Military & Aerospace

About Wars of the Future
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Issue Vol. 31.3 Jul-Sep 2016 | Date : 23 Dec , 2016

General Starry initiated the development of an entirely new approach to military operations. This started the world on a military journey that, thanks to great advancements in technology particularly with respect to air power and the way it is applied, and communication, has brought us to where we are today. In today’s world, we see the clear presence of electro-fire battles, as well as network-centric wars among highly advanced militaries. We also see the presence and advancement of platforms. I argue here that the following evolutionary stages will lead us to Net-Platform-Centric Wars.

In the 1960s, a significant change took place in military science whose consequences are just now being seen. The American team of military theorists, led by General D Starry, upon analysing past military operations especially the defeats in Vietnam and the 1973 Israeli victory, came to the realisation that it is groundless to think that the Soviet war of an overwhelming number of troops has come to replace the Germanic blitzkrieg. Theoretically, this would be a dead end and it was not only surmountable, but it could be completely undermined by the new military doctrine which was the continuation of the blitzkrieg with a more aero-centered strategy. For the sake of fewer forces, more speed, longer range, accuracy, concentration and a higher standard of troop management, General Starry found it necessary to create a new military doctrine based on both land and air. This new military doctrine was first referred to as Deep Strike or Deep Battle, then as Air-Land Battle and even later as Air-Land and/or Air-Sea Military Operation. These issues were widely being discussed in military circles and among academics.

In the 1970s-1980s, that team brought forth an entirely new approach to military operations. That new model was the Air-Land and/or Sea-Land, which led to the present Electro-Fire-Strike Battle and Electro-Network Management. It focused on all aspects of military work including new weapons, new approaches and new solutions.

During the WWII bombings, a considerable portion of the released bombs missed their targets…

From prior war experience of applying air attack means, they clearly understood that despite the constant enhancement of the aerial component’s effect, it still didn’t meet the desired standard with mere conventional type weapons. During the WWII bombings, a considerable portion of the released bombs missed their targets. According to some data, during WWII bombings, only 20 per cent were actually striking their targets1. During the Vietnam War, the American servicemen were convinced that one or two guided bombs and missiles are more effective than the raw bombing power of dozens of airplanes. The scientific and technical bases for the creation of multi-precision bombs and missiles had strengthened. By the last year of the Vietnam War, a great many laser guided bombs were already put into practice.2

As A Migoyan loved to say, “The Americans are practical people.” True to that, here they were; the time had come for them to be the first to even analyse the mistakes of others.

The multi-precision weapons and air attack means continued increase of data can give the possibility of the entire process of war to be dictated by the military operation’s aerial component alone. A large part of their openly published views and regulations were dedicated to combined-arms combat’s aerial component.3 The USA viewed the USSR as its primary adversary, whose core military consisted of land troops. The American theorists were looking for countermeasures using their main tool, which they had constantly tested and refined – airpower. Thus, as per the new doctrine, the general American battle division would require over 150 military airplane flights, and nearly the same amount of military helicopter flights, daily, not counting the considerably larger number of executed UAV flights. In their judgement, when battling against the land troops, the air attack means work 10 to 20 times more efficiently than other means.4

Nor did the new theory forget about increasing the efficiency of management during military operations. The mapping of space and particularly the presence of aerial guiding points, rendered major opportunities to commanders. That is, the wounding component was immediately strengthened along with the managing component, which had military commanders with constantly higher demands.

With the application of every component of the new theory, its relatively final version was rigorously tested during military exercises by Israel in 1982 and partly by Great Britain in the Falklands and the US in Libya. It not only pierced and wounded the adversary’s tanks and aircraft but with coordinated, simultaneous intensive blows, it wounded state and defence systems, nerve centres, the air defence infrastructure as well as other high value targets.5 That which was envisioned by Douhet and Mitchell, but whose vision could not immediately be actualised at the time due to technological issues, was finally applied in Iraq, in 1991, with its more complete version.

