The New DS MI Company:
Applying Technology to Defeat the Enemy
By Captain J. Lloyd, Jr., Captain Alexandra M. Hoffner, First Lieutenant Lynn T. Merrel and Staff Sergeant Michael D. Woods
On 7 March 1997, 47 soldiers and 17 vehicles from A Company, 104th Military Intelligence Battalion, collectively known as the NIGHTHAWKS, deployed into the "maneuver box" at the National Training Center (NTC), Fort Irwin, California, to participate in the Army's Task Force XXI (TF XXI) Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE). Soon, the Army would know if all the training conducted by the soldiers of TF XXI on a myriad of sophisticated automation and communications systems was worthwhile. The previous months were consumed with late-evening training and a lot of time away from home, all in an effort to prepare this unit to meet the challenges of the experiment. Every soldier and all available resources were committed to making the TF XXI intelligence initiatives work.Mission
To accomplish this experiment, the Direct Support (DS) MI Company was organized into two platoons. The Headquarters Platoon was composed of a headquarters section, the analysis and control team (ACT), and a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) team from the 15th MI Battalion of the 504th MI Brigade. The mission of this platoon was to provide the brigade with intelligence connectivity, process and fuse combat information to produce intelligence, and maintain the intelligence database. The Intelligence and Surveillance (I&S) Platoon consisted of a ground surveillance section and a human intelligence (HUMINT) section. The ground surveillance section had the mission of providing reconnaissance, security, and surveillance support to the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) by employing the Improved Remotely Monitored Battlefield Sensor System (the I-REMBASS). Unfortunately, the HUMINT teams did not participate in the AWE.
Equipment and Organization
Specialists Armstrong and Brownlow intergrate information received from the Joint STARS and the Commander's Tactical Terminal in the Common Ground Station-Prototype to predict the next move of the NTC OPFOR.
To perform its mission and to field-test new intelligence systems and the concept of real-time intelligence at the brigade level, the ACT was outfitted with many new and unfamiliar pieces of equipment. The fully digitized MI ACT consisted of five operational vehicles:
- Three vehicles--the Common Ground Station-Prototype (CGS-P), the UAV Mission Planning Shelter (MPS), and the UAV Ground Control Station (GCS)? were responsible for collecting combat information.
- One vehicle, the ACT Enclave, had responsibility for analyzing and fusing information gathered from an array of multidiscipline systems to produce intelligence for the 1BCT.
- The fifth vehicle, the TROJAN Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal (TROJAN SPIRIT) II, disseminated the intelligence to the Battalion TFs and to the Division.
We considered the CGS-P, operated by six imagery ground station operators (96H), to be the backbone of our operation. It was the conduit to the real-time sensors never before accessible at the maneuver brigade level. An AN/PRC-140 radio and Surveillance Control Data Link (SCDL) antenna provided the voice and datalinks to the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft. The Commander's Tactical Terminal-Hybrid/Receive Only (CTT-H/R) allowed us to exploit signals intelligence (SIGINT) data received from national, theater, and corps sensors, including the Guardrail Common Sensor (GRCS). The Integrated Data Modem (IDM) and two Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS) System Improvement Plan (SIP) radios gave us voice and data communications with the Apache Longbow helicopter (AH-64D). The Surrogate Digital Radio (SDR)3 and the database-to-database interface (DB2I) received digital SIGINT information from the General Support Operations Center (GSOC) and the Ground-Based Common Sensor (GBCS).
The other two vehicles responsible for collection were the MPS and the GCS, which controlled the UAV. Two UAV operators (96U) worked in each of these shelters; a mission commander and data exploiter staffed the MPS while a pilot and a payload operator ran the GCS. The MPS was "hard-wire" linked to the GCS approximately 400 feet away from the ACT cluster. His link allowed us to dynamically re-task the UAV while it was in flight based on information collected by other sensors. A printer in the MPS provided a hardcopy snapshot of the targets which facilitated the targeting process without delaying the collection process.
Fusion and Dissemination
Figure 1. Analysis and Control Team Connectivity Chart.
The volume of information now available at the brigade level via the CGS-P and MPS would be of little to no value without proper processing, filtration, analysis, and fusion. The ACT Enclave, staffed by four intelligence analysts (96B) and one SIGINT analyst (98C), was our fusion center. Here, two All-Source Analysis System-Remote Workstation (ASAS-RWS) computers provided a digital palette from which we could visualize information collected from all of the sensors on a single screen and then share it with the brigade and battalion S2s as well as the Division Analysis and Control Element-Forward (ACE-FWD). The ACT Enclave also housed the MESHNET Crew Intercom System, which allowed us to monitor the brigade's radio nets and telephones while maintaining communications with each other. The Appliqué software, a command and control initiative that provides message processing and friendly situational awareness, supplied the invaluable means to deconflict possible targets during collection.
