Avoiding the Fair Fight


05/16/2011 The Challenge of Avoiding the Far Fight

Excerpts from Keynote Speech

Armed Forces Communication and Electronic Association (AFCEA) Spring Symposia

The Honorable Michael W. Wynne

21st Secretary, USAF

May 11, 2011 Virginia Beach, Virginia

I salute your efforts throughout this assembly to protect America; and enhance our capabilities; and stand in awe of the shock effect of the Special Forces Team in taking down a compound this month.  At the same time; we should honor all the men and women who have given of themselves in this pursuit of justice, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. But this assembly deserves the taking of a small moment to revel in this success, because it was very much driven by the technology push, and the communications capabilities and the electronic installs that you all had a hand in conceiving , designing, developing, and training these magnificent warfighters to make this happen. For the capability to keep the situation room very well informed at internet speed and for the operational security that made the success real.

What you will hear today is my worry and concern that as a nation we are turning away from consolidating our gains and pushing new investment to maintain our Asymmetric Advantage. We have achieved much by effectively ‘owning’ the third dimension. Once you ‘own’ this advantage, gained through Dominating the Air and Space, exploiting it means getting your camera’s and telemetry gear ever closer to the ground. It means intimidating your enemy with fly by’s venting sound and fury.  It has meant filling the sky with watching and listening devices.  It allowed me to foster Spherical Situation awareness, and speak to West Point Cadets about how to be a three dimensional warrior. We developed films about ‘How we fight’ to press the issue about don’t engage without connected indirect shooters from Aircraft; as well as providing the force commander with a ‘God’s eye’ view. We passed out ROVERS wherever we could and connected them to over 80 air platforms.  The connectivity this offered protection for any mission anywhere in the theater.  We called for a joint operations order to combine all the force elements around the geo-spatial coordinates.

Lt. Col. Greg Harbin  patrols a village in Afghanistan while embedded with Canadian forces near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

A bullet struck from behind but did not penetrate Colonel Harbin’s body armor 10 minutes after the photo was taken. Trained and equipped with remotely operated video enhanced receiver or ROVER, Air Force ground combat teams work with assigned ground units. ROVERs heighten the effectiveness of and mitigate collateral damage by allowing ground troops to “see” what the aircrew sees with unmanned aircraft and fighter or bomber aircraft.

(Credit: USAF) http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123191966

But, at the time technology was moving too fast for the culture.  Now, first responders in state and local agencies have this capability; as I recently saw that Civil Air Patrol Aircraft can now be fitted with a portable predator track ball unit to provide them connectivity and spherical situation awareness whether in flood or fire.  I salute that fusion of military and civilian needs; and hope we can grow this to assist others in their first responder duties. This is a far cry from when during Katrina we were duct taping predator track balls to the railings on the 57th floor of the New Orleans Hilton to give police and fireman great visuals.  It also didn’t come without standards for ‘Eagle Vision’ and ‘Gateways’ for transmission, which you strive for here. This is exploitation of ‘owning’ the third dimension.

A second piece; during Vietnam, I never got to theater. I did have the privilege of receiving the Black Medal. The Black medal was the first creation of the Unit Recognition Medal; and was awarded to the developers of the AC-130 gunship.  I was on the team that installed the 105 gun, and was an analyst on the team to create the various autopilot functions to increase the accuracy of the entire weapons system.  The Black medal design we all thought was to allow for recognition of the team that put a big ugly paddle outside the side of a sleek transporter; and changed the culture in our air force.  I remember the phrase, Guns should shoot straight.  This pushed us far closer to Marine Aviation as a close fire support element; and many is the time that this closed form targeting system took data from a force commander and stopped an attack with a stream of tracers, licking the earth at night, or a single blast into the lead vehicle of a convoy.  But the real breakthrough, besides essentially bringing a tall hill to any battle zone was in the OODA Loop; this closed form kill system allowed transition from Observe to Action to be very fast.

Fast forward to the Air Force development of Predator, now that GPS allowed one to know where the Remotely Piloted Aircraft or RPA was; and suddenly we could replicate the Kill loop by allowing the RPA to be armed.  As well; from the earliest days; we worked the Gunship to be connected to the fire teams to bring support fire to within 50 meters of the friendly position.  Now GPS Offsets, coupled with the ‘John Madden’ ability to draw on a common screen provides for such great accuracy that every mistake appears deliberate.

An MQ-9 Reaper makes its final approach to the runway at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, following a mission, Dec. 16, 2010

Credit: 451st Air Expeditionary Wing: 12/17/10

Secretary Rumsfeld stated famously that you go to war with the Army you have; not the Army you want.  He really meant the Armed Forces, but the query at the time involved the protective capability of the military vehicles, especially the HMMWV.  Though he was excoriated at the time; he also told his staff privately that we should thank his predecessors for their continued investment in an uncertain future, and their stalwart belief in the Reagan theory that no one ever got into  a war because they were too strong.