During the 1999 military operations, multi-precision already made up 30 to 35 per cent of used weapons…

To achieve this, it was first important to overcome not only intelligence, communication and management issues, but theoretical ones as well. Within past failures also laid the absence of certain systems. For the new theory to work, it was not only important to have strikes with proper accuracy and density and lustrous management of individual actions but also the enabling of independent mobility of troops, which has traditionally been among the most important issues for all armies. And in the new theory, that issue of mobilisation with its two crucial components, speed and depth, would also be supported by airpower because no other transportation method other than aircraft was faster or could work at such depth. With all of these innovations in their final polished version, in the US, Douhet’s theory transformed into a theory of “effects”6, upon which achieved victories would require the continuous oversight and clear, cooperative efforts of all commanding circles.

For those in the higher ranks in the US, giving such a continual and significant amount of freedom to mid-level commanders remained edgy with respect to proper supervision. Of course, that which had always been a troublesome issue for past armies was now resolved thanks to technological advancements. You train the commander well, give him a large amount of freedom to act, yet supervise his operation through technological means without interrupting him. Without all-seeing eyes and effective communication, there was no way to have a management system that would allow this. In this case, they had resolved these issues by theoretical and other surveillance and communication means. There was already a continuous field of view and communication, which became a standard system of management. What had been merely dreamt of theoretically at the turn of the century had now become feasible thanks to breakthroughs in science.

The latest wars showed that even in the case of influencing government management systems, the application of the air attack means latest version of the theory was still incomplete7, yet it was surprisingly effective and had great promise. Here, we must understand just how things worked before, compared to how they work today, in order to appreciate the new way of American management. Let us try to understand this through a short explanation and some examples.

As we can observe, the various tasks were separated and classified as intelligence, strike and management divisions. Of course, this complete separation led to serious complications. As we have already noted, from the mentioned time forward, accompanying the army staff’s work were large groups of military specialists and theorists. Correctly understanding the rendered possibilities of new technology, they were making calculations. Towards the end of the 1980s, alongside the United States Central Command, the «Black Hole» group was established, where servicemen were gathered to also engage in planning the application of the new theory. It was here that Colonel John A Warden served8, who is known to have had a major influence on world renowned and cited methods.

The role of multi-precision strike methods grew so much that it became a necessity to change warfare…

The systems of intelligence, management, strike and others were being developed separately while at the other end they were carefully being pieced together. During three decades of military conflict, with respect to means of air strikes, the specific proportion of multi-precision means used increased from two to four per cent to as much as 70 per cent (sometimes 68 per cent is noted)9. During the first Iraq War, their specific proportion measured eight to nine per cent. Of the nearly total 220,000 (sometimes 256,000 is noted10) aviation attacks, nearly 20,500 were multi-precision11. The allies released nearly 5,500 units of the AGM-65 Maverick Air-Land conventional rockets alone. Incidentally, they measured 80 to 90 per cent effective12.

During the 1999 military operations, multi-precision already made up 30 to 35 per cent of used weapons. Of the 23,000 bombs and missile units used, over 8,000 were multi-precision. In 2001, of the units used in Afghanistan, 60 per cent were multi-precision. More than 22,000 units were used, of which 12,500 were multiprecision. In the 2003 Iraq war, the multi-national forces used more than 29,000 units, of which 70 per cent were multi-precision.13 They were also growing in variety. Their striking distance had reached up to 500 km for tactical air power and up to 2,500 km for the strategic. Experience from both Iraq wars (1991 and 2003) came to show that air power, while executing approximately the same number of military flights in both wars (between 42,000 and 50,000), successfully struck targets 4.5 times more than the first war (4500 vs. 20,000)14. Let us also note that the second war was shorter, which suggests that not only multi-precision weapon use increase, but also the density and effectiveness of air attack means.

With all of this said, we can draw the following conclusion. In military operations, the first strikes, which are generally massive and becoming more decisive, are not currently being executed primarily by aircraft with pilots, which is a very important point (and this phenomenon is likely to increase in the future). Presently, unmanned air attacks are precisely the best evidence for that. Today, there are UAVs launched by fighter aircraft that are in use. In 2003, while the first and primary blows were being delivered by a large number of cruise missiles, there were periods of military operations when over a thousand cruise missiles were used simultaneously.15 All of this also definitively eliminated the demarcating concepts of tactical, operative and strategic tasks that had been famous since the 1950s. Small tactical groups of fighters were delivering blows to strategic points and large bombers were freely releasing bombs at tactical depths. All such boundaries were simply disappearing.

