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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Network Centric Warfare - A Revolution in Search of Doctrine

Network Centric Warfare - A Revolution in Search of Doctrine

• The Shift to Network Centricity
• Network Centric Warfare (NCW) – The way it will be
• NCW – Studying its nature
• Can one use hierarchy to understand and study NCW?
• What are the Ways of studying NCW –Potential Methodologies
• Network Centric Combat Force (NCCF)
• NCW Architectures
• Ultra Large Scale Systems (ULSS) and NCW
• Key Technologies and methodologies for NCW

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 called 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 technologies besides 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 move 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) 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 natural 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 Networks

e. Networks compete with strict Hierarchies

f. Networks comptete 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 characteristics - 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, reliability 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 exemplied by Starfishes organizations – the so called leaderless organizations. Can networks 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 Judgement
  • 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 the new forms of studing a complex system with emergent properties. However, from the puritan point of view these techniques are categorized under simulations per se.

The platform centric warfare has been studied through simulations, mathematical modeling, direct historical analysis of past data, expert judgement 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

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.

NCW Architectures

The shift to network form of organizations has become so prevalent that even the historically most hierarchical form of human organization, i.e., military structures, are now beginning to explore the network form of organizations to take care of increasingly complex situations and foes that these forces are asked to tackle. The Network Centric Warfare as the field is now called is a new form of military strategy, technologies, organization and doctrines that requires more holistic explorations and understanding. The trend towards network form is clearly evident. Literature describe different forms of network centric warfare architectures that are possible. Table 1 list down these architectures – which varies from centralized, where a central hub controls the network, to a loosely coupled network structure where the elements or nodes come together to solve a problem and then go back or move to next problem – through the process of swarming.



A. Centralized

One central high value Hub – other low value nodes networked and controlled by Hub

B. Hub-Request

“Type E” Request based plus one or more central high value hubs

C. Hub-Swarm

“Type G” Swarming plus one of more central high value hubs

D. Joint

Mixture of other six types (Type A, Type B, Type C, Type E, Type F and Type G)

E. Request-Based

Nodes of same value, but with different specialized capabilities. Request for service between nodes of different kinds

F. Mixed

Mixture of “Request-Based” and “Swarming”

F1: Limited Types

Small number of node types (includes the case of separate sensor, engagement, and C2 grids”

F2: Commonality

Nodes are different, but have significant commonality

G. Swarming

Nodes identical or nearly so

G1: Emergent Swarming

Nodes follow simple rules, like insects

G2: Situational Aware Swarming

Nodes share information to build up Situational Awareness picture

G2(a): Orchestrated

One node is a temporary “leader”

G2(b): Hierarchical

Nodes are arranged in a Hierarchy

G2(c): Distributed

No Leader or Hierarchy

Ultra Large Scale Systems (ULSS) and NCW

Given the systems that we have built and which are continuing to scale-up in all walks of life, we are closer to building larger and larger systems. There are needs for such systems to optimally utilize the rapidly depleting natural resources and also to function in a highly connected world that we have created for ourselves. Most of these systems are, be it web and computing infrastructure, supply chain systems, healthcare infrastructure, military systems or government systems, software based engineering systems. These systems are increasingly complex web of ultra-large, network-centric, real-time, cyber-physical-social systems. The ULS Systems will be system of systems at the Internet scale. Characteristics of ULS systems arise because of their scale. These are unprecedented decentralization; inherently conflicting, unknowable, and diverse requirements; continuous evolution and deployment; heterogeneous, inconsistent, and changing elements; erosion of the people/system boundary; normal failures and new paradigms for acquisition and policy. Table 2 gives a brief view of contrasts between present approaches and characteristics of ULS Systems.

ULS Characteristics

Present Approaches

Decentralized Control

All conflicts must be resolved and resolved centrally and uniformly

Inherently conflicting, unknowable, and diverse requirements

Requirements can be known in advance and change slowly.

Tradeoff decisions will be stable.

Continuous evolution and deployment

System improvements are introduced at discrete intervals.

Heterogeneous, inconsistent, and changing elements

Effect of a change can be predicted sufficiently well.

Configuration information is accurate and can be tightly controlled. Components and users are fairly homogeneous.

Erosion of the people/system boundary

People are just users of the system. Collective behavior of people is not of interest. Social interactions are not relevant.

Normal Failures

Failures will occur infrequently. Defects can be removed.

