The black holes of network-centric warfare
Material posted: Publication date: 11-10-2010

One of the American generals once said to reporters: "computers and the like "network-centric" things are good at the exercises and in the war with a weak opponent. They provide commanders with beautiful images and lots of information. But when in the trenches heard the command "fix bayonets!" – there comes a time to turn off the monitors and take up rifles". April 2, 2003 in the battle for the mastery bridge over the Euphrates river in Iraq, these words were confirmed in practice. Only a miracle saved the American battalion group from total destruction.


When in the spring of 2003, American armored fists with the support of troops of its allies in "anti-terrorist coalition" like a knife through butter cut defense quickly scattered the Iraqi army, the main obstacle to the allied columns to the desired purpose – Baghdad – the Euphrates river. The only way to the other side ran across the great bridge, which American commanders have assigned code designation "Object Peach". In English the Peach means "peach", or in slang – "beauty"; but what it meant then "Yankee" – is not entirely clear. But soon, however, "peach" has become a real "cactus", which nearly cost Washington a lot of human lives and tens of armored vehicles. Within 24 hours the battalion 3-69 task group (Task Force 3-69) from the group of the US army held the approaches to the bridge and the bridge itself, constantly repelling counterattacks by Iraqi brigades, which were attended, according to the Americans, up to 8,000 soldiers and officers and up to 70 tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.

This fight was recognized as a grouping command of the allied forces in Iraq as "the greatest offensive-defensive battle" during the Iraq campaign. However, "network-centric" strategy has not brought in this case no benefit. Decided well trained soldiers and officers, as well as a large enough supply of ammunition and high accuracy. But the fight was hot and was very big and unpleasant surprise for American troops, accustomed to easy victories won by them without the introduction directly into the fire contact with enemy forces.

At first this was true in Iraq: long columns of tanks "Abrams" and BMP "Bradley" 3rd infantry division U.S. army for two weeks, almost without encountering resistance, "rolled" over the good highways of Iraq, is steadily approaching the ultimate goal of the capital naturgema into chaos in the country. Big bridge over the Euphrates, was situated 30 miles (about 55 km) South-West of Baghdad. The command was tasked to capture the bridge and hold it until the main forces of the allies, not giving the enemy the opportunity to destroy him.

Joined intelligence – its officers, literally the length and breadth studied the photographs taken via satellite of a scout, gave his summary of the bridge is unguarded, the enemy troops there.

However, Lieutenant Colonel Rock Marcone, commander of the then task force 3-69, was not so sure. He decided to conduct his own investigation.

"From our intelligence picture of the operational situation was simply awful, – later recalled by Rock Marcone, who became a teacher at the national centre of the U.S. army in Fort Irwin. – I firmly know that near the bridge there are Iraqi soldiers, but I didn't know how many there are and what fortifications they built. So we started classic rapprochement with the enemy and were soon to enter direct fire contact".

In fact, the streets nearby cities, palm thickets and irrigation canals around the bridge were all literally "stuffed" by Iraqi forces. They were hiding in an extensive network of trenches, bunkers and shelters. And from American intelligence satellites ultramodern they were hiding, using just a normal, ordinary means of concealment (camouflage, etc.), as well as just "counted" the flight modes of the satellite (satellites) and in moments his "appearance over the horizon" was hiding.



The main conclusion which was made in the Pentagon, was briefly as follows: operations group battalion moved to the bridge so fast that it has overtaken intelligence!

It should be noted that in Iraq, us troops were equipped with the most advanced reconnaissance systems and electronic control. For example, units and formations of the ground forces had adopted the system of command and control "blue Force Tracker", with which unit commanders can obtain constantly updated information about the location of troops on both sides. Their units are marked on the computer screen blue icons. The position of the enemy and his forces – the icon is red, which need "to be moved" manually to the intelligence officers of the staffs of brigades and divisions. They, in turn, received in Iraq information about the location of enemy troops, using reconnaissance satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and other means of aviation intelligence. That, as it turned out, was concealed the main reason for many failures of the U.S. military during the invasion of that country.

The fact is that while blue icons "own" all the commanders on military computers moved monotonously and showed the same operational picture, here red icons "strangers" were in different places – in the end there was a mess. Many commanders either did not knew or did not know, or in the heat of battle he forgot: apparently, they assumed that once they see the blue icons are the same, and red "wrong" all of the staff computers are on the same places.

While the headquarters of the coalition forces stationed in Kuwait, had complete operational picture of the current day, at the forefront of most commanders such had. One of the reasons "divergent icons" were announced software and other disadvantages of the architecture the automated system of command and control.

In the case of the bridge over the Euphrates just this thing happened: at the highest level command, as noted by many experts, had information that in the area of the designated purpose of "Peach" were the enemy troops, but the commanders "on the ground" on the screens of their computers and staff did not see any red icons "strangers" next to the bridge.

