7 NETWORK ENABLED CAPABILITY
144. Future Capabilities includes a scenario
for a fictional operation in 2010 which is intended to illustrate
the benefits of network enabled capability (NEC) to British forces.
In it a target is identified by an Army reconnaissance squadron.
Information on it is relayed (using their Bowman radio system),
via their unit and Brigade headquarters, to the Joint Forces Land
Component Command (JFLCC) which diverts a Watchkeeper UAV to provide
positive identification of the target. At the same time an ASTOR
aircraft is also diverted to provide battlefield surveillance.
A plan for engaging the target is worked out by JFLCC and Joint
Forces Air Component Command (JFACC), communicating with each
other through the Skynet 5 satellite system. Authorisation for
an attack is obtained, again via Skynet (either from within theatre
or from UK depending on rules of engagement). Then an E3D Sentry
aircraft is directed by JFACC to re-task two Harrier GR9s, currently
on standby in a holding pattern from a nearby carrier, to attack
the target with Maverick missiles. Finally the Watchkeeper provides
a battle damage assessment and confirms that the target has been
destroyed. In all this takes a little over thirty minutes from
when the target was first observed.
145. We asked Air Chief Marshal Stirrup whether this
scenario was (a) achievable by 2010 and (b) fast enough. His answer
was 'Yes and no'. His target was to bring the cycle from sensor
to shooter described in the scenario down to 'a small number of
146. General Jackson described the acquisition of
NEC as taking place over three phases:
The initial phase is characterised by interconnection.
In other words, things can connect one with another without difficulty.
The transitional phase, the second, is integrationwhere
you do better than that and you have the whole thing together.
The mature phase is characterised by synchronisationwe
are all informed, everywhere, everything. That is a conceptual
He believed that the initial phase was achievable
by 2007; the transitional by 2015 and the mature phase some time
'beyond that'. Sir Jock's target must represent the second, if
not the third, of those phases.
147. Both Air Chief Marshal Stirrup and General Jackson
emphasised the complexity of NEC. Sir Jock described it as 'the
totality of your military force rather than just the bit that
connects the nodes,'
and Sir Mike told us:
this is not an overnight wave of some magic wand.
It is not the arrival of a gee-whizz black box: it is a very progressive
programme, which depends on equipment which is just coming in
now, and some yet to come in.
Indeed of the network enabling equipment employed
in the scenario in Future Capabilities, only the E3D Sentry
aircraft are currently fully in service. The Bowman radio system
is in the process of being introduced into the Army (see below).
Skynet 5 was due to enter service in February 2005 but no announcement
to confirm this had been made when we agreed this report on 2
March. According to the NAO's 2004 Major Projects Report, Watchkeeper
is due to enter service in November 2006, and ASTOR in November
2005, although in respect of the latter programme, the contractor
has encountered difficulties associated with the development of
the radar and it is not clear what impact these will have on the
And some of the other programmes supporting these capabilities
may not be available for some years yet. Falcon, for example,
which will provide secure communications at the operational level,
has already had its in-service date slip from 2006 to 2007 and
there are reports that it may be subject to further delays.
148. After years of delays and difficulties with
the previous Bowman projects (Yeoman and Archer) the revised
Bowman achieved what the MoD called its 'ambitious' in-service
date on 26 March 2004 'ahead of the target of 30 March'.
In-service, however, was defined as 'a Brigade Headquarters, two
mechanised battalions and support troops capable of engaging in
Operations Other than War (ie peacekeeping)'.
By February 2005 around ten per cent of the Army had been converted.
The target for the end of 2005 is for one third of the Army to
have converted. The total conversion programme is expected to
last until at least the end of 2007.
149. There have been regular press reports of difficulties
with the introduction of Bowman. General Jackson told us in early
November 2004 that there had been 'some teething problems with
this first tranche of Bowman'.
In his judgement, some of these were practical problems to do
with the programme's implementation, but others were technical.
In a recent memorandum MoD responded to a number of the reported
problems and asserted, 'The Department, all three Services (but
particularly the Army) and an extensive industrial base are all
solidly behind the continuing programme to convert the Armed Forces
to the Bowman system'.
