Testing the network in a virtual warfight

Unit of action Network MAPEX: testing the network in a virtual warfight

Joseph Yavorsky

“The C4ISR (command, control, communications and computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) Network is integrated across all of the Battlefield Functional Areas.”–Future Combat System Operational Requirements Document, April 14, 2003

The Army’s transformation campaign plan challenges the Army to develop a maneuver Unit of Action and field a FCS by 2015 that supports the Army transformation vision of being a responsive, deployable, agile, versatile, lethal, survivable and sustainable force in all situations from major combat operations to homeland defense. Accordingly, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has embarked on a mission to develop an analytical baseline to support the Army’s development of the UA Operational and Organizational plan and FCS requirements.

The purpose of this article is twofold. First, it’s to highlight the roles and involvement of the Battle Command Battle Lab at Fort Gordon in support of TRADOC’s UA/FCS Concept Experimentation Program, and secondly to identify a number of insights gained during the execution of the MAPEX elaborating on how these insights might impact the development of the UA/FCS communications network.


The U.S. Army’s Objective Force will be composed of a “family of advanced, networked air- and ground based maneuver, maneuver support and sustainment systems that will include manned and unmanned platforms.” [FCS ORD, April 14, 2003] The UA info-sphere is comprised of a series of networks interlinking communications, operations, sensors, battle command systems, distributed analysis, and manned and unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities to enable levels of situational understanding and synchronized operations that could not be achievable otherwise. [Appendix D: Unit of Action O&O plan] The UA communications network structure supports the planning and rapid operations of a UA while providing enhanced flexibility to the UA commander.

In order for the UA/FCS to achieve its operational goals of “see first, understand first, act first and finish decisively” [FCS ORD, April 14, 2003] it is entirely dependent on networked C4ISR communication systems. However, during the execution of various UA CEPs at other battle labs, the network was not played. Network communications were always assumed to be operational and fully supportive of the operational maneuver concept. To mitigate risk in developing the UA/FCS operational concept, organizational design and operational architecture TRADOC and the BCBL (G) determined that a communications experiment was necessary to explore the network functions for the OFUA.

TRADOC focused its efforts on developing a study plan to provide input into the UA on O&O plan and FCS analysis of alternatives. The study plan is a MACOM-wide process of experimentation and research aimed at developing the analytical underpinnings for issues related to UA operational concepts, organizational design and the operational architectures.

By using TRADOC’s CEP as the vehicle for executing the study plan, a common framework for analysis was established. The study plan identified three study issues of which the BCBL (G) Map Exercise only considered the first; “How does the UA successfully execute the operational concept? What are the key enabling subordinate concepts and how are these accomplished?” [Appendix D: UA O&O plan]. Essential Elements of Analysis were identified by TRADOC to provide a framework for developing insights that would become the analytical underpinnings into each issue. The BCBL (G) in turn, developed network communications Measures of Merit to focus the analysis of the EEA.

The three TRADOC EEA’s considered by the BCBL (G) MAPEX were “How does C4ISR enable the UA?”, “How should the smallest UA units be organized?” and “How do you employ available UA forces and assets on the battlefield to achieve the tactical operations outlined in the UA O&O plan?” [Appendix D: UA O&O Plan]. The BCBL (G) then developed MOMs to support the analysis of each EEA. For the EEA “How should the smallest UA units be organized?” the BCBL (G) developed the MOM “What is the signal skill set for soldiers/officers with the UA?” By developing insights with respect to this MOM during the MAPEX vignettes, this would help provide an analytical underpinning to the EEA. Another MOM under the same EEA was similar “What is the skill set for non-signal soldiers/ officers within the UA?” In all there were 15 MOMs considered for analysis during the BCBL (G) MAPEX that provided the basis for the player insights and analytical underpinnings.

Three of the six vignettes under the approved fiscal year 2003 CEP TRADOC 2.0 Caspian Sea scenario were used for the BCBL (G) MAPEX. These vignettes provide a construct for employing an FCS equipped UA in tactical situations. The approved vignettes were early entry operations, combined operations for urban warfare and a mounted formation conducting a pursuit/exploitation operation.

