By Mr S. MacBeth
Commanders at all levels have to act more on their own: they are given latitude to work out their own plans to achieve what they know to be the commander’s intention. In time they developed to a marked degree a flexibility of mind and a firmness of decision that enables them to take advantage of sudden information or changing circumstances without reference to their superiors. It requires in the higher command a corresponding flexibility of mind, confidence in subordinates, and the power to make its intentions clear right through the force.
-Field Marshal William Slim, Defeat into Victory
In an increasingly lethal environment, we need to be precise. We must use our limited resources for the greatest impact and be able to see and understand better than our adversaries so we can shield ourselves from attack. Consequently, digitising the force is the New Zealand Army’s main effort for capability development.
Brigadier Chris Parsons, NZDF, ‘What Does and Army of 5000 Look Like?’
The above two statements reflect the current chafing that exists when considering the present command and control discourse. In the first, Field Marshal Slim reflects the view of 20th century mission command; the warrior general that led an army into the deepest recesses of the Burmese jungle, fighting a determined enemy and issuing orders over wireless radio, through map overlay and personal leadership at the critical point of the battlefield. He represents the “edge” of the mission command philosophy that western armies have espoused for the modern era of military actions. The second quote is of a 21st century general, of no less warrior quality, but one that reflects the present tactical “edge” of warfare; colder, more remote, human machine teams able to communicate in a nanosecond, find the enemy with great autonomy and strike with great precision. These two views are not necessarily diametrically opposed, but the 20th century view and mission command philosophy are coming under greater pressure to systematically reduce the risks inherent in the fog of war through integrated command and control systems. Many tactical practitioners believe that we would be wiser to reduce technical complexity, aligning with Slim’s vision and not pursue expanded headquarters with complicated command and control systems that are bound to fail in combat. Like most western Armies, the debate for the New Zealand Army of whether technology will be inculcated has passed, but how it is best integrated has not. This paper will explore the current state of the combat Task Force headquarters and consider the work that will need to be done to build the structures, processes and culture necessary to be an agile force capable of close combat as described in FLOC 35. If we, as an army, believe we are expected to compete in the joint land combat space of the 21st century, we must seriously consider how the present command and control node must adapt to be survivable, lethal, redundant and fully integrated for coalition operations.
Adapting the Theory of 21st Century Command
Commanders have assumed greater responsibility for mission definition, they have been compelled to share decision-making authority in managing missions. Military operations have become so complex, involving diverse forces and heterogeneous actors that their coordination has become very difficult. There are simply more decisions over a great range of activities than in the past; they must coordinate aircraft, helicopters, drones, long-range artillery alongside political engagement, and cyber, information and psychological operations.
Dr. Anthony King
Dr. Anthony King, of Cambridge, author of; “Command; The 21st Century General”, reflected that warfare has fundamentally changed and Commanders now face a tempo and breadth of information that has not been witnessed before. Responsible to immediately fuse from the strategic to the tactical across diverse domains, Dr King believes that the modern headquarters is the most important enabler a commander will require on the modern battlefield. With the vast quantities of data that need to be analyzed, across multiple systems and the increased number of diverse enablers available to a commander, the command post as the key point of intersection to support the individual in command has never been clearer. This has led to command being federated across systems and multiple staff experts that can feed the Commander with immediacy. King calls this “collaborative command”. This is not to say that command is “watered down” but that the influence of commanders requires a level of interaction and consideration that would have been foreign to someone like Slim. The modern commander is now more impacted by the effectiveness of their “fusion center” than at any other time in history. Without an effective control node, able to work in instantaneous parallel with the Commander, capable of recognizing changes in the operational environment, synching a wide array of capabilities and organizing vast amounts of information that can be distilled to decision quality parcels, a commander in the 21st Century is “dead in the water.”
