically derived images. Through the applications of the most modem telecommunications techniques, vastly improved information systems and services were fielded to support U.S. armed forces in that unprecedented operation. Data communications among computers and wide dissemination of imagery levied heavy loading and timeliness requirements on the tactical resources of the armed forces' individual systems and those of the DoD-wide Defense Communications System.

Nevertheless, the armed forces' component commands, the staff of the CENTCOM commander in chief, the Defense Communications Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, other national organizations and U.S. commands for Europe, Pacific and Special Operations joined in providing extremely effective worldwide telecommunications support.

Some applications of modern telecommunications technology warrant special recognition. Prominent was the deployment of hundreds of new secure telephone units (STU-IIIs) developed by the National Security Agency. These made it possible for military units to exchange sensitive and classified information while using leased public and commercially switched telephone infrastrcture and servcies. This was particularly important due to the lack of worldwide secure inter-computer networks such as those now enjoyed through the DoD Information System Network (DISN) and related Service/Agency programs. STU-III sets not only allowed secure voice conversations, but also provide a capability for secure multimedia connections of computers, including image processors, over those non-military telecommunications networks. STU-IIIs brought a new generation of cryptographic key management, greatly simplifying secure communications by enabling cryptographic keys to be passed and dynamically updated over the telephone circuit itself. The system was thus made immune to threats of spies such as the Walker family, who had sold cryptographic keys to U.S. adversaries in previous decades.

Still another noteworthy new use of modern information technology for information operations in the desert was the extension of robust packet-switched data network services to operational and tactical echelon units. Though packet-switching technology matured during the previous decade and had been used extensively on the Defense Data Network (securely connecting fixed military facilities worldwide) it had never before been extensively extended to lower echelon (battlefield) forces. The success of this type of inter-computer networking in this operation led to the magnificent progress subsequently in establishing the DISN and a modern worldwide DoD Information Infrastructure (DII).

Finally, another significant application of modem telecommunications techniques was that of connecting international commercial satellite services to the operation. The Defense Communications Agency (later expanded with increased responsibilities for computer systems to become the Defense Information Systems Agency) arranged for the unusually rapid deployment of leased mobile satellite terminals to connect the deployed U.S. Central Command headquarters in Saudi Arabia to critical computer and communications system at permanent headquarters facilities across the planet in Florida. The success of this application of transportable commercial satellite communications facilities greatly influenced planning for communications support to subsequent and future military contingency operations. The Commercial Satellite Communications Initiative and evolving Global Broadcast Service are two major programs subsequently launched to support national security operations of the 21st Century.

In conclusion, in this historical operation, the Department of Defense effectively brought to bear a new generation of information technology to greatly increase the effectiveness of military weapons and supporting C3I systems, while introducing a new concept of information superiority to enable our forces to dominate future national security operations. This dominance will be partly achieved by denying future adversaries information, the lifeblood of modern weapon systems. Finally, this new concept of warfare offers hope of achieving dominance with reduced risk of harm to those men and women involved in these operations.

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