Integration, Interoperability Evolve to Meet Warfighting Challenges
By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Special Correspondent
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As the security challenges confronting the nation become more complex, the naval services have become much better at ensuring that their warfighting systems are integrated and interoperable, not just with each other but with the other services and allies, a panel of resource sponsors said April 5.
That evolution has moved the fight from a single platform engaging a target with its own systems to an integrated, multi-domain network of platforms, sensors and weapons creating a “kill web” with greater speed and lethality, the five senior officers told a Sea-Air-Space forum April 5.
A clear reflection of how the approach to warfighting has evolved was the fact that the panel included the resource sponsor for information warfare, along with the more familiar managers of air, surface, subsurface and expeditionary programs.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson “has tasked us to further advance information warfare into everything we do,” said Rear Adm. Nancy Norton, director of warfare integration and information systems.
“That means information in warfare and information as warfare,” Norton said.
Meeting the need for multi-domain operations rests on three pillar: “assured command and control of all our forces,” U.S. and allied, shared battlespace awareness and integrated fire control that combines both kinetic and information fires, she said.
Creating those integrated capabilities has required the warfare communities to change the way they acquire systems from going from deciding how they fight based on what they have to what they need based on how they fight, said Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare.
“We need to start with how our systems can fight together,” Boxall said.
Marine Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens, director of expeditionary warfare, stressed the importance of joint and combined exercises to discovering what changes are required for better integration and interoperability and then improving those capabilities. He noted how the 2015 Bold Alligator multi-national amphibious exercise revealed the need for more integrated command and control, more integrated equipment and allies embedded in the experiments.
To ensure interoperability, “we must make sure we are not buying unique, boutique system that make it hard to integrate,” Owens said.
One of the keys to success, Norton said, was ensuring that all new systems had open standards and architecture, which could be upgraded with software, rather than changes to the hardware.
Rear Adm. William Merz, director of undersea warfare, said the shift to integrated operations and interoperability was particularly difficult for submariners because “we didn’t even talk to each other” decades ago. Today, “we are much more integrated and interoperable.”
Rear Adm. DeWolfe Miller, director of air warfare, said the value of integration and interoperability was demonstrated when he commanded a carrier strike ground at the beginning for operations against the Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria that involved “the full team, the Air Force, surface ships shooting Tomahawks. ... That’s the world series.”
Asked how unmanned systems fit into the push for integration and interoperability, the officers viewed them as just another tool.
Miller said he did not believe there was anything like unmanned warfare.
“The question is, what does it bring to the fight. On the aviation side, we’re focusing on manned-unmanned teaming,” integrating the unmanned systems into the community, “not just a unique system,” he said.
“This is not a competition of manned-unmanned, its complementary,” Merz said.
Boxall said, “I only like unmanned when it replaces something that is more expensive,” or if it reduces the demand on people.