In order to realize the power of this node, Commanders at all levels will increasingly care not just about the art and science of maneouvre but will need to be invested in the system that enables their command. Commanders will need to consider that their maneouvre in the physical terrain will only be effective if they are able to maneouvre in the informational terrain in near real time. Long sidelined as a Signals Corps issue, the deployment and tactical employment of C5ISR systems need to be part of the modern Commanders’ appreciation, lexicon and may even be considered “act” function rather than merely command by directly controlling sensors and lethal/non-lethal fires through modern communication technologies. The requirement for reduced latency and shared consciousness across all levels of a team is paramount to success in modern operations. In the New Zealand context, the Task Group headquarters (TG) is the tactical level that NZ will integrate forces and effects. It is likley that if NZ deploys a smaller force element, it will be required to access the same systems and comprehend how to effectively fuse the information across joint and multi-national networks. The size of organization that the command node represents will be less important than the requirement for it to access all available systems and to understand how to employ those tools effectively. It will be critical to determining success or failure on the battlefield—resultantly,it will also be the highest priority to target for our opposition. In order for New Zealand to fully realize the advantages of the informational domain, we must consider how the threat environment potentially impacts the resilience of the system, what tactical frameworks we will need to adapt and how the technology will impact training and culture of command support in the NZ Army. Our present doctrinal command models are static, heavy on infrastructure and reflective of the frameworks that extended humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and counterinsurgency operations have placed on command over the last two decades;largely ignoring the perils of the most dangerous scenario of large scale combat operations(LSCO). If we are serious as an army about our ability to succeed and survive in a joint land combat environment, there is an urgent need to adapt our doctrinal land command architecture to be dispersed, mobile, interoperable, resilient and lethal. In order to accomplish this, a deliberate methodology must be undertaken to understand the threat, the tactical-technical problem set and to design an envelope of scaleable command options that is equipped, trained and can effectively contribute within a coalition maneouvre formation.
Understanding the Threat
Potential adversaries will increasingly have access to a vast array of lethal capabilities, including weapons that can deliver a mass-effect. With non-state adversaries unbounded by international behaviours and treaties, the use of unconventional weapons by such actors will expose the Land Force to a level of lethality previously unseen.
In July 2014, the world bore witness to the Russian kinetic strike at Zelenopillya, Ukraine; ushering in a new awareness of the power of coordinated unmanned aerial vehicles, precsion lethal and non-lethal fires, cued by a task organized C5ISR archicture purpose built to tactically overmatch its opponents. Preceded by cyber attacks that negated Ukrainian command centres, the preemptive attack, designed to strike Ukranian Bde Groups in their assembly areas, was marked by the arrival of drones and followed within minutes by rocket and artillery barrages that left thirty Ukrainians dead, hundreds wounded and over two battalions of combat vehicles destroyed. More recently, Azerbaijan realized victory in 43 days to win back its disputed Nagarno-Karabakh territory from neighbouring Armenia. Combining swarming UAVs with the merciless application of fires on armoured vehicles and dug in infantry, the Azerbaijani forces demonstrated the vulnerability of traditional land units in the face of enhanced weaponary and decsion support sytems. Not isolated to the European theatre, actors in the INDOPAC region lead the world in UAV/fires swarm technology creating implications for how NZ ground forces organize and fight in potential conflicts of both a global and regional nature. As the possibility of inter-state conflict re-emerges as a 21st Century reality, New Zealand’s traditional military allies and partners are shifting from the counter-insurgency efforts of the past two decades to militarily adjust to a “great power competition focus”. The present advances in technologies, best represented in the Networked Enabled Army Project(NEA) are currently world class but have not been adapted to fit the tactical realities of joint land combat. After Action Reports from recent Talisman Sabre Exercises highlight the frictions of TG HQs attempting to integrate systems into a fast flowing Brigade Battlefield. The army must adapt its tactical headquarters and units to fight and survive in an environment where it is increasingly difficult to hide when considering the density of enemy sensors and proliferation of strike capability. The assumption of a “medium” threat environment may no longer be valid as the democratization of disruptive technologies, combined with access to precsion fires by minor powers and non-state actors, requires a comprehensive consideration of not only the networks we need to access but how we command, fight and survive in this increasingly lethal environment.
The Command-and-Control Dichotomy of Survivability and Connectivity
“No Commander is less fortunate
than he who operates with a telegraph
wire stuck into his back.”
