NETWORK CENTRIC WARFARE – BACK TO THE COALFACE
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor BATTLESPACE
18 May 05. By the very nature of its name, Network Centric Warfare (NCW) is the ability to wage war by the use of a backbone network that links all three services seamlessly. May is with us again and once more it is C4I, NCW, Digitization, NEC, ISTAR and C4ISTAR conference season. BATTLESPACE has been contacted by a number of readers who have attended these costly conferences and the comments have been the same – “Why should we pay several thousand pounds to hear what we already know?”
In Washington, this week, the season culminated in the AFCEA TechNet exhibition and the Defense News C4ISTAR conference, moved from November. The lack of attendees and sponsorship at the latter and the burgeoning new technology at the former, reflects the changing mood of the industry. BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold attended a number of briefings culminating in the Raytheon NCW briefing today. Threatened with a four hour marathon, the Editor initially declined the invitation but assured that the brief would take only 90 minutes from his busy schedule, he attended.
Retd. U.S. Army General Dean Cash, now Raytheon’s Director, Network-Centric Operations Enterprise Priority out of Arlington Virginia, kicked off the brief. It rapidly became clear that rather than centralizing on what Raytheon could offer the NCW marketplace, Cash was giving his audience the DoD view on NCW. Other speakers continued this tone in what was rapidly becoming a lecture in NCW not Raytheon’s considerable abilities to master the technologies. The company has hired a number of retired military personnel in the past to project the image on the hill, one example being General Gene Blackwell who was hired to mend fences at the Pentagon after a huge disagreement over a large communications contract. Whilst he succeeded in mending fences, the company’s failure to win any JTRS work, particularly Cluster 1, was put down, in part, to poor relationships within the DoD.
But it is more than this, Dean Cash’s talk reflected the viewpoints of the senior hierarchy within the Pentagon and industry, who have been drinking each other’s bath water over the past few years. The Raytheon speaker line-up ignored certain segments of the company, most notably, Dr John Olsen’s C4I segment in Fort Wayne. This segment led the company’s C4I thrust and won it a large amount of business for FBCB2 with Northrop Grumman and ITT. The Fort Wayne segment, including Dave Hall and his team, actually designed the Tactical Internet. Reflections of this achievement could have demonstrated Raytheon’s technology capabilities to solving NCW. Raytheon’s expertise in the development of DCGS Block 10.2 working with companies such as IBM ands Cisco clearly demonstrates the company’s capabilities in the NCW field, this is where the thrust should have come from being backed up by the technology capabilities from elsewhere in the company, a lecture on the merits of NCW was not required!(This may have occurred later in the session but the Editor had to lave after the 90 minute period)
Cash’s talk was very reminiscent of the early days of digitization where in the UK in particular, what started out as the Clansman radio replacement, BOWMAN, became the digitisation programme for the British Armed Forces. As many as 250 departments were created to manage the UK’s Digitization Programme and no one was brave enough or had the in-depth technological knowledge at the top to say it was not working. At the recent WBR NCW conference one speaker said that he never briefed above the rank of Colonel as the individuals concerned would not understand the technology even when briefed!
It was Raytheon’s Dave Hall who memorably told the UK’s Archer Consortium, the meaning of the word Digitization, networking and data radios. Having briefed Archer in 1998, the consortium realised that although they had built the boxes, they did not p