Today’s military is myopically focused on data and networks as the key to future warfare. However, no matter how much data you have, you eventually have to kill the enemy’s troops and destroy their equipment. That requires firepower … explosives. ComNavOps has stated that the military is substituting networks and data for firepower, not supplementing and supporting firepower. Is this true or just a misconception? Let’s look.
Since … oh, I don’t know … say, Desert Storm in 1991, how many new networks, sensors, and data collection and analysis systems has the Navy developed? Here’s a partial list:
- CANES (Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services) – provides shipboard network
- NIFC-CA (Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air) – integrated area wide data/targeting sharing
- CEC (Cooperative Engagement Capability) – provides data/targeting sharing and remote fire control
- TTNT (Tactical Targeting Network Technology) - waveform technology providing high throughput, anti-jam, low latency and quick net join waveforms for IP connectivity
- SQQ-89 – anti-submarine software that integrates ASW sensors and weapons
- NMCI (Navy Marine Corps Intranet) - provides a shore-based enterprise network in the continental United States and Hawaii via a single integrated, secure information technology environment for reliable, stable information transfer
- ONE-Net (OCONUS Navy Enterprise Network) - evolved from the Base Level Infrastructure Information (BLII) Modernization Program in 2005, ONE-Net provides secure, seamless and global computer connectivity for the DON outside the continental US
- NGEN (Next Generation Enterprise Network) - provides secure, net-centric data and services to Navy and Marine Corps personnel
- NTCDL (Network Tactical Common Data Link System) - allows the Navy to share large quantities of critical ISR data across platforms and networks
- NIWC (Naval Information Warfare Center) Pacific Command and Control - fleet support center for command, control and communication systems and ocean surveillance
- Link 16 – data transmission
- AESA Radar – provides detection, tracking, communications, and electronic warfare
- JADC2 (Joint All Domain Command And Control) – overarching network that connects sensor from every service into a single network
The preceding list is only a partial list that barely scratches the surface of all the Navy’s data and networking applications. A new networking command and control scheme comes out seemingly every day!
Now, for comparison, let’s list the new Navy ‘explosives’ that have been developed over the same time period.
- LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile) – Tomahawk replacement
- NSM (Naval Strike Missile) – Norwegian small anti-ship missile
- JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon) – guided glide bomb with altitude dependent range
That’s it. That’s all there are unless I’ve missed one - which I'm sure I have and I have no doubt that someone will triumphantly point it out!
Regardless, it’s clear where the Navy’s focus has gone, isn’t it? We truly have stopped pursuing firepower and have replaced it with networks and we’ve done so without testing those networks in realistic combat conditions against full spectrum anti-network effects (cyber, jamming, disruption, spoofing, etc.).
There’s a few other weapons that you might be tempted to think of as new but they’re actually just upgrades from existing weapons or they’re pre-1991:
- Mk54 torpedo – upgrade from Mk50
- JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) – not a weapon but a guidance package for dumb bombs
- ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile) – upgrade to Sea Sparrow
- SLAM-ER (Stand Off Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response) – modified Harpoon
- Mk77 Incendiary Bomb – napalm replacement
- AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile) – upgrade to HARM
Note that most of the weapons are just minor evolutionary improvements of existing weapons that have been given a new designation, like Standard -1, -2, … -6.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with weapon system upgrades but they offer no new capabilities, just generally minor enhancements to existing weapons. Good but not new capability and not any increase in firepower.
Now, here’s a list of weapons that haven’t been developed but desperately need to be.
- Cluster munitions
- Supersonic anti-ship missile
- Short range conventional ship launched ballistic missile
- Intermediate range conventional ship launched ballistic missile
- Self-propelled, armored, medium range SAM vehicle for Marine Corps
- Self-propelled, armored, short range SAM vehicle for Marine Corps
- Littoral torpedo
- Anti-torpedo torpedo
- Large caliber naval gun (8” and larger)
- Navalized MLRS
- Navalized 5” rocket launcher
- Wake homing torpedo
- High explosive, 1000 lb warhead torpedo
These would offer substantially new capabilities (or revival of old, dropped capabilities!) and increased firepower but the Navy clearly has no interest in developing firepower. They’d much rather focus on the sexy, shiny, high-tech networks – which won’t work in a contested environment, anyway.
It’s also quite depressing to recall some of the weapon systems that have been dropped, with no replacement, since 1991:
- 16” Battleship Gun
- Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM)
- CAPTOR Mine
- Cluster munitions
- Marine Corps Tanks
- SHORAD (AAW Short Range Air Defense)
We have got to regain our focus on firepower.