Moltke “The Elder”,
Military Works, Vol 1 Part 2
Digital communications are a necessity in today’s operational environment. There has been debate as to the utility of these systems at the tactical level and a longing to the return of voice and “grease pencil” command. As Moltke highlights above, the tension between emergent communication technology and command is an old issue that is just being recycled with present equipment and ideas. The digital footprint provides access for those forward to information at a speed that has never before been imagined. The demand for this information and resultant operational tempo is high for Commanders and though there has been a revolution within the HQ technology there has not been a complimentary tactical discussion to ensure that Command Post (CP) structures and ongoing Network Enabled Army (NEA) design discussions are framed with digital connectivity in a medium to low threat environment and do not consider the contemporary threat of precision fires and ubiquitous Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) in the joint land combat environment. Tactical command posts are a major battlefield vulnerability as potential adversaries become better at locating and destroying them. Survivability is directly increased through mobility and dispersion; concurrently, increased mobility results in a large degradation of services, resulting in ineffective command support and access to enablement. Simply put, in a permissive environment your services are maximized and in a non-permissive environment your services are reduced. (Fig 1). This leads to a tension between connectivity and survivability and resultantly sees less precision when you arguably need it most.
Fig 1. Connectivity-Survivability Tension. Communication services are highest in low threat environments. As the threat increases, HQ signature and mobility must increase but result in a loss of connectivity.
Additionally, leaders bemoan the growth of increasingly complicated HQs that reduce the mobility, redundancy and the ability to shield from physical and electronic observation. The goal of the efforts for the TG HQ should be to slow the reduction of services as the Heaquarters moves toward the right hand edge of the spectrum, maximizing mobility, speed while minimizing physical and electronic signature. Assuming that we will continue to maintain the same fleets of technology, people and vehicles for the next decade, what is the potential to improve New Zealand’s ability to fight throughout the continuum? The Combat TG headquarters is presently a command and control beheamoth that is scaled based on time in location rather than tactical situation; the HQ is focussed on a single node that can be destroyed in a single strike. The headquarters is designed to be static, the vehicles currently assigned are soft skinned and though excellent platform for communications equipment lack the basic mobility and protections required of a headquarters within a coalition organization. We need to evolve this headquarters design and provide a bespoke solution when considering the LSCO scenario. Presently amorphous, the components of the system presently exist but must be reorganized and aligned to be able to fight with the best aginst the best. The headquarters must be resilient, mobile and increasingly lethal to meet the demands of the modern battlefield.
Structuring the HQ to the LSCO Tactical Problem
A detected CP is quickly targeted by enemy indirect fire, delivering rapid and lethal area munitions while Cyber and EW attacks effectively “fix” friendly systems. To maximize survivability CPs must make themselves harder to detect by reducing or obscuring emissions and they must remain highly mobile to mitigate the threat from indirect fires – remaining able to displace within minutes. Adapt or Die.
Col. Ted Thomas, US Army Mission Command Center of Excellence
This paper will not provide detailed solutions to the existing Headquarters challenge, but rather, targets bringing coherence to the discussion, and initiating the detailed work to be done within the field force to begin the process of continual adaption that will need to occur to compete in the 21st century. The issues facing the Headquarters can be grouped into four broad areas; Survivability, Redundancy, Lethality and Integration. Not simply physical structures will need to be adapted, the work will likely need to go much deeper as the processes and the culture of the force may need to adapt to new ways of operating.
Survivability of a headquarters is likely the simplest start point as it impacts the other considerations and should likely be seen as the “axis” of the headquarters design that balances the tactical and technical connectivity discussion. Given the range of threat factors from a denied electro-magnetic spectrum through massed precision fires; we should consider mobility as a first principal consideration in combat command and control design. Mobility provides Commanders inherent flexibility and presents a competitor with an additional problem that will require resourcing. To consider a static headquarters an option in the modern battlespace is to follow a line of logic that saw French military leadership consider the Maginot Line an effective defence against mechanized warfare. The headquarters must be able to move, quickly, over great distances to both to maintain the momentum of the higher formation and to increase survivability on a battlefield that you can anticipate always being found by enemy eyes. Recent studies and battlefield experience has shown that even displacing 500m after transmitting can mean the difference between life and death. Headquarters mobility solutions must be protected from direct/ indirect fire, explosive threats, have enough power to operate the systems and be capable of local self-defence. This requirement drives us down a path of stand-off with technical reachback, armoured mobile protection or a combination of the two to connect the tactical maneouvre with the power of an integrated network. Aspects of mobility are ensconced in how the technology required is integrated. For example, hardwired CPs create a lag in movement and some consideration should continue to be given to creating wireless solutions and adapting our understanding of security at the tactical level from secret protocols to secure but unclassified that may enable secure “Wi-Fi” in forward operating areas and reduce the set up and tear down time of command posts. Mobility can be scaled to the threat that is present, but present Combat Task Group structures and capability do not account for present medium to high threat environments. These shifts within the headquarters should be offset with the understanding that the headquarters is built not just to be survive, but to fight and win. This will require a dedicated focus of culture around lethality, speed of decision making and access to all necessary systems to prosecute targets on behalf of the Task Group.
