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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Network Centric Warfare - How to understand this?

The Shift to Network Centricity

Network Centric Warfare is projected as a radically different way to prosecute wars compared to the existing ways which are considered as extrapolation of past wars. The Network Centricity in Warfare is enabled by advances made in technologies for what is termed the C4ISR (Command Control Communication Computers Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) Systems. Combat systems based force or platform centric combat forces of the previous eras need to transform to Network centric combat forces to take care of fundamental shifts in the way networks are replacing hierarchies in various domains – Defence, Business, Governance or even in society at large.

Network Centric Warfare – The way it will be

The questions that need to be answered are what are the possible paths that current platform centric combat forces can or will take to transform into network centric combat force. These questions are based on the premise that warfare of the future will be network centric – there is ample evidence in various domains and advances made in studies of various forms of Networks already indicates that way we organize – the natural way is network centric. Be this the genome map, or neural networks in the human minds or social networks or business organizations, networks are the most natural way structures evolve.

Another way one can study this is by describing a generic framework of what the Network centric warfare will look like and then develop concepts, needs, doctrines and force structures to take care of these needs. Presumably these will be different from the existing needs.

Network Centric Warfare – Studying its nature

How does one study the nature of Network Centric Warfare? Since it is still forming, the study needs to focus on the way

(1) How networks happen naturally or are designed artificially?

(2) What happens to the elements or nodes of the networks and what are the links of the networks that emerge in time due to narural or artificial processes?

(3) What happens when the nodes of the network are intelligent themselves and forms the links as per the context or situation? Further what happens when the nodes are intelligent and learn from past as well?

(4)What happens when networks have human actors as nodes or even intelligent links between nodes?

(5) What happens when

a. Networks interact with other Networks

b. Networks interact with strict Hierarchies

c.Networks interact with loosely couples hierarchical networks

d. Networks compete with other Networkse. Networks compete with strict Hierarchies

f. Networks compete with hierarchical networks

Can one use hierarchy to understand and study Network Centric Warfare?

The way humans have been solving problems is hierarchical. In a hierarchy the lower level feeeds into higher levels and the top levels has the impacts of all the lower processes. One such hierarchy of conceptual levels for NCW has been defined as

Level 1: Force Level Characteristics of the NC Warfare – the so called Emergent Properties

Level 2: Decision Characteristics – speed and soundness of decisions are two important parameters

Level 3: Information level characterics - from relevance to accuracy many parameters of data, information and to some extent knowledge also comes into picture

Level 4: Network level characteristics – the way networks function – concurrency, reliablity etc are some of the parameters

Level 5: Physical properties of Networks – bandwidth, etc.

Can one think of another way to study NCW, non-hierarchical way as that is more closer to the natural networked form. Or for example markets forms of organization can help in studying the true nature as exemplified by Starfishes organizations – the so called leaderless organizations. Can network thinking be used for studying Network centric warfare?

What are the Ways of studying NCW – The Potential Methodologies

We know four different ways of studying any system and its properties

  • Direct, empirical Measurement or observation of system behaviour
  • Mathematical Modeling – analytical modeling to model the system
  • Expert Judgment
  • Simulation – Typically computer simulation of the system

The new ways of agent based simulation and artificial life techniques – combining cellular automata with Genetic Algorithms (GA) are another modern techniques of studying a complex system with emergent properties. However, from the puritan point of view these techniques come under simulations per-se.

The platform centric warfare has been studied through simulations, mathematical modeling, direct historical analysis of past data, expert judgment etc. However, in the NCW study, for the time being one has to resort to simulations and modeling as neither the experts are available nor enough historical data. Still, we need to explore all forms of system study technique and levels one need to study these need to be deciphered.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) has come up as a new way of studying networks, With large body of work, some defence analysts have resorted to SNA methods for studying NCW. The Force Intelligence Network and Command (FINC) methodology being one example.

Network Centric Combat Force (NCCF)

Once the NCW studies have been carried out, various elements of NCCF, its doctrine, its force structure, the way its information flows should be enabled, the way decisions should be explored and actions taken, will emerge. These can then be incorporated into operational concepts development.

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