Info dominance vital to the 'kill chain,' Navy intell czar says

Game-changing technologies will keep the service ahead of its rivals

The United States Navy may be the most powerful fleet in the world, but it must keep ahead of other nations seeking to claim regional and strategic superiority. A key strength of the sea service is information dominance, the ability to detect enemy forces, interfere with networks and act before the enemy. To meet the military challenges of the new century, the Navy has been developing new information dominance capabilities.

“Information dominance is required for every step in the kill chain,” Vice Adm. Kendall L. Card, director of Naval Intelligence and deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance. Speaking at a luncheon June 16, sponsored by the Northern Virginia chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), he said that the U.S. must be able to disrupt the enemy’s kill chain and support systems.

Because the U.S. is the dominant military power on the planet, many other nations want to displace it, Card said. The U.S. must respond to these challenges with its own game-changing capabilities. But to meet these threats and to deploy new technologies, the Defense Department and the Navy must first get some things in order, he said.

One issue is the DOD’s insatiable need for sensor data. Part of the challenge is to align and synchronize the capabilities of a variety of platforms to acquire and provide the information. While the DOD’s information transport capabilities are good, the government cannot keep up with the massive demand for data, Card said.

The Navy must optimize how it collects and manages data so that it can put its people in the right place to analyze it, he said. The Army deploys its information assets forward while the Air Force manages its systems from bases. The Navy, consisting of bases and ships, is a hybrid of these two approaches. In the future, the service must be able to get information to its ships, possibly in a satellite-denied environment, he said.

One area where the service has lagged behind and must now catch up is electronic warfare. The Navy is working on merging its electronic warfare capabilities with cyber operations. Card said this was necessary because the Navy is 19 years behind other nations when it comes to electronic warfare capabilities.The Navy and DOD being focused on fighting a war for a decade and the post-Cold War lull that preceded it caused the gap. He said that some nation’s electronic warfare suites are optimized to jam every radio frequency emitter in the Navy.

Recent efforts to catch up include programs like the Next-Generation Jammer and the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, said Card. Other areas of improvement include the activation of the 10th Fleet for Navy Cyber Operations. Despite looming budget cuts, he said that cyber capabilities are being fully funded and are a growth area in the Navy. Through the 10th Fleet, the service is improving its ability to increase network security and its exploitation and attach capabilities, he said.

The Navy is also building a family of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems to meet the service’s growing needs for more sensor data. One potential game-changing technology is the Navy’s carrier-launched unmanned combat aerial system (UCAS). Built by Northrop Grumman, the X-47 UCAS will determine how carriers are used for the next 30 years, he said. “It's not about the capability, it’s about the future of manned and unmanned carrier systems,” Card said.

The Navy’s other unmanned aerial platform program is the Fire Scout robot helicopter. The program is doing well, and the service now has plans to evolve it into a medium-range sensor and weapons platform, he said.

The Navy is also addressing issues with how it tasks, collects, processes, exploits and disseminates collected sensor data. Card said that the Navy must make further use of the intelligence community’s data-sharing standards. The Navy does pull data from the intelligence services’ cloud into the Navy’s cloud. But the service needs to leverage this capability as much as possible, he said.

Ships and forward deployed forces must be able to access intelligence data from terminals such as the Distributed Common Ground System-Navy. Another challenge will be installing this capability on naval platforms to pull data from platforms such as maritime Global Hawks, he said.

Because a future major conflict could see a massive jamming of satellite communications, the Navy is looking at ways to operate without them. Card said that the Joint Aerial Layer Network is currently undergoing a test and review of a variety of alternative approaches to maintain connectivity.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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