Although ComNavOps abhors the use of buzzwords and phrases such as synergy or center of gravity (CoG), some of them nevertheless convey an accurate image. A center of gravity is just what it implies: a major concentration of capability. In the case of the military arena, a CoG is a concentration of a critical warfighting capability. We attempt to identify the enemy’s CoGs and attack them but do we examine our own CoGs? What are our CoGs and how might an enemy attack them?
is undoubtedly devoting a great deal of time and
effort to exactly this task and we would do well to anticipate their actions
and have ready responses. China
So, what Navy CoG do we want to examine today? Well, I’m willing to bet that the Navy’s most important, least recognized, and, potentially, most vulnerable CoG is its vast system of networks. By “network”, I mean all the weapons and systems that generate, collect, transmit, use, and manipulate data. This would include GPS signals, Link XX, SATCOM, UAV comm links, weapon guidance signals, straightforward communication channels, and every other data transmitting or receiving device the Navy has.
Consider that the Navy uses data transmissions of one sort or another to guide nearly every weapon it has. How many weapons are GPS dependent, for example? How many weapons use mid-course guidance signals? We’re actively pursuing in-flight reprogramming of cruise missiles (though the benefit of that is highly debatable).
Consider the wondrous F-35 which will be a combination of E-2 Hawkeye, P-8, F/A-18G ECM, J-STARS, and fire control for every aircraft and weapon within a million mile radius. Setting aside my mockery of it, its performance is predicated on seamless and flawless data flow (the Navy having all but admitted that it won’t be used as a frontline combat aircraft but, rather, as an enabler of other aircraft).
Consider the Navy’s next generation Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), the Navy Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA) which will tie every sensor and shooter system together in an impenetrable defensive network, according to the brochures. This is nothing but data flow and data sharing on an immense scale.
I submit that data flow is the heart of the Navy. It is the Navy’s CoG.
And it’s vulnerable.
We need to look closely at our own COGs and their vulnerabilities and begin strengthening them.
We need to develop better methods of data transmission, improve the security our data and comm lines, develop better methods of authenticating our data, and develop better means of handshaking our data to ensure that complete packets are received. This is way outside my area of expertise. I can see the problem and I know the general direction we need to go but the specifics are way beyond me. The Navy, however, needs to work on this.
In addition to strengthening our networks, we need to train to operate in electronically degraded environments. Conducting set-piece training exercises that utilize the full range of networking and data flow is worthless because none of that will happen in a real conflict. Instead, we need to conduct every training exercise in the face of the best ECM and counter-data effort we can generate. This will accomplish two things: it will show us how to operate in a real world scenario and it will vigorously exercise our ECM and counter-data capabilities. We’ll get two levels of training for the price of one, so to speak.
Finally, and related to the training issue, we need to think the unthinkable. We need to consider designing less brilliant weapons. Conceptually, which is more useful: a gravity bomb that is unaffected by any jamming or cyber disruption or a GPS guided weapon that won’t do anything if it has no GPS signal? We are so enamored of our technology and networking that we’ve forgotten that simplicity reigns once combat begins.
Both sides have CoGs and we need to recognize our own and anticipate their weaknesses so that when the enemy attacks we’ll be prepared.