Lethality of a headquarters will be determined by the speed of the commander enabled with authorities and the access that the headquarters has to joint all domain enablers. The question of authorities that are delegated is initially a political consideration, but once decided should be formerly built into the command post culture. More than any technical solution, the knowledge of who can decide what action and in what condition will maximize the lethality of the team. Authorities should be delegated as far “down the chain” as possible to enable tempo in strike operations and clarity if communications fail. Given the reticence of delegation in modern operations, lethality is increased by shared knowledge and understanding amongst those operating. The NEA project is well on its way to delivery and though this paper will not delve into technical details, some considerations should be given to increase the lethality of the TG HQ. The first deliverable should be an enhanced Battle management System (BMS). When considering the development or procurement of the next-generation Battle Management System and Battle Planning Systems, consideration should be given to COTS or GOTS solutions that are mature in their development process and nature. This is even more important when considering that it is likely that the TG HQ lethality will descend from connection to allied systems; interoperability should be paramount as a planning factor in design. Furthermore, it is also highly recommended that the same BMS be vertically integrated right from the soldier/vehicle, through headquarters, to enable all-informed connectivity and situational awareness with the required filters. It is recommended that this intuitive and user-friendly BMS, be out-of-the-box compliant in order to enable interoperability with partner nations without the need to setup complex gateways. Such a BMS will increase the lethality of the TG HQ exponentially as it will enable concurrent planning and execution and swift transition from planning to execution. Our lethality system should ensure access to all present digital fires, joint systems and true beyond line of sight (BLOS) optionality. Given that movement will not always be possible and that the enemy will find and target you, redundancy must play a large role in the TG design
Redundancy or echeloning of nodes will be required to operate tactically. When considering the operational environment, it becomes clear that it may be impossible to build one configuration for command posts which would address every potential threat environment or operational situation. Similarly, that transition between threat environments could be swift and that established procedures needed to be developed to ensure swift transition of structures according to the threat. This reality requires an agile organization which operates as efficiently within a permissive or highly contested environment and structural design that provides inherent flexibility within a menu of options to design a bespoke HQ for the situation it faces. To narrow the discussion to large scale combat operations, it is clear that dispersion and redundancy are required. In a high threat environment, where there is a reasonable expectation that some Command Posts(CPs) would be targeted by long-range indirect or joint fires, redundant CPs need to be ready to assume each other’s assigned roles or take on the full responsibility for command and control of the TG at any time. The present configuration of a Commanding Officer’s Tactical Command Post, the Task Group Main Command Post with the potential to “step up” is simply not enough depth to ensure continuation of command support within a high intensity environment. These two nodes are susceptible to enemy detection and lethal and non-lethal fires. It is unlikely that the Commander’s TAC has the ability to access all the systems required while involved in the close fight and the step up being embedded in the main may mean that both are destroyed in a single strike, providing no redundancy at all. To this point a TG HQ should potentially be designed with multiple smaller nodes that have duplicate capabilities and are adept at “taking control” either by design to confuse enemy electronic warfare and targeting capabilities. Alternatively, we could see a “return to the future scenario” where the mirrored “Alternate Command Posts” that existed in the previous New Zealand tactical doctrine, remerge as a norm. Command Posts enabled with the same equipment and employ in varying well-defined roles and configurations depending on the threat environment. Similarly, communications cannot solely be focussed on a single bearer. The design must take into account redundancy of systems and reversionary technology providing optionality for analog, low bandwidth HF as well as contemporary systems to continue to operate within denied or contested electromagnetic spectrums. While the HF band supports global communications, it is subject to widely varying performance due to interference, atmospheric conditions and, in times of conflict, jamming. Military UHF Tactical Satellite communications can also be subject to denial jamming. The challenge is to consider new approaches to providing robust, over-the-horizon/BLOS communications, either by enhancing the reliability of military HF and/or SATCOM approaches, or by exploring new