It was pointed out to him that we needed to increase the leverage among all of our systems, and he gave me the task of fostering interoperability. There are times that those kind of missions would be intimidating; and cause one to pause. But, in this case was actually a thematic in each of the services; but the issue was cross service which remains in the seam of unfunded requirements.  As many of you had experienced; as we develop platforms, the expectation is that all of the information and intelligence required to maximize the capability of the system is simply expected to arrive in an orderly fashion and be made available.  I call those the ‘Lightening Bolt Charts’, cause they all had jig jag lines from one system to another; but during development, there is no assurance that thing will actually work that way.  But they form the core of interoperability, gaining information for the senior leaders; and maximizing the effectiveness of the entire force.

I can remember a second particularly interesting meeting when I was told that we should not be worried about the future, as we would not be fighting peers.  I responded that I lost my brother in Vietnam, flying an F-4 in the North. At the time no one in America would have given them peer status; but they were clearly using peer equipment.  The meeting became quite chilly as this dose of reality was unwelcome; but it was my reality.

My push to maintain the technology lead in our Asymmetric Advantage was not appreciated by the department leadership.  But my reality colored my desire to push a program called Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS), which I guess, now would be called J-RPA for Remotely Piloted Aircraft.   This introduced the stealth platform to RPA’s at a decent size construct; and at some point target replacing systems the scale of the B-2.  The Navy is now the remaining player in this program, I feel the Navy has been seeking a Stealthy platform ever since the A-12 cancellation killed their advanced future, yes, those of us that remember will acknowledge the Navy went first, then the F-22; and the Navy will, I’m sure, learn which missions are the right ones for this capable system, while I hope their stealthy manned quest can be fulfilled by the F-35C.Yes; I still believe that we need more 5th generation aircraft, lest we find ourselves unable to uphold General Curt Lemay’s mission to hold hostage any target in the world.   Isn’t this what we also saw in the terrific take down right out of the Tom Clancy novel, but sending a chilling message to all that ‘Make our List’ in the words of that country song.

In the meantime; we see glimpses of the real future through the Integrated Air Defense Systems; and the well designed competitor aircraft that are being offered on the market. We see the emergence of national strategic Naval assets that may begin to encroach on our mission space. We see the continued development of missiles that are designed to reach out and touch our shores; and as well the boundaries of our allies.I can remember well, that in the Pentagon they have a radio rodeo; not with horses but with talk show hosts. We were in line rotating through the various station hosts, some of whom were live, but many were in effect taping for some later time. In front of me about two interviews was Rumsfeld; and I overheard and so might more dimly recall his exchange; but I remember the essence.  He was asked why we needed the defense equipment when the likelihood of an invasion was so unlikely. His response designed my Mission Statement when I was confirmed to be Secretary of the Air Force. He said, “Our Freedoms have great reach; but once the President can not exercise a Sovereign Option because he could be dissuaded or deterred; all of us will lose a little of our Freedom as American Citizens.”

This translates into the following; the Defense the Country desired was not just to defend our shores; but also to be strong enough to allow our President to exercise restraint if it was his choice. This was a profound moment for me as I knew it, but I did not know it. I had lived it during my international travels both in uniform and out. My mission statement became that “The Mission of the United States Air Force was to deliver sovereign options for the defense of America and its global interests–to fly and fight in Air, Space, and Cyberspace.”  Further, this led to the argument to continue the investment in exploiting our Asymmetric Advantage of Air Dominance when I expressed a doctrine: If you ever find yourself in a fair fight; it is because of bad planning.  Planning is not just Tactical; but might also be Strategic, such as the QDR.

Now that I have laid the groundwork for you all; let me relate these experiences to the challenges that I see for AFCEA members; both currently serving and adapting the material solutions or designing TTPs around the kit you have; and those that are trying to discern the needs; requirements; and the desire, read funding, to move to a different future than the linear one that is always forecast. When Hitler turned the world upside down; his forces were awesome; and the word Blitzkrieg became the word of the day; but little known was the reality that only about 15%; if that; of his forces were modernized. Germany had its share of horse drawn artillery; and logistics trains. They went to great lengths to avoid taking bridges out; as did we later.

The real change was in the synchronization of the battle; the improvement of command and control; and the ability to coordinate the action truly underscored the impact on morale and the destruction of the Armies arrayed against this force.  The crudeness of the coordination would currently be ridiculed; but it is all a part of warfare and you have it or you don’t.

We here and now should take note of the 15% part; as this very well might be what we are afforded when next we are pushed into a war not of our choosing.

The lack of projected air power caught many ground commanders unawares and so Dunkirk happened; and the reaction of the citizenry to save their army in any way they could; but principally by returning them to friendly shores of England. That said; Germany actually lost the war in 1936; about the same time that Britain won it.   This startling element contains the seeds of the challenges for all of you. As found in wiki.

