Battle Networks and the Future Force

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Highlights
  • The military is now at a critical point in architecting the battle networks of the future. DoD’s overarching concept for this is known as Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), and on May 13, 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin officially signed the military’s JADC2 implementation strategy.
  • While many programs and activities are simultaneously underway across DoD, a major impediment to making meaningful progress is that no one “owns” the overall JADC2 mission area. Each of the military services owns their respective programs, platforms, and battle networks (and the budgets that fund them), but there is no effective forcing function that ensures the services’ systems will be able to work together.
  • Existing systems must be integrated into the same networks as future systems to achieve the full potential of Joint All-Domain Operations.
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Hernandez

Part 1: A Framework for Debate

 

Militaries use battle networks to detect what is happening on the battlefield, process that data into actionable information, decide on a course of action, communicate decisions among forces, act on those decisions, and assess the effectiveness of the actions taken. Battle networks are sometimes referred to as the “sensor-to-shooter kill chain” (or just the “kill chain”), and they are widely acknowledged as an increasingly important element of modern warfare.

While the importance of battle networks has garnered more attention in recent years, battle networks themselves are not new. Early battle networks used scouts, couriers, flags, telegraphs, and wired field telephones to transmit information and decisions among forces on the battlefield. More advanced battle networks began to emerge in World War II with the widespread adoption of technologies such as radar, sonar, radio communications, and aerial reconnaissance. As battle networks became faster, longer range, and more advantageous to militaries, the networks themselves also became an attractive target. As John Stillion and Bryan Clark have noted, the competition between battle networks was a key element of World War II, particularly in submarine and anti-submarine warfare.

What has changed in recent decades is the amount of information produced by sensors, the speed and ubiquity of communications, and the magnitude of tactical advantage possible from processing that information and making decisions faster than one’s adversary—what some have called “informationized” warfare. In this “new way of war,” advantage accrues to those that can see farther and clearer and act faster and at greater range—and deny the other side the ability to do the same.

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