The intelligence officer of the 3rd infantry division Lieutenant Colonel Sean MIA subsequently confirmed these conclusions of experts, even stating in an interview to an American newspaper, that the delay of passing information about the enemy from the top down was critical for the efficiency of taking the commanders of units and parts solutions. He, in particular, stressed: "in order to get fresh intelligence, we had to stop his forward movement and plunged in massive databases".

The only way for the commander to obtain the latest and accurate information about the enemy, about those notorious and elusive red icons was to stop the military column, expand "forest" of antennas and to try to establish communication with the terminal system army mobile MSE. The connection process could take several hours. Had to get involved in the fight, as they say, blindly.



And then the group of Lieutenant-Colonel Marcon, the fun began.

When the scouts battalion group carried out a reconnaissance, identifying the shortest route to the bridge, they unexpectedly "ran" to the refuge next door Iraqi infantry battalion. They immediately called to the aid of attack helicopters "Apache", but upon arrival, were met with literally a barrage of missiles anti-aircraft guns, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms. Three helicopters were damaged. Arrived on the scene to the rescue of the main forces of the operational group.

Given the group the company the Abrams has punched a gap in defence of Saddam Hussein's troops, and the Americans seized the bridge, he crossed the river in rubber boats under heavy enemy fire. Engineers immediately took the Iraqis prepared explosive charges, after which the main forces of the American battalion group crossed the bridge and took up positions on the opposite Bank of the Euphrates.

And then began the counterattack the Iraqis. From hidden bunkers and shelters, like locusts, reached the enemy infantry, and from a distance of several meters opened fire not seen earlier and had time to come to the aid of new tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

And only then did the same the first significant report of investigation – data radio communications contain the following information: an intercepted order of the spetsnaz brigade of the Iraqi Republican guard to attack the enemy positions on the approaches to the bridge.

It's later revealed that the battalion group Lieutenant Colonel Marcon Iraqi leadership sent two choicest brigades of the Republican guard. "Upstairs" about it don't know anything...

Former that day in the ranks of the group 3-69 war correspondent Greg Grant wrote later of the incident. Iraqi commandos attacked the Americans from the North and two teams from the South. Heavy battle continued all the night, ammunition was coming to an end, and both killed and wounded were numerous.

By morning, the tension eased, and with the first rays of the sun before the Americans appeared a terrible picture – a great many corpses of Iraqi soldiers and officers, dozens of mangled and burnt tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and trucks of the enemy. Lieutenant Colonel Marcone came to mind only one question: "How can such a mass of troops and equipment could be relocated from one point to another unbeknownst to us intelligence?"

Involuntarily we have to agree with the words of retired U.S. General Robert Scales: "the Idea of "network-centric" war, implying that "fog of war" will be scattered through the work created in the heavens technological giant all-seeing eye strategicheskogo values, in fact the day turned out to be a failure, costing the budget hundreds of billions of wasted dollars." More precisely and more colorful will not say. But for some reason, American generals distinguished by wisdom, only after retirement.



However, one reason that American intelligence has "missed" an Iraqi brigade in this particular case, was the obvious lack of aircraft reconnaissance, with high mobility and operational "flexibility".

The only UAV "Predator" was reserved that day for the air force and could not "work" on the orders of army generals, and the command group of the American land forces had in this area with just one reconnaissance UAV of the type "hunter" (Hunter), which was to cover the area of several hundred square kilometers!

However, many American independent experts tend to think this is the reason for the usual excuse of American military command. Because in those days in the sky of Iraq was quite a large number of other air assets capable of conducting all types of reconnaissance and surveillance. Among them: aircraft system JSTAR and tens of special equipment of aircraft A-10 thunderbolt and F-16 "Fighting Falcon" from structure Military-air forces of the United States and its allies. So where they were that day?

The answer is simple – almost all of them "ironed" the sky over the Western part of Iraq, looking for "Scud.", so they could not be running in Israel. American military and political leadership was very much afraid of any occasion that would allow Israel to join the war against the weakening of Iraq. It is they – and the entire Arab world rushed to assist Baghdad.

Well, this situation involuntarily suggestive that all the incident had taken place, with significant technical superiority of the Americans over Iraqis. And if no such benefit was? After all, back in 2002 in one study, conducted by famous experts of RAND Corporation commissioned by the us military, stated: "it is likely that in the future the enemy will be able to create equipment or to develop a methodology for a proactive and effective response to our high-tech reconnaissance systems that will enable his troops to operate more covertly, successfully leading with electronic war. Taking this circumstance into account, we can assume that the effect of "setecientas" in reality may not be as positive as it is negative and it actually may lead to loss of "knowledge and competencies" and to the confusion of the commanders on the battlefield".


Vladimir Shcherbakov


Tags: USA , security , threat