Air Power Principles
Air Power is dependent on its ability to utilize speed, range, flexibility, precision, tempo and lethality in order to achieve successful effects at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of warfare. History has shown the control of the third dimension is generally a necessary precondition for land and sea elements to have freedom of manoeuvre to conduct successful operations against the enemy. Critical to the employment of air forces is the fundamental principle of ‘centralized control and decentralized execution’. Centralized control promotes an integrated and joint multinational effort in which unity of effort is best achieved when authority for command and control is exercised at the highest level. It is justifiable that no single commander can personally direct all Air Power actions. Hence, the importance of decentralized execution, which is essential to mission success by delegating appropriate authority to subordinate commanders and functions to execute tasks and missions.1
The tenant of centralized control and decentralized execution is at the forefront of Battle Management /Command and Control (BMC2) functions, as it fuses direction and guidance from the operational-level to engagement capabilities at the tactical-level. BMC2 is the art of translating real-time battle space awareness, operational guidance, and combat potential into decisive action at the tactical level across a wide range of missions including air-to-air, air-to-ground, and combat support missions. Within NATO, BMC2 systems have a direct link to exercising decentralized execution. Specifically, ‘NATO AWACS aircrews are delegated tactical authorities, which enable tactical action-based on real-time information. This delegation allows NATO AWACS aircrews to operate independent of the NATO Air C2 structure’2; or supplementing it wherever rapidly deployable ‘reach forward’ control is required.
The Air Power tenant of centralized command / de-centralized execution is expected to continue to be important for military operations supported by the philosophy of mission commander leadership as a prerequisite for network enabled operations. The independence of BMC2 is afforded by command arrangements through Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOC), due to the inherent fact that centralized control cannot reach the furthest point of the battle space. This delegation of tactical control to BMC2 systems achieves commander’s intent and desired effects by gaining and maintaining the initiative. Therefore, BMC2 must be both horizontally and vertically integrated to maximize information exchange and fusion.
Inherent to the conceptual nature of BMC2 are the competencies required to assure success of BMC2 functions. These competencies include:
Tactical Fluid Control: Detailed knowledge of joint / coalition friendly and enemy weapons capabilities and their tactics. This knowledge is the foundation for efficiently placing friendly systems in a place and time which will most effectively defeat a threat and / or protect friendly assets.
Dynamic Battle Management: Minimizing the complexity of war caused by nonlinearity, interaction and friction of simultaneous offensive and defensive operations;3 synchronizing the integration of joint air / ground / maritime / cyber assets and the associated weapons systems of forces to minimize this chaos.4 BMC2 platforms accomplish dynamic BM by making timely kill-chain decisions through execution of the Air Tasking Order (ATO), Airspace Control Order (ACO) and Special Instructions (SPINS) at all levels. BMC2 systems must correctly marshal forces (kinetic and non-kinetic) in time and space, which assures operational success. Through dynamic BM, BMC2 systems ensure a seamless and effective joint C2 operation for the Joint Forces Commander.
Air, Surface and Maritime Surveillance and Identification: BMC2 systems apply surveillance and identification information across all domains resulting in an accurate, integrated and common operational picture. To do this, BM personnel must have a sound working knowledge of active and passive sensor capabilities within the platform they operate, as well as with the assets they are directing in order to properly integrate their information. Using its organic sensors, BMC2 systems will detect and identify targets. The fusion of sensors and information allows the BMC2 systems to provide timely and accurate threat warning, develop and evaluate effects-based targets for placement into the joint targeting cycle, execute and refine identification criteria, and properly execute rules of engagement.
Battle space Situational Awareness: Collectively, BMC2 systems possess the ability to interpret the operational and tactical battle space in three dimensions, prioritize tasks, information and communication flow. Additionally, they possess the ability to anticipate, react, and mitigate problems, at all levels and communicate these effects at the tactical and operational levels.
Dynamic Information Management: BMC2 systems increase situational awareness to operational commanders and tactical forces using data-lines and IP-based networks to provide friendly / enemy order of battle updates and utilize / propagate information from active and passive sensors.