technologies and techniques. A TG will need a robust backup for military satellite communications under jamming in order to ensure tactical command and control. These shifts, already occurring through NEA will require significant integration to create a system rather than just an introduction of technology. Commanders will need to be able to have a “menu of options” for the headquarters so that tactical and technical design can adapt to the threats and technical realities they are facing. From landline and runners to low orbit satellite and radio over internet protocol (ROIP) the next headquarters must be able to continue to provide the links necessary in spite of technical and tactical obstacles. This may mean that the headquarters structures and capabilities adjust by phase, scaling to the environment. There will need to be a requisite shift in the knowledge of the teams running these headquarters and a professional philosophical shift to acknowledging operating in contested domains and the training required. The integration of both operational philosophy and the increased burden of being technically and tactically competent highlights the challenges of integration within this problem set.
Integration may be the largest challenge facing the New Zealand Army when considering C5ISR and tactical command. The rapid shifting of technologies and threats demand professional oversight and consideration of how land power command is best applied. If we are serious about being a land force within the 21st century, that is a contributor to the global security structure, we must dedicate command direction and training effort to this challenge. The simple integration of technologies in this space is a task unto itself and considering how the force will inculcate these changes while carrying on the “day to day” is somewhat overwhelming. The overall project integration between the vehicle fleet, NEA and the link to doctrinal concepts and TTP execution has not necessarily been one with a unified purpose or uniform approach. These disconnects leads unintended training outcomes and a lack of exercise focus that challenges the technical to be fused with the tactical. Add to this the speed of technological adaption, the present realities of the COVID constrained training environment, where the leaders charged with this expertise are not building their knowledge and there is a real danger that we not only fall behind our allies but lose the core competency to understand the problem set at all. The considerations and solutions must include the various tribes present in the army and reflect on how to see past cultural artifacts of our corps and personal bias to ensure that we are designing a command system that will provide the best opportunity to fight and win in the 21st century. Consistent effort, education and adaption of training will be necessary to see success within the command paradigm. Regardless of the desires of superior headquarters and the promise of technical wizardry it is likely that Clausewitz’s battlefield “friction” will continue to be present moving forward. It may be that we will need to return and reinforce first principles of mission command to compliment these technologies, a clear articulation of what land-based command is required to do to align a New Zealand solution with what our soldiers will face on the contemporary battlefield and not the last one.
Building to the Future-An Option to Address the Combat TG HQ Gap
Joint Land Combat will require a protected Command and Control capability that is capable of achieving information exchange across networks. The Land Force must be capable of Command-and-Control resilience in the event of a degraded or denied environment.
The present combat TG Headquarters is an effective baseline organization but desperately requires adaption to ensure it provides the capabilities and survivability required for a 21st century fighting force. The questions are not small and will require dedicated effort to reconcile the technological advances that NEA have made with the tactical demands of the field force. If we hope to represent the vision laid out in FLOC 35 of being an agile, light fighting force capable of close combat, we will need to get tactical command and control right. To effectively build the structures, processes and culture required, there will need to be a dedicated effort specifically linked with bringing about a solution for the army. There should be a dedicated maneouvre unit designated to build, train and establish the combat Task Group Headquarters. This element will only be successful if it is allowed to experiment in a dedicated manner without rotating annually, so that expertise can be reinforced. The effort must be connected to allied exercises where the pressure of a higher headquarters and flanking units is felt by the TG. The considerations of survivability, lethality, redundancy and integration will have to be cross queued with other priorities but the option to carry on with the status quo should be not be considered. The requirement to be ready for the worst-case scenario strikes to our core competencies and unlike manoeuvring platoons and squadrons; this effort is not intuitive and requires us to adapt deliberately or risk learning the lessons on the battlefield rather than on the training ground.
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