‘Out of the loop’ on the battlefield

Discussion in 'Staff College and Staff Officers' started by msr, Mar 9, 2009.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. msr

    msr LE

    The thinking, rooted in cybernetic principles, was that tying all the different nodes in the military’s network in a single information loop would give troops the clearest possible picture of the battlefield, allowing everyone to act in concert and making the enemy’s communications seem primitive in comparison. The plan was to eliminate ‘the fog of war’, and to replace it with ‘complete situational awareness’ – to make sure everyone knew what everyone else was doing and what was going on all of the time.

    During the ensuing ground war, ‘small but smart’ mobile units of Israeli soldiers, who were supposed to use high-tech communications systems to ‘swarm’ around the enemy, seemed unsure of what their aims were and where they were headed. In the official inquests into the war that followed the five-week invasion, military officials blamed the complicated operational jargon of one of its think-tanks, the OTRI, whose staff had been greatly influenced by cybernetics and network-centric warfare. During a meeting of the heads of Israeli military intelligence just prior to the incursion into Lebanon, for example, there were complaints that the army had stopped relying on Hebrew for its operational instructions, and that the dominant language was now ‘gibberish’.


  2. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    I read a very good paper a while ago about digitisation of the battlefield and how there is a temptation to over complicate not because you should but because you could. The author argued that the only things you really need are secure voice comms, the ability to send reports and returns in a 'form' format and accurate positional data. Everything else either slows things down or encourages micro management from higher formations that emasculates the middle tier of the chain of command.

    Not something I a an expert on but it was well argued and seemed to make sense.
  3. Voice is much faster than data - especially with the ARRSE keyboards they provide for BOWMAN wheere you need massive thumbs. I can speak much faster than I type and that's what it should be about - speed.

    Digitisation is all very well and good as long as it's user friendly. If it's not, then it should be binned - it is meant to make the battle easier than harder. Gunners have tried digitisation and it did not work (BATES).

  4. What we need is more plasma screans for use as notice boards....

    You could just use a notice board, drawing pins and some printed pictures/documents.

    But it is far better to spend a few grand on a plasma a dvd/laptop and mounting. THen just put a powerpoint slideshow up, showing all the info.
  5. I work in industry in the ISTAR / battlespace area with a heavy bias towards systems engineering plus I get to dress up in green at weekends, so I think I've got a bit of perspective on this.

    Technology is not the problem; it's all about change management. To use networked technology properly you have to fundamentally change they way you operate; the way orders are given and the relationships between Command and subordinates. From the sound of it the Israelis did what so many do and paste a veneer of technology over the top. It wasn't properly explained, they weren't trained adequately, thay hadn't internalised the changes and so when things got sticky they did what people always do, get on the phone to their mates.

    And it's exactly the same with ourselves. Only it's worse in some respects. There's a huge body of work been done by QinetiQ that details in painful details the inadequacies in current UK HQ design which is intimately tied up with new technology. It's been summarised in the BAR. The Staff study post Telic (edited by Jim Storr) details that cluster in detail. And yet ... nothing has changed.

    Still too many people all working at cross purposes, and no-one has the moral courage to get rid of 2/3 of them to let the rest get on. No doubt I will be assured that they all work hard, they're all skilled, they're all professionals - I have no doubt of that. So what ? The emergent properties of the HQ are not what they could be, and that is all that matters. Remember POSIWID - The purpose of a system is what it does, not the sum of all the hours put in.

    Then you have the usual cap badge stupidity which helps drive this inflation. All those add-ons in HQ doing nothing that couldn't be done by a remote terminal and a few hours training for a watchkeeper - but I forget, face time is the goal, not operational effectiveness. (Yes, yes, I know, they work very hard blah blah blah).

    Then there's the refusal to change structures to reflect new kit and processes. Any system analysis of Army UAV Ops reveals that the main effort is focused on keeping 32 Regt in existence; support to ops comes second. Hence the frankly bizarre structures, data paths, processes and so on relative to other users. Oh, but their experience isn't relevant is it, we're different, they all work very hard and I must be saying this because I'm from another cap badge.

    Oh, and Powerpoint. POWERPOINT ! FFS, I don't give a damn how much you like it it's the wrong bloody tool. All that MS Office crap does nothing but soak up bandwidth and waste people's time in nugatory effort. Stop this obsession with presentation and nice graphics to impress the boss for your next OJAR and send info round in pre-formatted text. If you must have images then use some compressed format. And voice, voice is always good.

    And stop using Windows as well, it's insecure, encourages the troops to load their own stuff on it and is a resource hog. The US Army are switching to Linux for FCS, maybe we should too.

    Anyway, I'll stop ranting now. Change can only come from the top, all too often it's seen as something that will magically happen following some dire presentation. It won't. It has to be lead from above by leaders who demonstrate thay they have personally changed their everyday behaviours and expect others too. You'd have thought we'd be good at that sort of thing wouldn't you ?
  6. msr

    msr LE

    Not at all. It will take another 20 years for IT literate leadership to emerge.

  7. Technology can only ever be the enabler and a means to an end, it must not be the decider.

    You were doing pretty well up until that point. Linux is not inherently more secure than Windows, each has known vulnerabilities and each is prone to zero-day exploits. Just speak to MODCERT. It is true that the most secure systems are (extremely cut down and well-controlled) variants of a Unix shell, but it's also the case that those systems are exponentially more difficult to manage, maintain and troubleshoot. That's how we have ended up with people like EDS contractors delivering their own "bastard offspring" combination of jumbled-up operating system platforms, claiming that it provides security and impossible-to-replicate functionality. They are, of course, talking complete shiite. Inevitably, that system of smoke-and-mirrors, enables them to eke out a nice little job-for-life, while our overall capability suffers from increased technology-lag.

