Although Plan Beersheba, Army’s modernisation plan for the future, does not directly address the specifics of Network-Centric Warfare (NCW), it nevertheless intends to reconfigure the service in a manner, which will take advantage of future developments.
In addition there are several projects within the current DCP, which together are designed to transition Army from its current analogue state to a fully digitised force.
Today the terms NCW, Digitisation and Network-Enabled all refer to the concept of electronically connecting across the battlefield for the enhanced (and rapid) exchange of information and the co-ordination of effects.
Defence developed its first NCW roadmap back in 2003 and has been evolving the concept since then. The most recent edition of this roadmap was released in 2009 and Defence has stated that the digitisation lexicon has ‘progressed considerably’ over that time and remains a very high priority.
For example, Army is now fully engaged in digitising its communication and battle management systems which will transform the way information is gathered, processed and disseminated. Together with the restructuring undertaken by Beersheba, the result will be a modern, sustainable force capable of operating in tomorrow’s battlespace.
Under Plan Beersheba, Army will change its force structure to maximise the effectiveness of the 36-month force regeneration cycle (Readying, Ready and Reset phases) by transforming the 1st, 3rd and 7th Brigades into multi-role manoeuvre brigades.
The three restructured brigades will enjoy a common structure, enabling the rapid transition and sustained operations through the regeneration cycle. They will be backed by three ‘enabling’ brigades and an enhanced Reserve force of six brigades, which will work with their Regular Army counterparts to form the Total Force concept.
Each multi-role manoeuvre brigade will include armour, artillery, communication, engineer, infantry and logistics elements and will be supported by two reserve brigades from the 2nd Division.
Defence says Beersheba will, “Provide the widest range of sustained and land force capability within assigned resources.”
“Beersheba will be progressively implemented over the coming years to ensure personnel and equipment capabilities can be generated for current operations and transition to meet future challenges, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and other operations,” explained a Defence spokesperson.
In conjunction with the plan, four major programs in the DCP will deliver enhanced capability and all of these will embrace the NCW concept. Project Land 121 is a multi-phase project to deliver field vehicles, modules and trailers with a networked capability; Land 400 (Land Combat Vehicle System) will acquire an integrated suite of vehicles for mounted close combat operations; Joint Project 2048 is delivering the complex and network enabled amphibious capability in the form of the two LHDs, but perhaps the most significant project in terms of digitisation of Army is ‘Land 200’ – made up of projects Land 75 and Land 125, which together form the Army’s Battlefield Management System (BMS) for the future.
With Army now fully engaged in digitising battle management systems and communications, the use of (and access to) almost every system now being acquired through the DCP relies upon digitisation and this is also true for future joint and coalition interoperability. In some regards it is like stepping on a moving conveyor belt in order to keep pace with everyone else. To get off will run the risk of no longer being fully interoperable with partners and allies.
The concepts of Effects-Based Operations and NCW developed over a decade ago now and laid out in the first roadmap have been useful in the development of a digitised approach to modern warfare within the ADF.
The evolution of this approach has been informed by experience in Iraq and Afghanistan (and to a lesser degree to operations in Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands and domestic exercises).
“This evolution has also been based upon concept development and experimentation within Army, the wider ADF and with our coalition partners,” explained a Defence spokesperson. “And also by organisational change at two levels – Army institutional Command and Control (Adaptive Army) and Brigade and below (Beersheba) – which have unleashed and continue to inform new ways of thinking and operating for a land force within networked joint and coalition constructs, along with international developments.”
Because modern armed forces around the world are embracing digitisation, an Army which has no access to such systems is risking fighting at a significant disadvantage and it is therefore no surprise that a digitised Australian Army is one of Chief of Army LTGEN Morrison’s highest capability priorities.
Of all the projects currently laid out in the DCP, Land 200 is the capability which is pivotal to Army’s modernisation goals and it is essential if Army is to work in an interoperable manner with its joint and coalition counterparts.
However it will also work closely with the ADFs Battlespace Communications System (Land) Project JP2072, often referred to as the ‘digital radio backbone’ for the Battlefield Command Support Section (BCSS) and the BMS being acquired under one of the Land 200 group of projects. Another important and linked project is the Tactical Information Exchange Domain (TIED) project, JP2089, which will link the Tactical Data Links of select legacy and all future platforms, ensuring that tactical information created is processed and shared in a timely manner.