The BCBL (G) main effort was to attack the network issue for the first time in the UA CEP process. The intent was clearly to provide initial insights to the core employment functions of the communications network supporting the UA commander and his staff.

Additionally, the experiment would provide insights regarding the Unit of Employment and Joint, Interagency and Multi-National interfaces relevant to UA and FCS communications networking. Objectives of the BCBL (G) MAPEX were fourfold:

(1) “Fight the network” to provide input to the UA O&O plan and FCS ORD.

(2) Provide input to the UA supporting documents with regard to communications networking.

(3) Identify issues for the upcoming UE design to include future Network CEPs.

(4) Provide supporting analysis to Signal Regimental doctrine, operations, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities efforts.

The Network MAPEX was an integrated Signal Center effort as the BCBL (G) invited SIGCEN subject matter experts from the Directorate of Combat Developments and the SIGCEN TRADOC Systems Managers. They were tasked to develop the communications “rules of engagement” or the assumptions for their communication systems, as they are programmed to exist in the year 2015.

To provide SME input from the other TRADOC battle labs, the Air Maneuver Battle Lab, Fort Rucker, Ala., the Unit of Action Maneuver Battle Lab, Fort Knox, Ky., Dismounted Battle Space Battle Lab, Fort Benning, Ga., the Depth and Simultaneous Attack Battle Lab, Fort Sill, Okla,, Battle Command Battle Lab, Fort Huachuca, Ariz., the Maneuver Support Battle Lab, Fort Leonard Wood, MO, the Combat Service Support Battle Lab, Fort Lee, Va., TRADOC Analysis Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the Battle Command C4/ISR Battle Lab, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., participated in the MAPEX. TRADOC also provided three personnel from Booz, Allen and Hamilton to act as Blue Force commanders. All of this “warfighter” presence and their expert input support provided operational maneuver consistency and valuable customer oversight of the communications scheme of maneuver within the experiment.

The exercise

The MAPEX began on April 15, 2003, and each vignette was “fought” to distill network communications insights. In the early entry operations vignette, the focus quickly turned to external communication requirements that were needed to set the conditions prior to a UA deploying into an airfield while being prepared to fight off the aircraft’s ramp. The UA is assumed to be capable of 96 hours deployment from home station by C-130s. One of the enabling functions of the UA allowing this quick response is called the Common Operational Picture. “The COP is a single identical display of relevant information shared by more than one command…. the COP is a fused picture containing timely, relevant information about the enemy, the environment and friendly forces … facilitates collaborative planning and assists all echelons to achieve SU (situational understanding).” [TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-90 O&O, Chapter1]. The COP is a battle command tool provided to all echelons of the UA facilitating planning and decision-making. As played in the first snapshot, the COP was provided to the deploying UA in the C-130s to the same level of detail as received by the home station and the Special Purpose Forces that were all ready in country shaping the forward battle space.

To assist the facilitators in running the MAPEX, a battle rhythm was established, First, the Blue Force commanders presented an operational maneuver brief. Next the other TRADOC Battle Lab SMEs provided their input as to how they would support or integrate with the Blue Force scenario. Finally, the SIGCEN SMEs provided their input as to how their respective communications system supported the composite Blue Force scenario. At this time all MAPEX participants and observers were given the opportunity to discuss the communications networking and support plans. COL Yavorsky and Mr. Hamilton facilitated this discussion focusing the group’s efforts on providing insights into the issues stated as MOMs. The BCBL (G) staff data collectors captured all of the data collection efforts and the restated insights were compiled into a final Network MAPEX Insight report.

The early entry operations continued with the UA supported by UE aviation lift assets conducting an air assault operation to attack and secure a target in an urban environment. Simultaneously, UA ground forces from the early entry airfield would be moving toward the target to link up with the UA air assault forces. The communication issues in this snapshot stressed ground to air communications with the UA moving over air and land routes. Moreover, communication issues between the UA assault forces supported by the UE aviation detachment with UA Comanche’s providing support was also a center of focus for communications issues.