C2 Systems Integration: BMC2 personnel possess knowledge and understanding of air, space, cyber, Information Operations, and Integrated Air Missile Defence systems to fuse their platform’s capabilities into a cohesive C2 architecture to achieve effects in the battle space.
Operational-level Air, Space, and Cyber Integration. BMC2 systems conduct the integration of Air, Space and Cyber domains at the operational level. BMC2 personnel possess the ability to direct planning, coordination, allocation, tasking, execution, monitoring and assessment of kinetic and non-kinetic effects in the JFC designated area of responsibility (AOR) based on Commander Joint Air Component (CJFAC) guidance.
Evolution of BMC2
The BMC2 competencies are a direct reflection of its evolution through the years. From its inception, dating as far back as World War I through the 1980s there was a single role for BMC2. The primary role was to detect and identify airborne targets at a long distance in order to provide tactical forces and operational-level commander’s situational awareness and warning. During this communications using line-of sight radio communications with tactical assets and beyond line-of-sight radio communications methods were the primary methods of exercising C2.
Operations DESERT STORM, DELIBERATE FORCE, and ALLIED FORCE evolved and expanded the role of BMC2 systems. Mission sets during this time evolved to reflect the need to provide air-to-air control and threat awareness above and beyond its traditional capacity of surveillance and warning. This reflected the fact that these major combat operations employed thousands of sorties, where line-of-sight voice communications were the primary means of sharing information, as data-link connectivity was limited. As in the previous era, voice communications using line-of sight radio communications with tactical assets and beyond line-of-sight radio communications methods were the primary methods of exercising C2.
The 2000s and post-9 / 11 environment saw BMC2 functions further evolve with increased focus on the full range of military operations: to include roles in irregular warfare providing support to ground and special operations forces, especially during ISAF operations, integration with maritime forces; increased air to surface integration; and integration with ISR operations. BMC2 actions in support of ISAF allowed BMC2 to operate in a permissive environment supporting irregular warfare with air forces as an enabling element. With the improvement of technology and the ability to bring centralized control functions from the CAOC closer to the battle space, BMC2 effectiveness became measured by the level of technical and cognitive connectivity across the entire battle space. This was proven by the heavy reliance on information through communication nodes like Link-16, Internet Protocol (IP)-based applications like CHAT5, imagery and video relay. The CJFAC was provided decision quality data through a Recognized Air Picture (RAP) and operational direction passed over IP-based applications. Tactical assets under Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) control were also provided improved RAP and C2 / targeting instructions were passed via Link 16 messages or over IP-based applications.
Throughout this evolution, one overarching JFC requirement remained, a persistent BMC2 capability is necessary to gain and maintain situational awareness for operational and tactical forces through the entire battle space.
By 2025 and beyond, one could reasonably expect that the operating environment could range from permissive to non-permissive. The demand for actionable information by decision makers at the operational level will continue to increase and be increasingly reliant on the use of non-voice means to direct tactical forces. This non-voice exercise of C2 will most certainly be done in a collaborative secure data environment. Further, the collaboration on Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) information will certainly drive a need to control and coordinate some of the information at a lower level in order to facilitate timely engagement of the enemy or friendly force manoeuvre.
However, just as BMC2 has evolved over time, so have potential threats. Technological advances in area denial capabilities and integrated air defence systems will increase the risk to operations in some scenarios while advances in electronic attack and information warfare capabilities will make it more challenging to detect and identify targets. Making this situation even more difficult will be the proliferation of small or stealthy manned or unmanned platforms.
BMC2 Enabling Concept
Air Power has historically been at the forefront of NATO operations and BMC2 has played a key role in these operations. As we look to the future, technological developments coupled with greater information availability will continue to allow NATO Air Power to remain a dominant force. Access to information is key to Situational Awareness (SA) and decision superiority which is seen by both military leaders and tactical experts as the vital difference between winning and losing in combat. BMC2 systems are at the core of providing SA to enable information and decision dominance. The capabilities associated with SA include wide-area surveillance radar, combat identification, electronic support measures, and robust communications through the use of voice, data link, and IP-based applications.
