Skip to comments.CEC Provides Theater Air Dominance
Posted on 05/03/2002 9:04:26 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
The cooperative engagement capability nets together sensors and fire control systems to counter both aircraft and increasingly capable missiles todayand offers the potential for a joint tracking network to enable a single integrated air picture in the future.
Operating in the littoral, often amid merchant and civilian shipping, with sensors masked by landmasses and urban environs, will pose an enormously complex warfighting challenge. The proximity of land, with its opportunities for cover and deception, will afford an adversary the advantage of surprise and short ranges and times of flight. Battle space and engagement timelines will be reduced, response times diminished. Such an environment will require integration of sensors and combat systems in a common tactical picture.
Since the early 1990s, the U.S. Navy has been transforming itself to address the specific demands of the littoral environment. By the end of this decade, the surface Navy will harness the tools and technologies of the information age to provide all-source data to the war fighter, regardless of service or location.
One such technology is the cooperative engagement capability (CEC). Under engineering and manufacturing development since 1995, CEC is the foundation for emerging and innovative warfighting concepts that will characterize tomorrow's fleet. It will be key to transforming the fleet to a network-centric warfare construct, a powerful force enabler for the Navy and Marine Corps, and potentially for all U.S. military forces and those of our allies.
The Need to Transform
The threats the Navy faces in the littoral regions are far different from those that drove force structure planning before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Missiles fired from ships, submarines, aircraft, and shore emplacements, as well as mines and torpedoes, will pose significant challenges to the access we seek to gain and maintain. Thus, although the range of possible threats to U.S. forces is broad, a vital element in the Navy's transformation must be in defensive counterair from aircraft, antiship missile, and theater ballistic missile attack. This is a difficult undertaking, even with today's highly capable forces. The confused tactical picture in the littoral exacerbates problems inherent in any form of naval air and missile defense, including time-late or spotty target detection and tracking, confusion over a track's intentions or identity, and limits on the performance of sensors on individual ships and aircraft.
The Navy has attempted to maintain situational awareness and continuity of tracks through improved training, tactics, and equipment. This has been somewhat effective, but as the Navy turns to the power of networked forces, its approach to the challenge is changing.
Using networks to enhance naval power is not new. During the past half-century, the Navy increasingly has used such networks as the Naval Tactical Data System and Link 11 to increase the combat power of its ships and aircraft. However, these links are limited in scope and accuracy.
Following the 1991 Gulf War, the Navy and Marine Corps began to engineer a sweeping transition from a platform-centered to a network-centered force. The primary tenet of network-centric warfare is the use of mutually shared information and a common operational picture to enable the coherent employment of naval forces as a single, distributed entity; one that derives its power from the networking of geographically dispersed elements, sensors, decision makers, and shooters. Essentially, this transformation seeks to harness the explosion of information technology to give commanders at all levels timely access to more relevant information, to improve their overall situational awareness, and to facilitate their ability to plan, coordinate, and execute effects-based combat operations.
The New Technology
CEC is neither a new weapon nor a sensor system. Rather, it is a sensor network with integrated fire control that provides a means by which data from existing sensor and fire control systems can be combined and distributed to each element of a networked force. That simple description belies a highly complex undertaking.
There are many factors besides the horizon that can affect radar detection. These include the radar cross-section of the target itself, radar clutter, atmospherics (particularly those typical of the Arabian Gulf area), closely spaced targets, jamming, and terrain blockage. In both scripted and unscripted test scenarios, individual radars frequently have difficulty maintaining continuous, accurate tracks. CEC nets sensors together so that brief periods of detection on a target can be aggregated throughout the network to produce a single continuous track. Because the resulting composite tracks are available throughout the network, many units get track data they never would have received otherwise and all combatants can participate in a coordinated identification and engagement process. CEC does require, to start the process, that some level of track be formed by at least one unit. Even in the most difficult testing situations to date, however, CEC consistently has been shown to provide continuous, accurate tracking where a single sensor could not.
CEC has been developed to integrate forcewide sensors and combat systems to counter both aircraft and increasingly capable and stealthy missiles that are, or soon will be, in the arsenals of numerous regional militaries. A distributed system that exchanges sensor measurements in a self-configuring, distributed, computer-processing network, it interfaces existing surveillance sensors, weapon and command/decision computers, navigation inputs, fire control sensors, and identification friend or foe processors with a cooperative engagement processor that executes data fusion computations and engagement support. The CEC architecture supports a virtual forcewide distributed combat system that improves theater air and missile defense, adds mutual support to ship self-defense, and will leverage, accommodate, and enhance future sensor and combat system developments.