The German Dornier DO19 was a four-engine heavy bomber that was awarded in 1934, and first flew on October 28, 1936. Only one prototype flew, and it was converted to a transport in 1938.  The other two were scrapped.  The Luftwaffe therefore had a shortcoming in the lack of an efficient heavy bomber fleet. Generalleutnant Walther Wever the Luftwaffe’s first Chief of Staff was the most persistent advocate of a German long-range strategic bomber fleet.  The Technical Department issued a specification for a four-engine heavy bomber. But after Wever’s death in an airplane crash in June 1936, Wever’s successor, Albert Kesselring, canceled Germany’s long-range bomber project to concentrate on short-range bombers.

Dornier bomber

Credit: http://www.aviastar.org/air/germany/dorn_do-19.php

This cancellation allowed the British Air Force to move their bases to the North in Scotland, and the Range, Configuration and Payload made the German two engine bomber subject to harassment and allowed the British to fully recover until the American Eight Air Force showed up with four engine bombers; and took the fight to the German heartland.

The British were the first to fully exploit radar as a defense against aircraft attack. This was spurred on by fears that the Germans were developing death rays.  The Air Ministry asked British scientists in 1934 to investigate the possibility of propagating electromagnetic energy and the likely effect. Following a study, they concluded that a death ray was impractical but that detection of aircraft appeared feasible. Robert Watson Watt’s team demonstrated to his superiors the capabilities of a working prototype and then patented the device The British could detect the German air approach and thus direct the attacking British fighters and raids over Britain proved so costly to the German Air Force that they invested in missile bombardment.

Lest I digress to ‘Next war itis’-  Let’s get to the challenges.

First; Let’s talk Cyber.

Cyber is about spectrum and thus falls directly into your domain. There’s an argument as well that the information transmission from communication and electronics is actually a subset of Cyber; and the light spectrum was untapped.  For now, let’s not concern ourselves with spectrum PACMAN; but worry about its finiteness; and the fact that some in government see it as a profit center.  As you are likely aware; as Our ships approach the coast of Japan; many of their emitters must be turned off.  This can be dangerous for some ships with crews trained to operate in automatic.  This same issue is for Aircraft. Spectral control and jamming by cohabitating EMF thus is a major challenge as we take our architecture and move forward.   We lost to Tech Talk the LASER Satellite system, T-Sat; which would have increased the transmission speed and spread; as some in Congress and in DoD thought it OK to live with AEHF.   We need to have a coherent discussion about what means Wi-Fi in our future.

The next war could be first to fiber, as the ability to transmit might be corrupted and jammed. Resilient architectures to fight through even something as dramatic as an EMP detonation; or as open as the old loud jammers, where we need concentrated LPI transmissions. This leads me to the second part of Cyber, which is compressed data algorithms.   This branch of encrypted mathematics was abandoned with the ability to pump terabytes of data; but is that a resilient approach. We will be back to dormant Sioux dialects and little of them.  We need to compress video streams into relevant data, and then re-pix-late them for viewing. We are burying our transmission systems in non relevant imagery.

Methods of Cyber Operations

Credit: Bigstock

Third in Cyber is trusted information. I am tired of hearing that we can’t fix the problem. The band-aids piling up on the data overlays are a very bad answer; and sometimes introduce malware with the fixes. Kind of like going to the Hospital only to be infected by something they were harboring.  We need to get to the heart of the matter, rethink computational mathematics and restore order in this domain.  We invented it, and have pushed it for productivity. But in our zeal for productivity; we did not hire police and firemen.  I don’t think we can wait for Data Armageddon.

Second major Challenge: Antenna’s.

The Army has become very frustrated with the myriad antennas that have been foisted off on each system. As a result the command vehicles veritably bristle with forms and shapes that frankly offer terrific targeting opportunities. As a result they are now contemplating the Victory Architecture, which I don’t have any insight to the base mathematics. I can advise you that the specification for the Victory Architecture is contained in a two plus inch book; and so has not constrained the developer world; but will give the transmission world some design constraints reminiscent of JTRS; where the developers refused to be constrained in spectrum; and the program grew in an unconstrained way. I also know that the last time the government invented an architecture, it was ADA; cost many billions and continues to plague the F-22 and Spaced Based Infrared Satellite, two other victims were Crusader, and the Army Light Attack Helicopter, the Comanche.  I do know that the industry needs to get in the game, not simply as a contractor. We need a morphing antenna, and one that is far more easily attuned to high-speed data transmission.

But I offer that at some point there will no more tolerance for different transmission methodologies requiring different antennae.   Non-AFCEA members are culturally trained to expect transmissions from flat panels and common devices.  Here we need to better understand how to use Time division Multiply (TDMA) as well as Modulated Division architecture (CDMA).  The constraint is international as well; but I think the root is in design and then operator discipline.