For all intents and purposes, by these measures, the prominent role of first fire-strikes in war was affirmed. The role of multi-precision strike methods grew so much that it became a necessity to change warfare as we knew it. Specifically, whereas in 1991, the allies were delivering two to three hours of continuous aircraft missile strikes daily, from 1999 to 2003, during similar operations, thanks to improvements of ongoing supervision and other capabilities, there were being delivered six to seven hours of continuous strikes, with which essentially entire operations were being accomplished. That is, these were electro-fire aircraft missile strikes which, along with electro-network supervision, form the foundation of these military operations.

Here appears a new kind of battle; that of the electro-fire. Already, the electro-fire battle means not only the electronisation of the function of the electronic attack that accompanies strikes, but also that of the strike’s pointing, control, management of verification and the striking mean itself. As a rule, the fundamental strike means will have electronic components, even if it may be merely in its internal circuit. Whether the strike means be cruise missiles, cluster bombs or a multi-precision shell, it must undoubtedly work jointly with open and closed electronic systems in order to reach its target. Its very release, pinpointing the target, guiding and controlling it are all electronic-based. And future weaponry will be even more electronic-based. Electro-magnetic cannons, laser cannons, even future soldiers’ rifles, are all to be electronic-based in every way, from their scopes to their owner-recognition features. Prior combined battles of equal magnitude implied that the coordinated activities of all kinds of weaponry were for a single common goal. Today this is replaced by electro-fire battle which is worthy of replacing the prior battle precisely because electro-fire means form not only the capability of all the services to work separately, but also that of the ability to work together.

Information-psychological work, with its deep layers and multi-function, is today widely being spread…

The electro-fire battle implies that simultaneous with the first strike, the electronic attack is delivered, which is joined by cyber-attacks16 on command centres and networks. Thereafter (or simultaneously), any other desired military branch or division can go on with its electronic-based operation and work with yet another military branch or division via electronic networks.

There are many electronic applications prior to, or simultaneous with, first strikes. Among the best examples of this is Israel’s strike on Syrian nuclear-developing targets, when in order to throw off the Syrian air defence system they used the American-made “Senior Sutter” cyber-weapon, which had the ability to take control of the enemy’s air defence network and falsify data.17 The USA had long ago realised this program.18 This is one of those exceptional occurrences when, during a separated and short operation, firepower and electronic strikes were combined.

With this, the electro-fire battle unites the electronic strike with the firepower strike19, although the strikes can also be separated. And here cyber operations, which certain specialists inaccurately label as cyberwars, are the electronic battles as a separated component, and they can make up both parts of warfare as well as security. In 2010, we witnessed the first military cyber attack when the “Stuxnet” computer worm (or virus) threw off the Iranian Bushehr atomic centrifuge computing program20. It was a clear system-annihilating means, yet this is merely a small incident where the virtual-striking means resolved a tactical military problem, with the general target having much operational significance. These incidents are merely small examples of virtual strikes. They throw-off and disrupt the electronic networks of their adversaries, which on a given occasion have the function of a strike, and they realise a corresponding informational function which is a matter of security.

SIDENOTE: Troops have been created for military operations of this nature21, and in the US there is such a military unit, more as cyber command working under strategic commanders. The noted American command is closely integrated not only with the various military branches, but also with other forces. That command today has a number of troop formations and can carry out tasks throughout the world. And because the Net’s global management is realised in the US, in this realm it can defeat any country. In 2014, the entire budget for the US’ various government institution’s cyber-defense subdivisions combined was $1.4 billion. In the US, there is a state document on strategy for operating in cyberspace which coordinates all work22. However, all of this does not mean that cyber-operations are wars. Wars have a function of an expansive nature, which includes larger forces and means, larger territorial scope, more military branches, involving more layers of the government and public spheres, and it certainly involves the physical destruction of a large number of people. The military operations executed by the military branch are not removed wars. The information is used by all military branches, yet that is only one component in the securing of those military branches’ primary functions. Any given military branch only engages in military operations with a range of other components. The American document precisely clarifying this issue is named “National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operation”.23

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Artsrun Hovhannisyan

Press Secretary of MoD of Armenia, a military expert and analyst.

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