A heterogeneous architecture for Alliance Ground Surveillance

Posted in NATO | 02-Jun-03 | Author: Klaus Naumann| Source: NATO´S Nations

AGS is the key factor at the beginning of NATO’s transformation. The Prague Summit and its implications continue to be the subject of contentious discussion within NATO, in particular with regard to the question to which of the projects outlined in the Prague Capability Commitment (PCC) initiative should be assigned the highest priority. Independent of this debate, the formation of NATO Response Force proposed is not in question – but there is disagreement among member nations relating to which command elements and surveillance capabilities will be required for its implementation. General Klaus Naumann (retired), former Chairman of the Military Committee of NATO, is convinced that a NATO surveillance system
consisting of a combination of a fleet of midsize jets with growth potential and unmanned solutions (UAV) is the only way to tackle this assignment.
For the former Chairman of the Military Committee ever other solution e.g. Business Jets stand alone solution or doing the pure UAV solution will not meet NATO’s requirements.

At its summit meeting in Prague, NATO resolved to effect a transformation of the alliance and its armed forces. NATO is to become an alliance which, through the dual approach of protecting NATO treaty territories while maintaining a state of readiness to meet risks head-on at their source, will maintain its defensive character. Nevertheless, the alliance will now also conduct operations without geographical limitations wherever an opportunity presents itself to keep a threat away from the European/Atlantic region. Necessitated by circumstances, this justifiable strategic paradigm shift from reactionary to proactive alliance will have to be followed by a far-reaching conversion process of the alliance’s structures and armed forces and, in the course of the organisation’s expansion to 26 members, a further adjustment of the decision-making mechanisms within the alliance.
Initial steps towards the transformation of the armed forces were agreed in Prague. As is always the case in NATO, the semantics of the summit announcement are not as vital as the actions of the member states in implementing the Prague initiatives. In these times of already stretched national budgets, not only must consideration be given to the overall effect of the resolutions, but specific questions must also be asked as to which of the new capabilities to be created will be most vital in the NATO transformation process.

The resolutions

Two decisions were made in Prague regarding the transformation: adoption of the “Capabilities Commitment”, and creation of the “NATO Response Force (NRF).”
The Capabilities Commitment entails the member nations taking on an obligation that is significantly more focused – and thereby more binding – than the Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) which resulted from the 1999 conference in Washington. DCI included too many focal points, the sheer number of which allowed the member states to dismiss the programme as a “shopping list”, thus finding a pretext to take little if any action. The new initiative, on the other hand, is limited to four critical areas:
  1. Defence against weapons of mass destruction
  2. Communication and surveillance (Command, Control, Communications, Information Superiority),
  3. Interoperability and combat strength,
  4. The ability to rapidly deploy forces and sustain their presence
In these areas, individual NATO members have committed their efforts to specific projects within the initiative and are bound to their alliance partners to deliver promised support. Additionally, NATO’s International Military Staff (IMS) will oversee the progress of the overall project and will report to the NATO council on the ministerial level.
The second core element of the transformation resolution is the agreement on the NATO Response Force (NRF) for combat deployments beyond the borders of the alliance. This rapid mobilisation engagement force should attain initial operational capability by October 2004, with full readiness status scheduled for October 2006. NRF will be composed of a pool of NATO forces and military equipment that will be maintained in a state of readiness by member nations on a rotating basis. The USA will also contribute to this pool, but will not carry the lion’s share of the responsibilities associated with the NRF. It will also be necessary to form several new common, multinational elements in order for the NRF to enjoy all the advantages of technological superiority needed in the challenging security environment of the 21st century and thereby to become the first alliance force capable of Network-Centric Warfare (NCW) operations. Before the initial deployment of the NRF, a multitude of details must be worked out, including mandating and rotation principles and the NRF’s relationship to the deployment forces also being put together by the EU. However, the military and political purpose of the response force can already be recognised. It will:
  • Provide NATO with a rapid military engagement capability over large distances and across a broad range of possible crises and conflicts
  • Serve as an aid in the process of modernising European armed forces so that they, at least in certain areas, can achieve a level of compatibility with American counterparts
  • Offer the seven new members the opportunity to integrate rapidly into NATO structures and to bring their respective specialised military capabilities into the collective NATO defence force
  • As the first NATO element enabled for network-centric operations become a link to the American armed forces, as well as the starting point of conversion for the remaining Canadian and European forces within the alliance
  • Be a political indicator of Europe’s readiness to follow up its security policies with action; conversely, for the USA it will be a test of the commitment of its European partners.
The key criterion for the success of NRF is therefore not the number of troops made available, but rather the military capabilities they will have at their disposal.
The goal of both resolutions is to improve the military effectiveness of the alliance so that NATO will have a mechanism for initiating a measured military response to future security threats; and to preserve the political worth of NATO as the nucleus of transatlantic security relationships.
These initiatives cannot be implemented without a cost; sooner or later they will demand substantial financial contributions from the alliance partners. They will also alter the political significance of individual member nations. A nation’s importance and influence within the alliance will in future be determined less by traditional roles or by the country’s size, and more by the military capabilities that nation can bring to the partnership. Members that fail to structure their armed forces in accordance with future requirements will fade into insignificance.