The second vignette involved urban operations and the communications issues associated with fighting in built up area to include supporting subterranean combat actions, The exploitation vignette concerned pursuit and exploitation operations and Sustainment Replenishment Operations.

On Thursday afternoon all of the vignettes had been covered in an “inch deep and mile wide” detail and after an in-depth after action review and final collaboration of an insight review, the participants were released.

Key insights

The Network MAPEX generated more than fifty insights. However, the following initial insights were identified by the participants as having major impacts on the UA and FCS concepts and programs.

From the first event with its emphasis on being prepared to fight off the ramp, to the last event of pursuit and exploitation, the MAPEX highlighted the requirement for ultra-reliable Situational Awareness via the COP, The UA communications network is wholly dependent on JIM assets, external to the UA, for network robustness. In each vignette, access to external assets such as satellites or high-flying UAVs such as Global Hawk was required to extend the UA network beyond it own boundaries. A true and accurate COP could not he provided to the warfighter without this external network communications that would have to be managed and coordinated by Signal personnel.

The Signal Management Overhead required to provide a robust and accurate COP is significant. An overarching tenant to the success of the UA and its maneuver concept is the ability to provide a COP for the UA commander and his subordinates. For this to happen the communications network must be ultra-reliable and redundantly connected. However, in order to fulfill this mandate, the signal overhead required appeared to be more than the current assumptions allow. While the UA network may be assumed to be self-organizing and self-healing, it is not self-coordinating–especially at “the seams.” The warfighter is dependent upon the ability of the signal soldier to coordinate communications assets within the UA, the UE and the JIM arena to provide network immediacy. This is especially true in the areas of COP accuracy and network fires. For example, in all the vignettes, satellites played a significant role in providing reliable, timely and robust communications. However, a satellite is not organic to the UA or UE but is a joint or commercial asset. The employment of a satellite constitutes a “network seam” that signal personnel must coordinate. In addition satellites have access and bandwidth limitations that will also need to be planned, coordinated and centrally managed. This level of signal management will be explored in depth in future experiments.

Next, dedicated communications relay platforms, whether they were incorporated into an unmanned aerial vehicle or and FCS platform such as an unmanned ground vehicle or multifunctional utility/logistics and equipment vehicle, are required at all echelons of the UA to provide network connectivity and insure network robustness, This insight was repeated in all vignettes.

In the early entry vignette, several UAV CRPs were required to insure network robustness for the air assault. Moreover, dedicated CRPs were required for keeping the air assault commander and the maneuver commander in touch with the UE headquarters and ground forces that were moving toward the objective location. In the urban fight vignette, a spectrally complex environment, a dedicated communications relay was identified as critical to provide the COP to subterranean Blue Forces. Subterranean communications relay packages presented particular issues with Blue Force tracking and precision engagements. The extended distances and rapid movement of the exploitation vignette demonstrated that both air and ground CRPs were required to keep pace with ground operations or to link remote resupply locations. The more mobile the UA became the more the need increased for dedicated communications relay packages.

As indicated, UAV played a significant role. Given the operational tenant to minimize and conserve the number of UAVs flying operational missions at any given time, it was recommended that all UAV platforms be configured to provide communications relay capabilities while performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions as required. The problem that was identified was a conflict of priorities between the ISR missions that would often take the UAV away from the area that required communications support.

The next major insight revolved around the skill sets required by both signal and non-signal soldiers in the UA. Since the communications network is an all-pervasive asset, all soldiers, especially non-signal soldiers, as well as commanders, will need to possess some level of communications networking skills. The possession of a networking skill set was especially critical in the urban operations vignette, where soldiers would be peering around and in buildings using remote sensors linked by line-of-sight communications that would be susceptible to multi-path interference from urban structures.

