8

Extending the Littoral Battlespace (ELB) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration

The Extending the Littoral Battlespace (ELB) advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) is a large-scale experiment with twin goals: (1) to demonstrate how the Marines will perform Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS)-type maneuvers when network-centric technology is available and mature, and (2) to integrate and refine existing technologies so as to provide support for such maneuvers. The ELB experiments involve ships at sea linked tightly in an information grid with Marines operating both dismounted and in vehicles at ranges of up to 200 nautical miles inland. Airborne relays are employed as needed to provide network communications over these large distances.

The committee understands that the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command has the following operational objectives for ELB:

  1. Provide a battlespace communications network that is easily managed, scalable, and secure;

  2. Provide a distributed command and control system with enhanced situational awareness and parallel planning;

  3. Improve distribution of sensor and intelligence information;

  4. Improve fire and targeting;

  5. Provide security by encryption, network security, and intruder detection;

  6. Demonstrate joint interoperability; and

  7. Demonstrate force protection.

The first ELB ACTD employed VRC-99A radios for the wide-area (“long-haul” or “backbone”) portion of the communications network, together with commercial WaveLan wireless local area network (LAN) technology for access networks. The VRC-99A radios were stationed on ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles and outfitted with antennas and power amplifiers that were sufficient to close the radio-frequency (RF) links at the expected ranges. These radios included ad hoc networking software and were expected to organize themselves into a backbone network that would carry traffic between the ships, aircraft, and ground positions. The radios were attached to WaveLan base stations so as to



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2000 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Marine Corps Science and Technology Program 8 Extending the Littoral Battlespace (ELB) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration The Extending the Littoral Battlespace (ELB) advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) is a large-scale experiment with twin goals: (1) to demonstrate how the Marines will perform Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS)-type maneuvers when network-centric technology is available and mature, and (2) to integrate and refine existing technologies so as to provide support for such maneuvers. The ELB experiments involve ships at sea linked tightly in an information grid with Marines operating both dismounted and in vehicles at ranges of up to 200 nautical miles inland. Airborne relays are employed as needed to provide network communications over these large distances. The committee understands that the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command has the following operational objectives for ELB: Provide a battlespace communications network that is easily managed, scalable, and secure; Provide a distributed command and control system with enhanced situational awareness and parallel planning; Improve distribution of sensor and intelligence information; Improve fire and targeting; Provide security by encryption, network security, and intruder detection; Demonstrate joint interoperability; and Demonstrate force protection. The first ELB ACTD employed VRC-99A radios for the wide-area (“long-haul” or “backbone”) portion of the communications network, together with commercial WaveLan wireless local area network (LAN) technology for access networks. The VRC-99A radios were stationed on ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles and outfitted with antennas and power amplifiers that were sufficient to close the radio-frequency (RF) links at the expected ranges. These radios included ad hoc networking software and were expected to organize themselves into a backbone network that would carry traffic between the ships, aircraft, and ground positions. The radios were attached to WaveLan base stations so as to

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2000 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Marine Corps Science and Technology Program provide a standards-compliant (IEEE 802.11) wireless LAN access network that linked the command and control (C2) computers, hand-held computers, and so forth, into this all-encompassing network. A number of technical issues were uncovered during the first ELB ACTD, but the operational results appeared promising despite the technical problems. Thus, a second ELB ACTD has been scheduled that will fix some of the obvious technical problems with the communications network and allow further operational experiments. This new experiment will also introduce newer C2 systems such as the integrated Marine multiagent command and control system, laptop servers down to the company level, multiple battlespace views, and interfaces to other (joint) systems such as Army tactical operations centers and the naval fires network. The schedule features a number of shake-down experiments and tests that include FST-1 in June 2000 (focusing on communications and networking), FST-2 in conjunction with Millennium Dragon in September 2000, FST-3 in February 2001 (focusing on rehearsal), and the actual experiment, conducted in conjunction with Kernel Blitz (X) in June 2001. FINDINGS The committee believes that the ELB ACTD provides a striking mixture of good news and bad news. The good news is mainly operational—ELB has provided the first glimpse of how an OMFTS information infrastructure might work in practice. The bad news is entirely technical—the ELB network is an early prototype that is many years, and many tens of millions of dollars, away from a real production version of a tactical data network. First, the good news: The RF links worked. The ACTD established link ranges in excess of 100 nautical miles with a 10-W power amplifier, had no trouble with Doppler shifts in air-to-air linking, and could deliver reasonable data rates (from 625 Kbps at 110 nautical miles up to 10 Mbps at 30 nautical miles). The multihop network showed promise. Network connections were established between El Centro, California, and ships at sea, and realistic applications were able to work across this network. The basic division of the network into a backbone and a set of access networks worked well. The experiment was the Marines’ first real glimpse of how an OMFTS information infrastructure will work in a network-centric future. As such, it gave very valuable insights into the basic operational concept and demonstrated that, to a very large extent, the concept worked. And now the bad news: The network suffered from a number of serious technical defects. It was often unstable and will likely have serious issues with scalability to larger numbers of network nodes (radios). The observed decrease in effective bandwidth as a function of range is a consequence of the decreasing signal-to-noise ratio as a function of range. Simply put, unless something can be done to maintain the effective system bandwidth, the system will only be able to support 6.25 percent as many users at a range of 110 nautical miles as can be supported at a range of 30 nautical miles. Applications and protocols designed for a highly stable campus LAN (e.g., an Ethernet) may tend to “commit suicide” in a tactical RF network. Congestion and changes in connectivity are much more severe than those encountered in most commercial environments, and a typical application program behaves very poorly under such circumstances.