We welcome the commitment of MoD and the Armed Forces to the
successful introduction of Bowman. Recent operational experience
has demonstrated the Army's need for a modern communications system.
If MoD's ambitions for Network Enabled Capability are to realised,
the effective and timely introduction of the programmes which
will support NEC is essential.
150. But even the successful introduction of Bowman
and of the other programmes highlighted in the scenario in Future
Capabilities will only take British forces to the first of
General Jackson's three levels of NEC. The scenario illustrates
how the connectivity of currently planned equipment could be exploited.
The next phase, to integrate organisations and systems, may prove
to be significantly more challenging. It is striking that the
scenario includes no communication directly between different
services below headquarters level and it appears that land and
air forces still need separate battlefield surveillance assets.
Despite the efforts made to move to a more joint procurement
process, the principal items of network enabling equipment due
to become available in the next few years still seem to bear the
hallmarks of single Service procurement. We recommend that MoD
sets out in its response to this report how it plans to move from
the connectivity of communication and surveillance programmes
to their integration by 2015.
151. It is important to press on with the development
of network enabling capabilities not only to increase the effectiveness
of our Armed Forces but also to maintain the capacity to operate
alongside the Americans. One of MoD's strategic goals is to be
able to influence large scale US-led operations. It has judged
that in order to do that it must be able to contribute capabilities
which will add real weight to a US operation (see paragraphs 188-193
below). The US is devoting enormous resources to its objective
of 'network centric warfare'. As we noted in our report on Delivering
Security, the UK could not match those resources. Instead,
as Air Chief Marshal Stirrup told us, MoD's objective was to 'point
ahead and get to the same capability at the same time'.
In his evidence to this inquiry, he made the same point somewhat
Keeping up with the Americans presupposes that
the Americans know where they are going and we just follow on
a little bit behind. Actually that is not good enough and we need
to be there at the same time as they do, so we have to try to
predict where they are going to wind up so that we are in a position
at that moment in time to be interoperable, but there is so much
here that is new in terms of technological opportunity, in terms
of the implications for doctrine, process and procedures that
we are trying to track a moving target, a very rapidly moving
target. That is the great challenge.
In his view, the UK was doing well in this areaand
was also doing well in keeping aligned with other allies'the
problem [was] one not so much of understanding, but one of determination
and allocation of resources'.
152. This assessment assumes that there is a common
vision of what the ultimate goal of NEC is. But it is not clear
that there is. Indeed General Jackson argued that, at least in
the land environment, UK and US objectives were quite distinct:
The language here is quite interesting. In the
United States they call it "network-centric warfare".
"Centric" is an interesting word there, is it not? That
implies that the network is at the centre. Our view is somewhat
different, because we do not quite see it that way.
At the end of the day, being an infantry officer
you have infantry soldiers at the point of decision. They will
be at the centre, in that sense of decision-making. I believe
our phrase, "network enabling", is absolutely right.
Better, more sophisticated, and faster communications enable us
to do things we have done before
but much more quickly,
smoothly, securely, more easily.
According to Future Capabilities NEC is 'at
the heart' of the transformation of the UK's Armed Forces which
it sets out. The enhanced capability which NEC will bring 'is
about more than equipment; we will exploit the benefits to be
obtained from transformed doctrine and training, and optimised
command and control structures'.
If MoD is to exploit NEC both as a central element in the transformation
of the Armed Forces and as a contribution to its strategic objective
of bringing 'real weight' to large scale US-led operations, it
will need not only to ensure that adequate resources continue
to be devoted to it but also to develop a coherent and joint doctrinal
framework, compatible with that of the United States, without
which it will not be possible to realise the benefits of fully
156 Cm 6269, p 6 Back
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HC Deb, 26 October 2004, c 1206W Back
See Major Procurement Projects, Tenth Report from the Defence
Committee of Session 1999-2000, HC 528, paras 41-59. Back
See HC (2003-04) 572-II, Ev 94 Back
HC (2003-04) 572-II, Ev 94 Back
Ev 176 Back
Q 262 Back
Q 271 Back
Ev 177 Back
HC (2003-04) 465-II, Q 257 Back
Q 195 Back
Q 195 Back
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