Third Challenge: AESA RADARs.

We are in Kindergarten as to the utility of the breakthrough in Active Electronically Scanned Arrays.  AESA Radars have the potential to be way more than just radars.  Today the wide bandwidths and advanced waveforms we are achieving with AESA radars is opening up the possibility of whole new functions.  Why not use them for precision electronic and computer network attack?  At the same time we watch the Air Force give up on the MADL for the F-22, which means all that potential for a node on the net must be truncated, due to a lack of inventiveness, as was mentioned on Antennas, to accomplish high speed transmissions. We’ve already proven they can handle CDL like waveforms, so why not use the AESA for laser-like LPI communications? The Navy with larger versions of AESA on board their ships should drive experimentation, just as they have found function with Tactical Lasers, and have previously with Metal Storm.  Which leads me to the fourth challenge;

Fourth; Do we abandon the connectivity argument; or await the re-emergence of total Air Dominance as we currently enjoy in Iraq and Afghanistan?

We spent enormous resources combining with our coalition partners in Libya; to take down a crude Air Defense system. This because we were daunted by our ignorance of the capability of the system, and of course adverse to casualties.  How close to other Mid East or Far East competitors will we risk our Air Platforms. In another forum, on a different media; I argued that we should stand down the Large ISR Fleet; as they cannot penetrate defended airspace; and are targets in all of our war games. So we must concentrate on fulfilling the promise of making the F-35 and F-22 5th Gen platforms a true Air Battle Manager required to stay aloft and direct the battle.

The F-35 is a key part of the shift to distributed operations

Credit: Lockheed Martin

Denying the vulnerability of the large ISR platforms will lead to expectations that they will live and provide a contribution to the campaign.  In another paper that is coming; I ask why are we putting any money into upgrading 4th generation fighters; as they simply cannot participate in the first 48 hours of war with an adversary with a modern air defense system—for that matter a smart adversary will not expose all his IADS at the beginning of the war—the notion of being able to “kick down the door” is from the last century and will not be applicable in the future; and they should be slaved to the 5th Generation Target system; and dispense their weapons at the designated target.  This also allows for a true role for RPA’s when we lack total Air Dominance; and that is as mules for the F-35 and F-22. In a truly hostile environment; the 5th gen fighter must be the last to shoot; and should do so after all the other available missiles are gone. Again, this presumes we get the breakthrough for converting them to Air Battle Managers from current Air Warriors.

Fifth; Leverage and closed form solutions.

With the disestablishment of the Joint Forces Command, I ask where does this mission go. If to the Service Components, are we in full retreat. If to DISA and OSD do they have the time to devote to it. Communications and Electronics is all about leveraging our smaller forces against any combination of enemies. This means shared situation awareness; and putting the right gun on the right target. Such target matching can be done but will take a fast and adaptive Operations Center. I have long advocated for a truly joint operations order, combining all affected service players and cyber around a Geospatial line of attack.

To truly limit friendly fire; blue force tracking might not be enough. Active limits and time based constraints will be the limiting factor.  The Gunship control system taught me as well as being trained on the range that having the target presented to the shooter is the key to the kill.  It is the same with any indirect fire support system. There is no reason that Naval gunfire cannot be aimed and controlled by the joint force commander, so long as that commander can effectively share the target with the shooter. So Ladies and Gentlemen; we need breakthroughs; we can’t expect that future competitors will make an error in strategy as did the German’s. I worry that in our outlook; and in our Allies outlook for us; we are, by investment decision and the inherent aging of all of our fleets diminishing our Strategic Margin and unwittingly inviting competition.  Should some competitor surface; it will come at the time of maximum vulnerability; and so we must be electronically agile.

In any time where platforms are not drawing investment; we will find that investment going into the Communications and Electronics sector to leverage what we have in the best way possible.  We can expect that this assembly would be capable to drive innovation and provide that margin of excellence to sustain us through the fight. While we seek resilience in our technology; we have already determined that we have resilience in our population.I took a lot of assignments in my tenure; but the one that proved the most difficult is Interoperability, and I worked diligently with the Joint Forces Command to push this vital seam; and I fear that as we move into a Fifth Generation Environment; all of the capabilities we’ve enjoyed will be left behind.  Stealth is a wonderful thing; but when it leads to stove piped developments, one must be concerned. This regression to elements we’ve seen before, like replacing the F-117 Nighthawk; and then replacing the B-2; does not consolidate what we have accomplished in the joint exploitation of the vertical dimension which should push all of us to be three dimensional warriors. It is when we can truly leverage the best of each service we become truly joint; and that coordination, that shared situation awareness, that improved OODA loop will respond to that constitutional charge to ‘Provide For The Common Defense’