Skip to comments.War Preparations Reveal Problems
Posted on 12/09/2002 7:58:11 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
Inter-agency conflict over the Pentagon's plans to penetrate, spoof and manipulate Iraq's computer networks are being resolved slowly, and they may not be smoothed out in time to fully exploit the military's non-lethal capability.
Senior U.S. Air Force officials have complained for years that their forces can be used to kill people at crucial air defense, communications or command facilities with bombs, but they aren't allowed to "attack with ones and zeros," lamented a senior commander.
The Pentagon is seeking approval for long-standing plans to carve out a major role for computer network attack (CNA) and information operations (IO) in any conflict with Iraq. But a problem that has surfaced in every conflict since the 1990-91 Persian Gulf war is how to get civilian approval for such operations. The impasse between war planners and civilian policy enforcers is repeating itself as senior combatant commanders struggle to win approval of their plans for "getting at the computer infrastructure, inserting disinformation and attacking a lot of their networks," the Air Force official said. A key target will be tightly integrated air defense systems that rely on networking to survive attack. However, any request from the military to employ computer network attack has to be approved by an inter-agency policy group that includes the State and Commerce departments, and many other agencies.
"That is becoming very frustrating," the Air Force official said. "Trying to normalize computer network attack with policy is difficult. The civilians are afraid to say yes to anything." In a recent conference call with a combatant commander, "it took 40 min. just to get through the roll call of participants in the approval chain," he said.
Meanwhile, Iraq has accepted the renewed work of United Nations inspection teams in searching for the manufacturing and storage of weapons of mass destruction and the vehicles to deliver such weapons.
However, inspections will take time to complete and analyze. As a result, Pentagon planners have pushed back the date for large mobilization of reserves in anticipation of a conflict with Iraq to mid-January. The call-up of 87,000 reservists--many of them fighter, tanker and transport aircrews and support staff--is being delayed to keep costs down and lessen the impact of pulling reservists away from their civilian jobs.
Many of the reservists will replace active duty personnel who will move into Europe and the Middle East. Some plans are already in place. B-52 aircraft and crews will set up operations at RAF Fairford, England, to shorten the flight to Baghdad by an hour or two over flying out of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. However, B-2 operations will move to Diego Garcia to take advantage of the new environmentally controlled hangars installed there to cure repairs to the low-observable bombers' stealthy skin coatings.
In addition, B-1s and crews will return to Oman, but plans are in place, during combat operations, to keep two aircraft forward deployed to Kuwait and two in the air over western Iraq to maintain a fast response, precision-bombing capability if ballistic missile or air defense missile launchers begin operating there to threaten Israel and Jordan. The bombers will be networked with long-endurance intelligence-gathering and surveillance aircraft like Predator, Rivet Joint, Joint-STARS and AWACS to locate mobile and moving targets, track them and strike when appropriate.
Britain, the European nation that has so far proved Washington's closest ally in terms of any escalation of operations against Iraq, has also begun to examine the mobilization of reserves. British Secretary of State for Defense Geoffrey Hoon told Parliament late last month: "As the House is well aware, however, any substantial military operation would require a contribution from the reserves. As part of our contingency planning, therefore, we are clarifying the requirement for such a contribution in support of any military operations in Iraq."
The U.K. also announced at the end of November the deployment of a naval task group, built around the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. Under the banner of exercise Flying Fish, the task group will take part in exercises in the Asia-Pacific region beginning in June 2003. However, it will depart this month and will route via the Gulf. Defense Ministry officials declined to discuss the exact nature of the fixed- and rotary-wing platforms embarked. However, they indicated Royal Air Force Harrier GR7 ground attack aircraft could be deployed on board if required.
A 1-billion-pound ($1.56-billion) contingency fund was set aside in late November by the British government to cover the cost of any unanticipated military operations. This could also be used to fund emerging urgent operational requirements (UOR) in areas such as precision strike. The Defense Ministry may look at bolstering its precision-guided weapons inventory by purchasing additional Enhanced Paveway GPS/laser-guided bombs, possibly along with a limited stock of Joint Direct Attack Munitions under the aegis of a UOR.
IN ADDITION to RAF strike weaponry, the Defense Ministry could also look to further supplement--in the near term--its submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missile inventory. After they were used in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, a follow-on order to the initial 65 was placed. While the U.K. will eventually almost certainly buy the Tactical Tomahawk, a further interim purchase of Block III missiles could prove attractive.
Going more smoothly now is the approval process for U.S. and allied aircraft to use bases, airspace and facilities in the Middle East. Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman have agreed, and Saudi Arabian officials have promised, that when the time comes, they will support the U.S., say U.S. Air Force officials.
Meanwhile, both the U.S. and Israel have been fine-tuning their ballistic missile detection capabilities. Two Scud missiles were launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., in recent weeks, and more launches are expected soon. Strict security rules were in force because the closely scrutinized launches were attended by 50 Israeli government, military and industry officials, some of whom helped prepare the tests, according to the Lompoc (Calif.) Record.
U.S. AEROSPACE industry officials said the Scud tests are not unusual, except for the Israeli presence, and have been conducted for years using surrogates and actual missiles. The latter have been procured from former Soviet-Bloc or Soviet-client nations in Eastern Europe and the Middle East along with fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft weapons, armored vehicles and other military equipment.
The tests give U.S. military and industry researchers a chance to calibrate their equipment and hone their skills. They are developing networking schemes so they can pinpoint ballistic missile launch sites for attack before mobile launchers can move out of lethal range. The network can also pass predicted missile impact points to air defense systems in nearby friendly nations.
A recent operational addition to this capability is the Theater Airborne Warning System (TAWS) that combines information from Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites and medium wave infrared arrays (MIRA) carried by RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft. Fusing MIRA and DSP data can cut the satellite's ellipse error by 1Ž20 and plot target locations to within less than a mile. Researchers say those are very conservative numbers. Moreover, airborne infrared observations are made much more often than the DSP satellite, thereby allowing a more accurate determination of the point at which the missile's engine cuts off, a key data point for predicting the impact point. TAWS was initially demonstrated in 1997 against Scud surrogates launched from the Kwajalein Island missile facility ( AW&ST Aug. 4, 1997, p. 54). However, lack of funding had held up installation of the capability on additional aircraft until just recently.
TAWS is in the process of being installed on the two most recently upgraded RC-135V/W Rivet Joint aircraft that in the past have been dedicated solely to signals intelligence gathering. They should be operational within weeks. With at least three aircraft (one Cobra Ball and two Rivet Joints) capable of providing wide area infrared surveillance and precision targeting, the U.S. could provide around-the-clock coverage of western Iraq. The area is the site of at least two "Scud boxes" from where the Russian-built, Iraqi-modified missiles could be fired into Israel and Jordan.
Quick location of a missile-firing vehicle would allow warfighters at least two options: destroy the transporter as soon as possible, or follow it back to its reloading site and perhaps find an entire missile supply facility to attack. The TAWS scheme uses satellite communications links to tie into ground stations, other manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, attack aircraft and even special operations ground forces for real-time response to mobile targets.