Although future BMC2 competencies may not change significantly, technological advances will require improved capabilities in order to provide adequate SA at the operational and tactical levels of command. As threats continue to evolve technologically, improved capabilities in electronic protect measures will have to be identified in order to continue to provide battle space awareness and communication. Furthermore, as communication further ventures to IP-based applications in which forces are exclusively networked, one must not forget that space denial operations could negate these and force a return to ‘old school’ techniques and practices which will rely on a forward presence BMC2 system to direct commander’s intent and guidance. This is directly reflected in line with Military Capability Requirement 11 (MCR11) in the context of BMC2 capabilities.
MCR11 considers various types of weapon systems, sensors, and command and control centers across a spectrum of capability; ranging from surveillance systems which detect and warn, to systems which can detect, warn, track and identify, execute Air Battle Management and exercise Command and Control.6 MCR11 sees a highly responsive BMC2 system (such as an E-3A) initially entering an operational area, establishing communications and links to the air commander, and providing surveillance and coordination functions across the joint spectrum. Over time this BMC2 system could be augmented or relieved by land or sea based deployable control and reporting centers, deployable radars (dependent on a permissive environment), and electronic intelligence systems.
The continuous development of BMC2 capabilities is expected to progress. Recent operations and the outcome of the Chicago Summit have both shown and directed that a BMC2 capability is needed in order to add harmonization to Joint ISR (JISR) operations. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) demonstrated the unique capability of Air Power to locate fleeting targets through dense weather conditions by ISR means, communicating the data through C2 capabilities and to deliver timely, precision effects. Fast forwarding to ISAF operations, airborne ISR assets in Afghanistan have been tasked with over one million targets, to provide support in numerous troops-in-contact situations, and to assist in the capture of more than 160 high-value target individuals. Without ISR, ISAF troops would be blind and deaf, ultimately forced to employ as a reactive force. Furthermore, in Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR (OUP), NATO employed a multi-layered ISR constellation with Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) radar providing wide-area coverage and Synthetic Aperture Radars (SAR) narrowing in on specific locations. The aftermath of the operation identified a need to not only boost NATO ISR capabilities, but also improve the coordination and control of some ISR assets at the tactical level, most likely by a BMC2 system.
An additional enabling BMC2 mission set includes integrated Air and Ballistic Missile Defence (IBMD). IBMD is essential in achieving a comprehensive and effective air defence capability not only as a measure of collective defence but also during forward deployed operations. In order to preempt potential missile launches (from land or sea) during increased tensions, a tactical ability to coordinate the detection, tracking and targeting of ballistic missile capabilities will have to be coordinated and controlled at the lowest level with reach back to the operational commander.
In all of these cases, communication is the key element that must persist at all levels. The most likely asymmetric threat would create a scenario that extends the tactical level of operations beyond the reach of an operational commander. This would ultimately require the need of a BMC2 system that is able to rapidly bridge the gap between the operational and tactical levels of command as well as to have the ability to coordinate and control the commander’s desired effects. The expansion of communication tools includes the use of network-enabled solutions, enabled by IP-based applications, that provides an enhanced capability to manage these requirements. This capability will provide BMC2 systems the ability to communicate with forces at all levels. Additionally, IP-based applications will allow access to documents, imagery, full-motion video, and GMTI feeds in order to hasten engagement effects at the tactical level. This provision is coupled with NATO’s Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) introduced at the Chicago Summit. CFI looks to retain and build on the valuable gains in interoperability achieved as a result of recent NATO operations by expanding education and training, increasing NATO exercises and making better use of technology.7
The future capabilities identified are key to achieving required operational effects through battle space awareness and decision superiority. When integrated with other elements of the NATO Air Command and Control System (ACCS) and JISR systems, NATO AWACS dramatically increases the capability, flexibility, lethality and responsiveness of joint operations. These capabilities will enhance engagement in pursuit of operational objectives by providing the ability to see, decide, and act first.
Regardless of the current environment and fiscal constraints, NATO’s history as well as foreseeable crisis management scenarios advocate undoubtedly for a continuing need for a BMC2 system based on accepting technology improvements mainly in the area of the information and cyber domains. When considering the future environment and the fact that non-state actors in the nonlinear asymmetric realm will most likely solicit a NATO response away from the reach of Europe, the most suitable platform to provide a responsive BMC2 capability would be an airborne early warning and control asset.