Tactical C3 Performance – Operation Iraqi Freedom C4ISR Lessons Learned part IV


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Operation Iraqi Freedom was characterized by rapid task re-organization across all echelons to enable exploitation of enemy vulnerabilities, and execution of branch, sequel, and follow-on operations. We made aggressive road marches and maneuvers at distances and tempos unheard of in previous campaigns, separating lower echelon combat units beyond Line of Sight (LOS) connectivity to their higher HQs. From specially created mobile command groups, even higher commanders accomplished joint, operational, and tactical collaboration and coordination at the battle’s forward edge.

A major lesson, emphasized by many combat commanders, is controlling mobile operations ‘from the move’. This required smaller, more mobile, but adequately protected command posts, a command system, not sufficiently covered by US operational doctrine. C4ISR techniques adopted new command procedures under the new doctrine such as Battle Command on the Move (BCOTM), Common Operational Picture (COP), Blue Force Tracking (BFT), joint fires integration, integrated air picture, combat service support; clear voice command net, and collaborative tools.

In its after-action report, 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division described the ad-hoc solutions by creating ‘Assault Command Posts’ (ACP), allowing continuous control during tactical moves. These smaller command posts incorporated enhanced command and control nodes, such as FBCB2 and BFT, wideband tactical satellite (TACSAT) and iridium satellite phones. An even more flexible model, saw two identical tactical operation centers (TOC) one working as a “hot” ACP, closely following the moving vanguard, and a “cold” ACP moving to the rear, or if the force was operating along a wide front, along a secondary route, allowing the commander to shift to the focal point with adequate C4ISR equipment always available to control the battle.

The situational awareness of commanders at every level during OIF exceeded that of any modern war. Satellite-based Blue and Log Force Tracking with email exchange capabilities enabled synchronization of command and staff tasks at theater, operational, and tactical levels.

Single channel tactical satellite (TACSAT) at the Corps and divisional levels enabled broadcast C2 without regard to terrain or distance. Some would say the ground war was won on TACSAT. Using satellite-based Blue Force Tracking, leaders on the ground were able to successfully control the furious fight, receive changes to missions, achieve situational awareness, and navigate unfamiliar terrain using digitized map sheets that displayed Blue Force locations in near-real time.

However, There were never enough UHF single-channel TACSAT frequencies to go around supporting all of the needs of the Central Command (CentCom) forces. These UHF TacSat frequencies were a scarce commodity. Not only did you need a satellite in the area near your operations, you needed one that would provide the necessary takeoff angles for your equipment to work properly. The OS–302 omni-directional antenna is just one example that any old frequency will not do. This antenna was on one of the I MEF commander’s vehicles and worked best only with a frequency that used a takeoff angle of at least 20 degrees.

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