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Future Command and Control: Virtual CP


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When I was younger I was interested in the meat and potatoes of a TO&E, but later I found myself trying to understand more and more how the logistics and command and control worked, inspired by the "design your own battalion / brigade" threads from years ago.  How did the battalion / brigade / division command posts work while sweeping across the deserts in 1991, for instance, compared to a stationary location where they can use the large shelters. 

In my research I mostly perused global security doctrinal command posts layouts, checked out what experienced members like E5M had in mind for their TO&E threads, and found some lessons learned from PDFs like this one, describing how CPs seem to only ostensibly be able to quickly displace but in practice are found and struck during training exercises

https://www.benning.army.mil/armor/eARMOR/content/issues/2016/APR_JUN/2Baker-Nauman16.pdf

I'm curious as to the potential for command posts (particularly at the battalion and brigade levels) to be supplemented with virtual reality environments to simulate having much more room than they actually do when cramped into an armored fighting vehicle command post, particularly for use while on the move or from short halts. Shelters can of course be erected as normal if stationary for longer periods.

The idea would be the staffers would be inside the CP vehicles (something like Namer or M4C2V) cross loaded, wearing VR goggles and able to interact with each other and operate in the virtual environment - It doesn't necessarily have to be a literal virtual CP with a virtual shelter you can walk through and glance at other virtual screens over the virtual avatars,  but it could be I suppose.  The idea would be having something akin to multiple monitors in front of you, each providing important information, but without requiring nearly that much room in physical space.  You can look over and talk to someone in a different vehicle as if they're right there without cluttering up the physical radio, since the virtual radio uses a digital datalink instead, so multiple conversations between the staff can occur simultaneously as they could in a real CP without talking over one another like they'd have to on a physical radio, and without hindering their ability to simultaenously type messages on blue force tracker, use the actual radio, etc.

 In a very heavy EW environment, worst case scenario you're no worse off than the traditional way of doing things.

When halted they could continue to operate from the protection of the vehicle, or erect the shelters and doff the VR if they plan to be there a while. By keeping the footprint small they would be more difficult to find, and able to displace quickly.  To mitigate errant emissions communication between command post vehicles themselves while halted can be hard-lined, or alternatively can share data via laser communications.  In addition to the main engine, power for the systems can be run off a vehicles APU while halted, or an external genset running power to all of them. Communications across the battlefield could be done from the command post vehicles themselves while on the move, but when stationary run a fiber optic cable to a Wiesel II with telescoping mast perhaps a kilometer away. If enemy artillery fires upon that, you haven't killed your primary CP and they know it's time to go unless friendly counter battery can address it.

Would that be a potentially useful solution or unnecessary?

Edited by Burncycle360
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When you're thinking about these things, keep in mind you will have data feeds from traditional ground, air, and space vehicles, plus a growing fleet of UAVs, sending you more data than one or two officers can process and act upon.

AFAIK the Army is in the transition zone between electronic collection and human processing, and automated collection and AI processing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_Post_of_the_Future

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8 hours ago, Ivanhoe said:

When you're thinking about these things, keep in mind you will have data feeds from traditional ground, air, and space vehicles, plus a growing fleet of UAVs, sending you more data than one or two officers can process and act upon.

AFAIK the Army is in the transition zone between electronic collection and human processing, and automated collection and AI processing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_Post_of_the_Future

Linky no worky, but I checked the article.  Not being especially tech-savvy, details eluded me, but it made the point that a dispersed C&C structure will be radiating like crazy whereas a more traditional CP, while being less mobile and having a larger physical footprint, should less RF, since people can directly interact.

Always the tradeoffs...

----

Interesting...Linky worky in the quote.

Edited by shep854
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Any discussion of CP design that does not address where to put the coffee urn is obviously flawed . . . .

More seriously, here's a couple related thoughts for your "future CP" thinking:

  • Laser data links were demonstrated out to 18km range at 70 Mbits per second back in, I think, 2011-12 for the German navy.  Using them on the move would be a couple orders of magnitude more difficult, but they would at least allow very fast emplacement and displacement for a dispersed CP without having to lay fiber.
     
  • The South Africans were building armored, mine resistant, ISO standard containers in personnel carrier, field hospital, and command post variants years ago.  This approach has issues, but a huge plus is that any standard logistics vehicle can be used to transport a "CP container" and your CP starts to look like a lot of other standard supply transport instead of like a CP, especially on the move.  This is in contrast to the "expando-van" approach, which is great to have for space/comfort but which is obviously a CP vehicle.
     