New paradigms for acquisition and policy

A prime contractor is responsible for system development, operation, and evolution.

The ULS systems will be artificial systems hence they differ from natural complex systems in fundamental ways. Unlike natural systems that may evolve because of specific constraints or available paths, the artificial systems are designed at least in principle, with a specific goal or function in mind. As Herbert Simon describes, an artifact is an interface between inner environment and the outer environment. The artifact tries to accomplish a goal or provide a function in the outer environment. This artifact can have one of many possible internal environments to accomplish the same desired function in the same environment. This is an important fact, as it indicates that theoretically infinite ways exist to construct or design an artifact to accomplish specific function in specific environment. This is important; because this fact creates an uncertainty and unpredictability, in the artificial world that we are living in as it leads different actors to design different artifacts to achieve the specific function in multiple environments. This is a dimension of complexity that needs to be understood and grappled with.

The interplay of natural and artificial is another area that comes under the realms of ULS scale complexity. Natural objects evolve through natural selection and based on the environment in which they operate. The observations based on how the natural phenomena occur led humans to fields of natural sciences. The industrial revolution started a focused direction towards the artifact sciences where suddenly man-made objects became prevalent and useful with specific functions or goals to be achieved in specific environments. Modern world characterized by artificial environments, virtual reality and synthetic materials, has become more man-made than natural. Yet nature has not been tamed fully – in fact nature’s fury keeps on giving clear messages of the journeys that humankind has yet to perform, in the form of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions and multiple natural disasters that happen in many parts of globe.

The ULS Systems research needed as described in literature include 7 main fields. These are represented in Table 3.

ULS Systems Research Area

Specific Sub-Areas

Human Interaction

• Context-Aware Assistive computing

• Understanding Users and Their Contexts

• Modeling Users and User Communities

• Fostering Non-Competitive Social Collaboration

• Longevity

Computational Emergence

• Algorithmic Mechanism Design

• Metaheuristics in Software Engineering

• Digital Evolution


• Design of All Levels

• Design Spaces and Design rules

• Harnessing Economics to Promote Good Design

• Design Representation and Analysis

• Assimilation

• Determining and Managing Requirements

Computational Engineering

• Expressive Representation Languages

• Scaled-Up Specification, Verification, and Certification

• Computational Engineering for Analysis and Design

Adaptive System Infrastructure

• Decentralized Production Management

• View-Based Evolution

• Evolutionary Configuration and Deployment

• In Situ Control and Adaptation

Adaptable and Predictable System Quality

• Robustness, Adaptation, and Quality Attributes

• Scale and Composition of Quality Attributes

• Understanding People-Centric Quality Attributes

• Enforcing Quality Requirements

• Security, Trust, and Resiliency

• Engineering Management at Ultra-Large Scales

Policy, Acquisition, and


• Policy Definition for ULS Systems

• Fast Acquisition for ULS Systems

• Management of ULS Systems

Key Technologies and Methodologies for NCW

NCW is a massive challenge – because of the extreme tempo, massive concurrency and simultaneity, precision destruction needs, unprecedented compressed OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide and Act) loops, information and timely relevant information or the so called Common Relevant Operating Picture (CROP) becomes the crucial substrate on which the NCW operations will be conducted. A complex milieu of multi-dimensional and multi-field technologies need to enmesh together to create this information substrate. What are the key technologies and possible methodologies that one should explore to put together the NCW jigsaw? This is a question to be explored.

NCW Doctrine and Road Map for India

Indian defence forces have described themselves to be Network Centric by specific dates. Given the ingrained structures and inherent doctrines, we need to explore how the NCW doctrine will enmesh and create change opportunities in a phased manner or will it be better to have a big-bang approach in changing Indian defence forces to the NCW doctrine?

Military Doctrine is defined as a comprehensive system of views and procedures for conduct of future wars including various military operations, established by military experts, technologists and armed forces, in the likely threat environment, and within the purview of present force structures. This doctrine is subject to periodic reviews and analysis and is evolved taking into account the dynamic geo-political, economic and technological trends in the world scenarios. Also such a doctrine should be freely available as a comprehensive document, so as to give a common basis for decision making at all level of military and defense hierarchy of the nation. Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) has been defined to take place when one of the participants in a conflict incorporates new technology, organization and doctrine, to the extent that victory is attained in the immediate instance, but more importantly, that any other actors who might wish to deal with that participant or activity must match, or counter the new combination of technology, organization and doctrine in order to prevail.

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