BUILDING THE EUROPEAN NCW NETWORK
By Stefan Nitschke, Defence Analyst
15 Aug 06. Achieving coalition interoperability is difficult and architecting solutions, which all respective parties would adopt and adhere to, is therefore problematic, as recently said by William E. Skidmore, MITRE’s Washington C3 Center, and Daniel Klingenburg, U.S. Army Communications & Electronics Command (GECOM). As found by the U.S. military, while cooperating with force elements from a number of European NATO members in a series of recent military operations, the Europeans are lacking significant capabilities in the fields of communications and information interoperability. However, the Europeans learnt that full-scale interoperability of forces will be the premier pre-requisite to enable synchronised effects, collaborative C2, improved shared awareness, distributed C2, sensor netting, cross-cueing, and reachback. With C2 systems having been widely addressed as integral elements of NCW or NEC, allied forces – for the most part British forces – were relatively unable to integrate information, communications systems, and procedures to accomplish more with less and faster than would have been possible in previous conflicts. This had been underlined in a number of after-action reports, stating that U.S. troops were facilitating the appropriate means of communications and information-gathering at least during the early phases of the Iraqi campaign in 2003.
Concepts like NCW, NEC, or NetOpFü (Networked Operational Command; in German saying “Vernetzte Operationsführung”) will be evolving to achieve the distributed warfighting goals as outlined by several formal and ad hoc NATO organisations like the NACMA (NATO Air Command and Control Management Agency). In strict consensus to several of the European NATO member’s doctrinal approaches, network implementation will be to allow the spread of information at unprecedented rates, this bringing into effect swifter decision-making procedures. However, the information disseminated to all levels of command and to the individual warfighter has to be secure, allowing for sensitive data to be passed quickly without threat of interception. NCW will play herein a major role in the ambitious transformation plans by the Europeans to shift the emphasis from platform-centric operations to a new methodology which will be based on enhanced speed of command and dynamic, real-time reorganisation of sensors and shooters to cope with changing mission requirements.
As U.S. and European defence companies have already identified the NCW demands to be a lucrative field of activity, there will be plenty of work to be done, as specifically former Warsaw Pact nations, which recently found their way into NATO and the European Union, are presently lacking the requisite C2 capability. But the NATO expansion has been found out as the driving element which clearly is a factor affecting the C2 market, with the premier fields of activity eventually concentrating around the vehicle battle management systems (BMS) segment. Interestingly, the European land-based C2 market alone will be reportedly growing to over U.S.$5.4billion between 2006 and 2014, particularly resulting in a build-up of some interoperability capabilities in a range of smaller European NATO countries. Nations like Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are thus about to modernising or planning to re-equip their mechanised infantry assets which can be seen as some sort of an early, narrow path to a viable NCW capability.
But the theory which could be behind a European NCW network is that linking disparate portions of the air/land/sea battlespace will allow force packages to deploy a more focused and more lethal force by providing the frontline warfighter with critical information, including a near real-time view of the battlefield to ensure knowledge superiority. Hitting ephemeral, relocatable, and moving targets is a vital capability which would then require impro