This is a critical aspect. With CEC, we are looking not just at solving today's problems but also at providing the foundation for even more far-reaching developments in the decades ahead. Future challenges to U.S. and allied naval forces will only increase in complexity and lethality. CEC's architecture will provide the required capability to establish and maintain air dominance throughout the battle space.
Unlike existing data links or command-and-control systems, CEC exchanges sensor measurement data among all cooperating systems, instead of passing processed track data. It is not a traditional tactical data link by which each unit develops a track from onboard sensors and then correlates that local track with received remote trackswhich often results in dual tracks, track swaps, or miscorrelation. CEC units, by sharing sensor measurement data, form single, composite tracks developed from common data through identical processing algorithms.
In addition, CEC provides for cooperative engagement of targetslaunching one ship's weapons (perhaps without its own local track) on another ship's data. More than 40 successful Standard missile engagements have been conducted to date using CEC data where local data alone could not have supported the intercept. While it is possible to engage targets using data networked in other ways, the current Aegis engagement process is measurement driven, and CEC is the only deployed measurement-driven networking system. This revolutionary capability is critical given the compressed fire control timeline and cluttered battle space that the Navy now confronts when operating in the world's littorals.
Given the operational need for accuracy and data consistency among all participants in the sensor network, high data throughput is required to achieve low data latency and to minimize probability of error. This provides the war fighter an increase in battle space, in terms of distance and time (which equates to engagement opportunities), by minimizing need for additional data requests or processing throughout the detect-to-engage sequence.
Before CEC, a ship had to wait for an attacker to cross its radar horizon before it could detect, track, and engage, delaying an intercept until the attacker was well within its own sensor range. With CEC, a ship now can engage an attacker before it reaches the ship's radar horizon and can provide midcourse guidance to an intercept at the radar horizon of its own fire control radar. Using remote detection data, pushed between cooperating units such as other ships or aircraft, intercepts can be extended to the outer reaches of the firing platform's illumination horizon, and we will be able to exploit the outer limits of our weapons' engagement envelopes more fully. Future developments will provide a remote illumination capability, pushing engagement beyond the launching platform's radar horizon. In short, we will have transformed legacy systems in ways their designers could not have begun to imagine.
The sensor netting and cooperative engagement capabilities of CEC provide significant increases in depth of fire and improve probability of kill to installed weapon systems. Because combat systems can begin to form tracks earlier, increased reaction time becomes available to commanders, maximizing system and forcewide performance. These advantages become critical when tracking and engaging increasingly stressing targets operating at extremely high speeds and low altitudes in complex environmentsexactly what naval forces operating in an adversary's littoral waters will face.
The Way Ahead
As powerful as CEC is for today's forces, it offers the potential for something even more revolutionary in the futurethe Joint Composite Tracking Network (JCTN), which will enable the creation of a single integrated air picture.
CEC was designed to be a joint capable system, and the Marine Corps is working closely with the Navy in development and acquisition. Additional sensors only increase the capability of the network, and the Navy will continue to investigate the integration of assets from the other services. For example, the opportunity exists to include Patriot, theater high-altitude area defense, and airborne warning and control system sensors in a CEC network.
The JCTN, potentially based on CEC, would provide joint and possibly allied and coalition forces with a common, consistent, unambiguous picture of the entire theater, radically improving situational awareness for air and missile defense missions. Although the path from today's CEC to such a configuration is not yet well defined, considerable work is under way within the technical community to expand our sensor netting capabilities. We must exploit this opportunity to increase the number of cooperating units in a network while achieving efficiencies in bandwidth and system cost and enhancing operational flexibility. With additional resources, CEC track state data potentially can be made available for exploitation by users of the evolving Global Information Grid. The Navy's experience with CEC will play a major role in the unfolding of these transformational concepts.
The full development and deployment of the cooperative engagement capability is a key step in building a common tactical picture and gathering the precise, real-time information naval and joint forces need to counter the air and missile threat. This will be a major contributor to the Navy's ability to ensure access to heavily defended littoral regions, a dramatic sea change in capabilities from just a decade ago. In short, CEC is
- Operationally effective
- Operationally suitable
- Ready for delivery to the war fighter now
Admiral Balisle is Director, Surface Warfare Division (N76). Captain Bush is Deputy, Program Executive Office, Theater Surface Combatants.