    I would also argue that Windows 2008 has gone a great deal to counter the resource-hogging issue. The increase move toward virtualised platforms in place of the old hardware abstraction layer model looks pretty useful, in theory (I don't know any empirical performance data). And, of course, if the system is managed correctly and in line with the accreditation agreement, adding software on a whim should never be an issue.

    I agree with everything else though - a damn fine post! :D
  8. Inherently, no, you're quite right. In practice, if deployed in the real world tomorrow with real soldiers doing what real soldiers do on ops, then yes it is. And security ... well, the reality is, all too often, that the unrealistic inflexible restrictions imposed are comprehensively ignored by the user. Security must make sense - about all I remember from my Op Int & Sy A3(V) - and all too often IT security doesn't.

    Based on the benchmarks I've seen (and I don't consider either the crap from MS or the militant Penguinista community as worth a damn) Win08 may be better than Vista but it's still hogs more resources than XP, which is still worse then a sensible Linux fit. Thing is, it doesn't matter too much for desktops, hardware keeps driving on. But when you look at ruggedised hardware, stuff packaged into enclosures in vehicles or manpacked where power, cooling, certification etc are very real constraints then it all looks a lot different.
  9. "Any system analysis of Army UAV Ops reveals that the main effort is focused on keeping 32 Regt in existence; support to ops comes second" ???

    What system analysis of Army UAV ops? Whose ME? The Gunners? Support to ops comes second? Utter piffle.

    Show workings...
  10. From first principles then: the UAV needs to share the skies with everyone else. You need someone to take pilot-in-command responsibility, someone who can talk to air traffic and other aircraft, someone to push the buttons to make the thing move where it should, someone to take a look at the clouds over there and decide it's not a sensible idea to go near them, someone to liaise with the sensor operator to decide how best to position the air vehicle to achieve the mission.

    The simplest way to do all that is get an aviator (not a pilot, and not even traditional non-pilot aircrew, although either isn't a bad start) and make them the UAV controller. For an Army UAV, well Army aviators aren't a bad place to start looking. It's what every non-UK UAV operator I am aware of does. It's not what we do. We smear the job over a large number of people, most of whom aren't SQEP to any meaningful aviation standard, then try and pretend we'll never have to share the sky with others (hence the issues over WK in the UK).

    And then there's the sensor operator. The nice thing about modern kit is that you don't need a stick monkey to point the thing, you can let the end user have a go. So train up IAs to do it rather than have them sit in a separate cabin, and Armd Recce bods who can then talk their mates down a route, and Gunners when it's time for a fire mission, and anyone else who can contribute. Not what we do. The setup looks more like 1950s industry with rigid rules on who can do what, touch what and when segregated along capbadge lines.

    Dissemination - what we really need is snappy text or voice. The end user wants a voice in his ear, not streaming video. (And the end user is not the bored staff officer at HQ, it's the Cpl under fire). What we get is yet more people stuffed into an already overburdened HQ. If the sensor operator interpreting the take cannot talk direct to the sub-unit acting on the information then the system isn't working properly. And it allows the RAF to argue they should spend 10, 20, 50 times as much to do just that in some airborne gin palace getting full of officers getting flying pay.

    Oh and how about sending imagery to other users in theatre or the UK to stop every platform in existence hitting the same piece of ground ?

    I don't see an organisation set up to solve this sort of complex, multi-disciplinary and evolving problem, I see an Arty Regt. And I don't see the RA planning to change from what we have to what we need.
  11. I'm not sure about now, but when I was in DPA there was no money in the project budget to pay for the change effort, as well as p!ss poor change leadership skills from the senior customers.

    We ended up paying a lot of money to throw technology at users with no thought to how systems and processes needed to change to really exploit the capability. There was also a strong drive to push vast quantities of unmanaged information as far out to the edge as possible. In principle, as discussed upthread, the person most able to use the information should get it, but that still needs management and filtering. the project was just going to end up flooding the user and contributing to the problem identified in the topic.

    The 1*s view at the time was that we didn't need to worry about any of that, just buy lots of kit. :(

    Sure enough, chronic project failure, fortunately before it got to the stage where it could go operationally wrong.
  12. ... which is the reason why the latest initiative is "Through Life Capability Management", with co-ordination across all DLODs being achieved through the Capability Integration Plan.

    Great in theory: in practice, the usual DE&S suspects are putting their all into following their detailed processes in order to go through the governance hoops and deliver (possibly) some kit, whilst there's few non-equipment resources to plan & implement the other DLODs - hence lack of fielded capability. Couple this with inability to flex £££s between RDEL/CDEL/etc, Customer 1/Customer 2, ...
  13. To do TLCM the key skill required is systems engineering. Processes only work in the real world when used as a guide by the wise; when blindly followed by the clueless things are a lottery. DE&S just doesn't have the skills to succeed. And, from my biased seat at a civvy defence firm working as a systems engineer it's mainly down the to the fact that the pay is crap and the management makes ours look bad - which can be hard work at times, believe me.
  14. DLODs were a joke. Nobody showed any interest in the doctrine or training, supply and repair treatment was superficial.

    I'd agree that the ability to flex budget around would have made a huge difference.
  15. As RAF, I know such concerns are some of the highest for us - I just wish our highest paid would get a bit less aloof about air space and lead some useful development of operating in that air space. Land poo-poohed air for years and now, regardless of the size of the platform, every man and his dog wants a bit of it. The RAF needs to take this potential seriously and grip it.