  • One interesting part of the article was that the fundamental question of "why are our CPs so big?" wasn't really addressed; to be fair this would be out of scope for the linked article, but there is some historical precedent for this . . . 

    93igxo3m4a061.jpg
  • Here's the famous pic of Guderian in, I believe, France working out of a SdKfz. 251 with long range radio and Enigma machine.  I wonder if the binoculars were an affectation or if he was actually close enough to the front to need them . . .
Edited by CaptLuke
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4 hours ago, shep854 said:

Linky no worky, but I checked the article.  Not being especially tech-savvy, details eluded me, but it made the point that a dispersed C&C structure will be radiating like crazy whereas a more traditional CP, while being less mobile and having a larger physical footprint, should less RF, since people can directly interact.

Always the tradeoffs...

A truly decentralized "mesh" C4I infrastructure is appealing, but can Big Army ever accept decentralized anything?

There is the saying, "Politics is downstream of culture." One might also posit that "Doctrine is downstream of culture."

Recall the critiques of the USAF in OIF, where the fast movers were fully occupied with the massive Air Tasking Orders generated by the burgeoning army of GOs in theater command, to the point where they couldn't service emergent service calls from brigade and company level groundpounders.

There are some amusing org-chart side effects from UAV use; for example, the UAV operators may be in a different organization from the comms people, who are in a different org from the trigger-pullers, who are in a different org from the intel squirrels, etc.

The RF signature can be mitigated somewhat with modern digital stuff (spread spectrum,. frequency hopping, pseudonoise, directional antennas, SATCOM, etc). But its hard to keep up with mech units these days during an advance, its hard to see the advantage of mobile, dispersed intel/imagery analysts. But getting all that stuff working after a movement is not trivial.

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2 hours ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Perhaps he an avid Birdwatcher? 

That was the last generation of "trust but verify" army GOs. I recall Patton liked to get up near the edge to see for himself.

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Merging more and more info layers into battlefield management systems and, above all, intelligent filter options (possibly a future task of S2s/G2s and 4s to create custom filter layers) is probably something with potential. I don't think you need VR goggles to look over someone's avatar's virtual shoulder. Rather, I'd suspect something more mundane such as a "Teams" meeting, possibly limited to voice transmission (because bandwidth, limited utility value, procurement decision-making officers being conservative, accustomed to voice only, etc) where staffers will present selected layers/reports form the battlefield management system. Information presentation will become more important than virtualization. But all this combined would still allow for a dispersed HQ retaining most of its functionality - except a centralized coffee hub.

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15 hours ago, Ssnake said:

. . .  Rather, I'd suspect something more mundane such as a "Teams" meeting, possibly limited to voice transmission (because bandwidth, limited utility value, procurement decision-making officers being conservative, accustomed to voice only, etc) where staffers will present selected layers/reports form the battlefield management system. . . . 

On one hand, I agree with you: if DARPA had any "secret sauce" for information display or decision making then we'd be seeing it leak into the private sector.  Instead Teams and Slack are pretty much the state of the art.

On the other hand, something is wrong when we compare what one pilot is supposed to be able to handle in an F-35 to what an Army battalion/brigade HQ is supposed to be doing,  Yes the Army HQ has logistical duties which an F-35 pilot does not, but the command decision making seems parallel, if not directly comparable.  All this assumes that some of the F-35 hype is real by now - so maybe my basic assumption is wrong.

 

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  • 2 months later...

Perhaps it would be better for armored force company commanders being able to get a view from what the lead tanks are seeing? That capability described in Hammers Slammers vis a vis the afv crewman’s helmets allowing synthetic views, commo and intercom all in one.

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Having been forced to use Teams for virtual meetings and online classes for the last 8 months or so, all I can say concerning Teams as a C4I component is...

Please God No.

 

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1 hour ago, Ivanhoe said:

... all I can say concerning Teams as a C4I component is...

Zoom or Bust!

Google Classroom!

:D

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  • 2 years later...

A little bump with some advances in this technology, the latter half of the video goes into some examples regarding multiple virtual screens for tasking.  Not suggesting an apple product, but it's an example of what's possible with regards to system comfort and performance.  Might be useful to reduce system volume and weight for airborne applications too (ie, bizjet based AEW)

 

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One of the things that was being joked about with the VR headset was a joke about the joy of a fully immersive spreadsheet. But then having looked at LARGE spreadsheets on small displays, essentally like trying to look at an elephant through a straw, a LARGE VR headset WOULD be nice. 

Certainly, something like that with synthetic vision AND outside details could be a boon for AFV crew to see outside AND still see details. 

Edited by rmgill
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