The Navy and Marine Corps are implementing network-centric warfare concepts to cope with a diverse array of emerging threats. Wireless networks enable the sea services to apply limited warfighting assets more flexibly and precisely.
Networks potentially enable each warfighter to access the full resources and capabilities of the joint force. But in order to realize the full potential of new technology, the sea services must transition from a fragmented communications system to an integrated network that supports seamless connectivity, easy access, agile command and rapid fusion of intelligence using internet-protocol principles.
The Navy and Marine Corps have led joint force thinking about network-centric warfare, and now plan to implement four overarching “enterprise” networks within a few years. Completion of these networks will allow the sea services to fashion a unified networking environment for all warfighters while phasing out vulnerable legacy systems.
In the near term the sea services need to develop a holistic understanding of their networks, find affordable approaches to fielding new technology, assure the security of information flows and match networking concepts to the demands of emerging missions. Maritime Domain Awareness is an emerging mission area that could benefit greatly from the implementation of new networks.
Several next-generation programs such as the Joint Tactical Radio System, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye radar plane, P-8A Poseidon patrol plane and Littoral Combat Ship were designed from the outset to be network-centric. However, most networking advances in the near term will probably follow the path of the Marine Corps “Corporal” program by introducing new technology into legacy systems — a low cost way of enhancing warfighter capabilities quickly.
This study was written for the Naval Network Working Group by Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute.
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