Technical report | New Paths from Sensor to Shooter: How Digitization can Change the Formability and Topology of Information Flows in Systems that Acquire and Prosecute Targets
The question of how emerging technologies create a radical improvement in capabilities for distributed fires is integral to Defence. Data (from sensors) can be exploited into actions (for shooters) over different paths, and sensors connected to shooters just-in-time vs just-in-case. The analysis combines cognitive ergonomics with network theory via the US Department of Defence Architecture Framework for systems engineering. The work is supported by case studies in indirect fires, close air support, naval surface fires and suppression of enemy air defences. This report will be of interest to operations and systems analysts who are studying the impact of emerging technologies on sensor-to-shooter operations.
The Australian Defence Force anticipates a capability advantage from so-called digitization, namely the conveyance of information at substantially faster rates than before. But networks and communications are hardly new to military operations, so why should faster communications lead to ‘step changes’ in capability? This report explores two answers:
- Data (from sensors) can be exploited into actions (for shooters) over different paths. Even if communications are slow, it is possible to tell someone to do something at tactically useful tempos. But to provide them with ‘dots on maps’ requires faster communications; imagery and video require even faster communications. As sufficiently-fast communications become available, new and potentially-superior exploitation paths become possible.
- Sensors are more easily connected to shooters just-in-time rather than just-in-case. ‘Just-in-time’ processes can allow assets to be used more efficiently, as opposed to sitting on standby (but idle) ‘just-in-case’ they are needed. While the 24 hour deliberate targeting cycle is a ‘just-in-time’ process, it only works against slow-moving targets. Current processes for dynamic targets are ‘just-in-case’, but faster communications could allow new processes that are ‘just-in-time’.
This report provides methods for understanding the network topology that underpins a sensor-to-shooter system, understanding the wider structures that assemble a given sensor-to-shooter system, and asking questions about what the topology and structures could be or should be. The methods can be applied by a systems analyst who is familiar with the US Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF v2). The work synthesizes the current best practices in cognitive ergonomics, network theory and systems engineering. Case studies are provided from indirect fires, close air support, naval surface fires and suppression of enemy air defence.
This report will be of interest to operations and systems analysts who want to understand the potential impact of emerging technologies on sensor-to-shooter operations. It provides an insight into the total set of sensor-to-shooter systems that are possible, rather than just the ones that have been used in recent operations or are promoted by particular vendors.