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2000 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Marine Corps Science and Technology Program The straightforward application of commercial routing protocols to the highly unstable environment of a tactical RF network simply did not work—which was quite predictable given technical insight and the Army’s prior experience in Task Force XXI. Under even a modest amount of user movement, the routing control traffic swamped the available network bandwidth; as a result, user traffic could not get to its intended destinations. There were both technical and operational challenges in trying to achieve an operationally useful apportionment of the available bandwidth between different classes of users. The network provided only a very limited form of quality-of-service control, and the higher-ranking users tended to seize all available capacity, e.g., for videoconferences. The system was highly vulnerable both to classic threats such as RF intercept and jamming as well as to new “network threats” such as enemy capture of a functioning network node. The highly dynamic tactical environment, in which participants enter and leave the network on a continual basis, also places unusual stresses on networking technology. In technical terms, users must be authenticated, their names and current locations must be recorded so that they can obtain services at their current attachment points, and so forth. Few of these problems are unique to tactical networks, but the overall rate of change in such networks generally exceeds that in the commercial arena and hence makes direct application of commercial techniques problematic. The committee believes that the technical problems in ELB are deep-seated and fundamental. They will not be removed, or even significantly ameliorated, by a modest amount of tinkering. There is no quick fix here. Despite all wishes, tactical ad hoc networking is by no means a mature technology. In the committee’s opinion, a very small, not-too-reliable ad hoc network of a dozen or so nodes is relatively easily achieved; that was what was demonstrated in ELB. However, it will take a great deal of time and money to build a production-quality network, i.e., one with adequate performance, scalability, and security. Since network security is a critically important issue, and one that is usually poorly understood outside the technical community, the committee underlines its importance. Network security has little or nothing to do with RF link security (i.e., transmission security and communications security), though RF security will continue to remain at least as important as it ever has been. Network security involves protecting the Marines’ tactical systems against network outages, corrupted databases, falsified calls for fire, and situational awareness that has been falsified by actions of an adversary. All these problems are classic information attacks—and they are highly likely if an enemy captures an ELB computer and attacks from “within.” The committee has seen nothing discussed concerning the ELB network that protects against such information attacks. To repeat, this is a critically important area and must be addressed before any such network transitions to operational use. RECOMMENDATIONS Focus on Experimentation The committee recommends that the ONR and the Marine Corps focus their efforts on the operational experimentation in ELB rather than on technical development. The goal should be to understand how operations may work once a production tactical data network is successfully deployed, rather than to try to deploy such a network.

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2000 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Marine Corps Science and Technology Program Minimize Development Investments The committee recommends that the radios and networks should be improved only to the minimum extent necessary for operational experimentation. It believes that money spent on improving the network or its communication links is unlikely to result in significant benefits because the network problems are deep-seated. Learn How to Accommodate Outages The ONR and the Marines should understand that network outages and glitches will be likely during the experiments no matter what and should design the operational plans and technical tests accordingly. The committee recommends that developing and testing procedures to deal with outrages be made an integral part of the ACTD. Perform a Security Analysis The committee recommends that ONR perform a security analysis of the ELB network and its communications links in order to determine and document its vulnerabilities. This analysis should be used as a basis for the design of the “production” tactical data network, e.g., in the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) RF networking integrated product team (IPT). Quantify Capacity Requirements The committee recommends that the ONR use the ELB experiments together with modeling and simulation to quantify the amount and types of data that the Marines send across the network, together with the patterns of distributions of these data among different classes of users. This will provide useful (though very preliminary) information to the Marines and the JTRS RF networking IPT. The ONR should attempt to quantify the ELB network’s capacity in a realistic set of scenarios and ensure that such information is made available in a clear, easy-to-understand form to Marine Corps planners. The committee believes that it is unlikely that the operational users have any notion of how the network capacity varies with the distance between nodes (which can drastically affect link speeds), the amount of “churn” as users transition between wireless LANs, the number of active nodes in the network, and so on. A set of simple, quantitative guidelines may serve to avoid future problems caused by unrealistic user expectations. Collaborate Consistent with the recommendations of Chapter 6 , the committee recommends that the ONR should work collaboratively with other agencies (e.g., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Army Communications Electronics Command) to help develop mature ad hoc networking technology. In particular, Code 353 can readily and profitably begin work on ensuring that the Marines’ special problems are addressed by ad hoc networking protocols. These problems include the networking of deep-forward observers, of advanced amphibious assault vehicles en route from ship to shore, and so forth, as discussed in Chapter 6 .

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2000 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Marine Corps Science and Technology Program TABLE 8.1 Summary of Recommendations for ELB Project Recommendation NA Focus on experimentation. Minimize development investment. Learn how to accommodate outages. Perform a security analysis. Quantify capacity requirements. Collaborate. Summary of Recommendations for ELB A summary of recommendations for ELB is given in Table 8.1 . CONCLUDING REMARKS ELB is an important set of activities that has been allowing the Marine Corps a first chance to experiment with information infrastructures for its new operational concepts. As such, it is invaluable. The knowledge gained from these “test drives” will be extremely important as these new concepts are refined. There are two dangers inherent in all such experiments, however—first, that the “test rigs” themselves will be mistaken for fully operational systems, and second, that little by little more funds will be committed to improving the test rigs rather than to learning about what is required for an actual operational network. The ELB network and its components are the test rigs. The committee strongly urges ONR Code 353 to remain focused on the main task at hand—to gain insights and to start to gather quantitative data. ELB is a perfect opportunity to study and learn as much as possible in preparation for design of the real systems to follow.