What takes precedence?

The significance of NRF on numerous levels must be kept in mind when decisions are made determining the most practical utilisation of limited resources. No one should allow themselves to believe that NRF could ever get on its feet if the existing forces were simply combined to form the new NATO reaction force. Were this approach taken, the result would be the formation of a force similar to that created by the European Union’s half-hearted implementation of the Helsinki resolutions. The NRF provides a major opportunity to gain capabilities lacking in the EU, which prevents it from playing an active role across the entire spectrum of responsibilities laid down in the so called Petersberg mission spectrum. At the same time, the NRF would serve as a test bed which the USA’s allies can use as a stepping stone to entering the new dimension of Network Centric Warfare. The importance of this step cannot be over-emphasised, because it could prevent the gaping technological disparity with the USA from becoming insurmountable due to a divergence in conceptual thinking. However, just as Rome was not built in a day, neither ought one to expect that the ten-year lead held by the USA since the end of the Cold War can be caught up overnight. Answering the question of assigning priorities therefore requires an understanding of the importance of NCW.
NCW means asserting superiority in weapons systems efficacy through the rapid distribution of information to each position within a theatre of operation, achieved by linking intelligence that is gathered using highly advanced sensors with deployed assets, or “shooters”. By the year 2020, it may be possible within an operational area of 360 x 360 kilometres to detect every event at any time of day or night in under 30 seconds with 90% plausibility and to ascertain the exact location of the occurrence with an accuracy of ten centimetres. Should this incredible advancement in technology be successfully implemented in a network linking the three layers of surveillance, command, and execution, an enemy can be incapacitated by making him effectively blind and deaf, robbing him of the capability to command his troops. Now paralysed, the enemy can then be defeated quickly and with minimal risk to friendly forces by employing a relatively small but highly mobile force armed with precision weaponry.

Alliance Ground Surveillance/AGS – The key to success

The key to success thus unquestionably goes by the name of C2 ISR; this is where the transformation of NATO’s armed forces and the vanguard of this transformation, NRF, must begin. Achieving this is already possible, even if the extraordinary sensor capabilities of the future are not yet available. A C2ISR team consisting of an AWACS, a Rivet – Joint electronic warfare aircraft placed at NSF’s disposal by the USA and a JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) could, via the combination of surveillance and management of the data acquired, gain information supremacy on the battlefield (dominant battlefield awareness) and ensure, through the crew on board the JSTARS, surveillance of the area and the course of engagement. Focusing attention on this last point is particularly crucial, as this will determine whether the system can truly be brought to its full potential through the combination of surveillance, command and weaponry, or whether one will be forced to rely on a partially optimised system limited to surveillance activities.

A heterogeneous architecture is indispensable

This question must also determine the composition of the Alliance Ground Surveillance Systems ( AGS ) also set forth at the Prague Summit. If AGS were to comprise only Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), along with radar-equipped helicopters and business jets, the programme would not be able to attain NCW capability. This capability depends on the capacity to quickly translate the intelligence acquired into precise fire, and as such is best accomplished with airborne crews, who can turn the information gathered into effective engagement almost in real time. Yet this could be accomplished neither through a NATO AGS force, which would be supported only with unmanned surveillance platforms, nor through a solution using the mix described above if it were only able to deploy corporate-size jets that are too small to be adequate for the purpose in terms of crew size.
If the NRF is therefore to serve as the starting point for the transformation of NATO, then the first step in setting up NRF must be a multinational AGS Component Force that includes as one of its radar-equipped craft a manned aircraft large enough to accommodate the Battle Management Team. This would probably only be possible with a mid-sized jet such as an Airbus, particularly at the end of the decade when procurement of the NATO AGS takes place. And in view of the fact that the needs of the Battle Management Team will increase as the composition of NATO AGS grows more complex, it would certainly make sense to select the configuration which offers the greatest growth potential – which is unquestionably the solution that includes as a manned component a fleet of mid-size aircraft.
If this component is available, further planning should center around a mix of manned and unmanned platforms to capitalise on the growth potential unmanned systems will offer in surveillance and reconnaissance. It is to be presumed that just this combination of manned and unmanned systems will bring the unquestionable potential of future unmanned systems to its highest effect because it is the crew of a midsize aircraft which transfers ISR data into near real-time fire. Thus, it is the onboard crew which is networking the three levels of reconnaissance, command & control and fire.
No other AGS composition would facilitate having the NRF as the spearhead of NATO’s transformation. If NATO took a different decision the result would be a further increase in the conceptual gap between the USA and its alliance partners which would accentuate the capabilities gap. Then the U.S. would sooner or later once again raise the question of whether NATO can be utilised to meet the challenges Europe and the Americas must overcome together. Most importantly, though, the NRF would remain a force that is comparatively blind and deaf in its command and operation capacities by contemporary standards (i.e. those of the previous century). The opportunity to move forward into the future – the very purpose of the Prague Summit initiative in terms of policy – would be missed. The right decision on the future of NATO AGS is therefore the crucial factor in the transformation of NATO and the implementation of the Prague resolutions.