Under the Land 200 umbrella, elements of Projects Land 75 (Battlefield Command Systems), Land 125 (Soldier Enhancement) and JP2072 are brought together with elements of JP2089 to enable a BMS capability. The strength of the BMS project is that it synchronises delivery of Army’s requirements with that of Air Force and Navy and recognises the interdependent nature of the individual projects. As such it is delivering a capability rather than simply acquiring equipment.
“The Land 200 program will allow Australian Land Forces to evolve from their current analogue state to a fully digitised force. It is comprised of multiple projects and phases and will deliver mounted and dismounted BMSs and digital radios across Defence. Progressing in three tranches across a decade (2011 – 2021/22), the overall project will deliver over 25,000 digital radios supporting almost 9,000 dismounted and mounted Battle Management Systems,” detailed a Defence spokesperson
“The program will result in a digitised land force capable of combined, joint, coalition and inter-agency operations, with three network enabled Multirole Combat Brigades, inclusive of combat enablers, training and simulation centres and Air Force and Navy requirements.”
The BGC3 system is being supplied by Elbit Systems, who were announced as the winners in 2010.
The Soldier Enhancement Project (Land 125 Phase 3A) is providing a dismounted BMS (Dismounted Battle Group and Below Command Control Communication System, or BGC3). Other phases of the project are addressing other aspects of personal equipment, including survivability, lethality and soldier system integration.
“This capability is designed to be carried upon the Dismounted Commander, with their supporting team at the higher operational levels. The capability will provide unparalleled situational awareness, common battle picture, improved data and voice communications and improved planning in the operational, combat and individual domains through the delivery of enhanced information superiority,” Defence said. “Information superiority will support faster decision cycles, reduced risk of fratricide and enhanced operational tempo from contact to completion.”
Land 75 is delivering a networked capability to mounted troops, including Army’s combat and command vehicles, such as the Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles, upgraded M113AS4 Armoured Personnel Carriers and the new Mercedes G Wagons, being delivered under Land 121 Phase 3A.
The current Land 75 Phase 3.4 (BMS), is being delivered in conjunction with elements of JP2072 (see P24 for more) and Land 125/3. Elbit Systems is once again the supplier which is in the process of delivery to Army’s Brisbane-based 7th Brigade and Special Forces elements as well as the RAAF’s Air Defence Guards.
Delivery of the BMS began under what is referred to as Tranche 1 in May 2011 and two of Army’s three Combat Brigades have had the opportunity to test it out under demanding tactical scenarios during recent exercises, from company level up to brigade.
“Army has tested and employed the system well beyond the scope, tempo and level originally envisaged when Tranche 1 was first approved. This experience has validated the significant increase in war fighting capability afforded by digitally enabled command and control functionality,” a Defence spokesperson said.
Combined pass to receive 800 ‘more of the same’ BMS (Land 75 Phase 4) and Harris and Raytheon digital radios (JP2072) has recently been received under one of four work packages that make up Tranche 2. Defence says that these will be ‘almost exactly the same’ as those delivered under Tranche 1 following more than two years of successful use.
The other three work packages in Tranche 2 (referred to as Work Packages B through to D) have also received First Pass Approval recently.
“These packages are intended to conduct a series of investigative activities to identify the remaining and holistic Battle Management System and digital radio options from the individual soldier to Divisional Joint Inter-Agency Headquarters,” the spokesperson said. “This will also allow greater synchronisation with a number of other critical Land Networking projects planned for delivery between 2016 and 2019.”
Army experience with BMS Tranche 1 has been positive and has exceeded expectations. It is understood that it has also been informed by the analysis of earlier modified vehicles, which have received battle damage in Afghanistan.
“Whilst lessons and procedures continue to be learnt and adjusted, the capability is orders of magnitude better than the existing analogue system and highlights to Army the significant capability and cultural leap forward being undertaken,” the spokesperson noted. “User confidence is high and industry partners are also making a concerted effort to work collaboratively with Army to better understand radio and Battle Management System relationships and implement software, firmware and hardware modifications to meet the digitised Land Force requirements.”
“Army’s 7th Brigade is now partially equipped with the Land 200 systems and the program is scheduled to finish delivery in 2021/22,” concluded the spokesperson. “These first steps are very positive, but the journey of digitisation for the Australian Army will continue as the potential of these technologies is more fully understood and realised as part of the Land manoeuvre concept.”