Operation Iraqi Freedom C4ISR Lessons Learned

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Operation Iraqi Freedom was the first major military operation conducted under the newly introduced US Army Net-Centric Warfare (NCW) doctrine. It was also the first, in which the all involved ground forces, US Army, Marines and coalition forces shared, to a large extent, a computer-automated common operations site.

This achievement did not come out of nothing. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, serious shortcomings were encountered in command, control and intelligence performance, especially inter-service communications “interoperability”, not to mention, inter-coalition control, which frequently caused serious “blue-on-blue” incidents, as well as dense “fog of war”, which prevented real-time intelligence dissemination from sensors to shooters. For example, the “normal” lead time between air reconnaissance and target implementation, could take from 12 to more than 48 hours (!) totally useless for the conduct of rapid mobile desert operations.

During the last decade, tremendous progress in advanced technology, especially in the field of micro-electronics and computer science, has afforded hitherto unknown capabilities in military communications, which ten years ago, would have remained within the exotic science fiction realm for combat commanders.

The United States have prepared its XXI warfighting doctrine with greatest care and technological ingenuity. Between September 2002 and the start of operations in Iraq, a new command and control network had been initiated and fielded to major combat units earmarked for battle. The groundwork for the new information network, which was to mature in Iraq, was laid by Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan 2002. Lessons were learnt quickly and improvements in the system absorbed in the field, through close co-operation, never achieved between Military and Industry. The result was that less than one year later, the US armed forces went to war against Iraq with technical superiority for conventional combat, bringing to bear against Saddam Hussein’s forces its full “power of megabits and gigabytes”, enabling a “blitzkrieg” maneuver victory unequaled in modern military history.

Operation Iraqi Freedom also introduced and implemented a brand new “communications architecture” which is the topic of this first article trying to analyze the first lessons of this newly applied method in XXI century warfare.

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