How Technology Failed in Iraq

The Iraq War was supposed to be a preview of the new U.S. military: a light, swift force that relies as much on sensors and communications networks as on heavy armor and huge numbers. But once the shooting started, technology fell far short of expectations.

The technology review article, reading the article it appeared that the commanders at the front line would have been better off with a direct radio link to either a plane or helicopter. Were the front line commanders dependent on intelligence from the center, or could they talk to the planes directly?

Micromanagement at the center resulting in data overload.


No solution to urban warefare. (even with more advance surveillance, I can't see how you're going to find and target terrorists)
The sand storms I think were a problem for intelligence, but alot of info was gained from satellite and in real time from UAV's. I want to share with you an excerpt from On Point that I think are instructive.

"Leading From the Front
Combat is arguably the most stressful human endeavor. It is, as Whitman described it, an "incommunicable experience." Effective leaders share that experience with their troops and inspire or steady by their presence. For this reason, the very best combat leaders lead from as far forward as possible and often farther forward than prudent, realizing their physical presence is more important than preserving themselves from harm. In OIF, soldiers felt the presence of commanders and appreciated the moral support commanders provided by their example and by their desire to help. In remarking on the effectiveness of leading from the front, Major Gerard Cribb, operations officer, TF 2-70 AR, offered the following while describing the feint to Al Hillah:
I will remember Colonel Anderson (commander, 2nd BCT, 101st Airborne Division) and Brigadier General (Ben) Freakley (assistant division commander, Operations, 101st Airborne Division) the rest of my life. Right after the artillery--we received artillery--I hear this "tink," "tink" on the TC (tank commander's) hatch and I open up (the hatch) and look over and there is Colonel Anderson. He said, "What do you need?" I'm like, "What, sir?" He goes, "I got the call, I got the read and everything, I see you're in contact here. I can have Apaches right here to try to loosen up those dismounted infantry positions. I've got three battalions of FA (field artillery) and it's all yours, Gerard."

Later Ben Freakley arrived and Cribb described him as cool among "sporadic machine gun fire" and wanted to know "Is everything ok?"

This is unbelievable. Here we are in contact and both of these guys are asking us what do we need to make our situation better. That was great--definitely made us feel good going into the fight."

"Force XXI initiatives aimed to enable commanders to "see" their units and the perceived or actual positions of enemy units. The Army Battle Command System (ABCS) provided the core capability commanders needed to see their own forces, describe what they wanted done and, with adequate communications, talk with subordinates and their superiors. In the fall of 2002, the Army rushed to field key components of ABCS and other tools to support battle command. Many units that fought in OIF had not received the entire ABCS suite. These units bought and fielded workable solutions of their own. Most damning for the ABCS, the V Corps/US Army Europe off-the-shelf solution, Command and Control for Personal Computers (C2PC), worked better than the Maneuver Control System, the cornerstone of ABCS, and became the preferred means of tracking units and effecting command. Arguably, BFT, or as it is technically know, Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2), delivered over L-Band satellite, proved the most critical of all the various tools available.

Coupled with BFT, commanders using C2PC, ABCS, and one or two other aids--including the Automated Deep Operational Coordination System--could see their forces, plan and execute fires digitally, track the air space, and achieve high-resolution situational awareness of "blue" activities. Commanders also had access to digital map products that enabled them to produce high-resolution maps for their units and their own use. Using software such as FalconView and Topscene, they could visualize terrain with high fidelity as well. Their confidence in these systems and, as a consequence, their confidence that they understood the "blue" picture, enabled them to view fights in which their units were widely dispersed. This confidence in BFT, in particular, encouraged aggressiveness.

Battle Command on the Move and Dispersed
The Army developed and fielded purpose-built command and control vehicles with broad- band satellite suites that provided the means for commanders to command from well forward and while on the move. But there were very few of these systems, none were fielded below division level, and not all of the divisions had them. Maneuver commanders down to brigade level did have satellite communications, and most combat and combat support (CS) units down to company level had BFT that enabled at least limited email via satellite. Voice communication provided by single-channel wide band (25 kHz) tactical satellite assured communications over long ranges so that brigades could talk to each other and their division. Below that level, units relied on short-range FM radios. Some units remained tied to mobile subscriber equipment (MSE), which meant, in effect, that they had no means to effect battle command on the move enhanced by ABCS until the MSE nodes caught up--which is to say, too late to support them in the advance on Baghdad. Even maneuver units depended on MSE to some extent. Thus, if the nodes were not "in" and able to communicate, maneuver brigades lacked the means to receive updated imagery. Units below brigade level rarely were able to tie into MSE. Thus, while the CFLCC C2, Major General Marks, expressed satisfaction with his ability to provide intelligence products, he noted with resignation that he had no means to "refresh" the picture provided to lower tactical units because of the digital divide stemming from the fact that the Army still relied heavily on MSE in OIF.16

Many of the CS and most of the combat service support (CSS) units depended exclusively on MSE to access ABCS. Similarly, these units often lacked BFT. If the Army is serious about fighting dispersed in nonlinear fights, this issue will need to be addressed.
He said, "What do you need?"

I'm like, "What, sir?"

Major Gerard Cribb - Aged 14 1/2
The technologically driven light forces (FRES, FCS) so beloved by planners and senior officers do make sweeping assumptions about the conflict that will be fought. These assumptions are not universally understood and didn't really apply During Telic/OIF.

Using a vast ISTAR net enables you to use precision indirect fires to attack the enemy. However, it also means that said net has to be set up in depth prior to movement through it. So you can't actually go speeding off up the highway as the net then lags your forces. Hence you keep running into the enemy and fighting direct fire engagements. Our current heavy forces are very good at this and we proved this yet again.

The Iraqis faced the sort of battle that would be suited to FRES/FCS - a large heavy force driving through several hundred k's of their territory.

The other element I saw was the prevalence of unnecessary comms links as commanders insisted on having information go through them when all that did was delay things unnecessarily. Black Hawk Down contains a very good example, the whole affair was watched over by a P-3. However, said P-3 reported to the big boss who then talked down via the chain of command so by the time the info got to the man in the street it was too late. If the sensor operator had been allowed to he could have spoken directly to the lead Humvee looking for the downed helo and all that driving around wondering where the hell they were could have been avoided- ie "turn left now, that's the right one".

I think that you are correct, one of the main thrusts of the article is that the current command structure simply doesn't work when faced with the information flow provided by the current/future systems.

Getting the IT to work is the easy part...


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