The individual soldier would have to have some rudimentary networking understanding to recognize his COP is being accurately updated or the information he is providing to the COP database is not impeded, inaccurate, or untimely. The signal soldier’s skill sets while focusing on providing networked communications should also include aerial communications relay mission planning and UAV control operator skills due to the necessity of flying dedicated aerial communications relay profiles.

The final major insight was the need for a communications network planning and visualization tool which would allow for maintaining the situational awareness of the network relative to the warfighter’s COP. The network visibility should be available to all soldiers but especially to the signal soldiers responsible for planning, implementing, operating,

and maintaining the network.

It is clear that the networked force relies on a significant infrastructure outside of its influence and control. In essence, the “network” is “echelonless” and to enable the UA to fulfill its absolute potential, many issues need to be resolved through experimentation to refine how the warfighter and their supporting elements address these network complexities.

The way ahead

This Network MAPEX was only the first network-focused experiment in the integrated Battle Command Experimentation Campaign Plan spearheaded by Fort Leavenworth and supported by Fort Huachuca and Fort Gordon. There were many issues not addressed during the MAPEX.

For example, bandwidth requirements, spectrum management. information assurance, communications reliability and network operations were not considered and were assumed to be available. The Battle Command Experimentation Campaign Plan will address some of these shortcomings during the rest of fiscal year 2003 or in fiscal year 2004.

The next MAPEX will be conducted in the last quarter of fiscal year 2003. It will consider network operations and focus on the employment of signal soldiers in the UA, particularly the Brigade Intelligence and Communications Company, In addition, a network planning simulator will begin to be integrated into the network play and will assist communications simulations by ultimately providing analysis on bandwidth, network utilization and network planning and visualization.

In fiscal year 2004 the focus will shift to the Unit of Employment, the UAs higher echelon. As a part of the Battle Command/C4ISR Campaign Plan, BCBL (G) will execute two of its own UE deployed command post MAPEXs, participate in other TRADOC MAPEXs, and continue to develop a communications realism model that will be able to simulate more nearly the complex nature of communications in a real world environment.


BC–Battle Command

BCBL–Battle Command Battle Lab

BIC–Brigade Intelligence and Communications Company

C4ISR–command, control, communications, and computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance

CEP–Concept Experimentation Plan

COP–Common Operational Picture

CRP–Communications Relay Platform

DCD–Directorate of Combat Developments

DOTMLPF–doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, Personnel, and Facilities

EEA–Essential Elements of Analysis

FCS–Future Combat System

ISR–intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance

JIM–Joint, Interagency, Multi-National

JTRS–Joint Tactical Radio System

MAPEX–Map Exercise

MOE–Measure of Effectiveness

MOP–Measure of Performance

MOM–Measures of Merit

MUM–Manned and Unmanned

OF–Objective Force

O&O–Operational and Organizational

ORD–Operational Requirements Document

SATCOM–Satellite Communications

SIGCEN–Signal Center

SME–Subject Matter Expert

SRO–Sustainment Replenishment Operations

SU–Situational Understanding

TRADOC–Training and Doctrine Command

TSM–TRADOC System Manager

UA–Unit of Action

UAV–Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

UE–Unit of Employment

WIN-T–Warfighter Integrated Network-Tactical

COL Yavorsky was the deputy director of the Battle Command Battle Lab, Fort Gordon, since August 2002. prior to his retirement July 31. His previous assignment was commander, Joint Spectrum Center, and Annapolis, Md. He has served twice before in the Signal Center Directorate of Combat Developments and commanded the 67th Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade. He holds master’s degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School and Command and General Staff College. He is a 1999 graduate of the U.S. Army War College.

Mr. Hamilton has recently joined the Battle Command Battle Lab, Fort Gordon. His previous assignment was as deputy division chief, Apache/Attack Helicopter Division, U.S. Army Aviation Technical Test Center, Fort Rucker, Ala. He is an Army Acquisition Corps member certified at Level III for test and evaluation. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy and masters degree in international studies from Troy State University. He is also a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.

COPYRIGHT 2003 U.S. Army Signal Center

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group