Finally, the fused intelligence product had to reach the consumers. We found that the TROJAN SPIRIT II (TS II) was the best system to use for disseminating our product. As part of the Global Broadcast System-Battlefield Awareness and Data Disseminator (GBS-BADD) satellite uplink, the TS II transmitted UAV video, Joint STARS moving target indicators, and ASAS overlays to the subordinate battalions and the division tactical command post. The receiving computer system, the Warfighter Associate, could display the received data so that the Battalion S2s or the division ACE could do supplementary analysis and fusion.
The I&S Platoon employed an array of seismic-acoustic, magnetic, and infrared sensors, as well as repeaters throughout the battlefield. These sensors had repeaters with an increased range over their predecessors and an improved survivability due to their leaner configuration. Within the ACT cluster, the monitoring team collocated with the MI ACT in an M1025 high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV). A TA-312 telephone was used to report collected information to the team sergeant who assisted the MI ACT in the fusion of I-REMBASS information. Software to accommodate sending I-REMBASS sensor activity directly to an ASAS-RWS has been written, but its final integration into the system was not completed before the AWE. Inclusion of this software would have greatly enhanced the fusion of this data for reconnaissance, surveillance, and security operations.
Captain Hoffner, the MI ACT Chief, briefs Major Weigshoff, the Brigade S2, on her interpretation of moving targets which reveal the current disposition of the advancement NTC OPFOR.
The possibilities that these initiatives presented were overwhelming. Our biggest challenge--aside from learning to effectively operate the equipment--was to develop timely, relevant, and accurate intelligence products. During the year-long training period, the hardware and software evolved drastically. We even arrived at Fort Irwin earlier than originally anticipated to receive more equipment with which we had never trained. As this evolution occurred, our methods of managing, producing, manipulating, displaying, and disseminating intelligence also changed. The phrase, "never do something the same way twice," became our battle cry. However, we managed to stick to the fundamental concepts of collecting, analyzing, producing, and disseminating intelligence.
We began the March 1997 NTC rotation with a plan to produce three digital-overlay products:
- An air defense (AD) overlay.
- An artillery overlay.
- A maneuver overlay.
The data that comprised these overlays came from information collected from our sensors, the spot reports generated from the TFs and the Brigade Reconnaissance Troop, and intelligence summaries from the Division ACE. We soon realized that this was an extraordinary amount of information and we were not able to properly manage all of the data. It was too much information to process and transform into a comprehensive product.
Therefore, we created a different overlay which included the analyzed maneuver data from the ACE and a compilation of intelligence information collected from our organic collection systems. This overlay was a digital situation map (SITMAP) which served our requirements well. The overlay that we created included all of the enemy battlefield operating systems (artillery, AD, and maneuver), all I-REMBASS sensor activity, the SIGINT text reported from the GSOC, and a depiction of the enemy course of action (COA) as it was understood. The data was color-coded based on the source. (For example, SIGINT was yellow and UAV data was red.) The overlay also included comments from our analysts to amplify enemy intent or future actions.
Although the modification of these products made them somewhat more useful, we found that digital products used in lieu of a SITMAP or corresponding analog products were not effective. On the ASAS-RWS or CGS-P monitors, the user must zoom in to plot unit icons on the digital map or to look at the terrain with a workable degree of resolution. This resulted in "analyst tunnel-vision" that led to a loss of focus on the "big" picture, thus de-synchronizing the unit's intelligence collection efforts. To counter this problem, we laminated a 1:50,000 map and as we received data, we posted it both to our analog map and to our digital overlay. To elaborate on a particular enemy COA, we could take our laminated map to explain our analytical opinion to the brigade staff. The digital product was used to present our "read of the enemy" to the battalion and to the division.Suggestions
We had little time to develop our tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) while testing ever-changing and maturing systems and software we had fielded. The brigade had little time to develop a deliberate and cooperative relationship with the MI ACT. Because of this, our organization weakened and it was difficult to establish the level of confidence required in an intelligence support team. This was a significant challenge that could have been avoided. Although we enjoyed tremendous success as an intelligence organization, we could have experienced even greater success if we had made the following adaptations at the start of the exercise.
Integrate the DS Company with the Brigade S2. First, it is extremely important to understand that the DS company has the mission to support the S2. Although the Brigade S2 is the senior intelligence officer in the Brigade, the DS Company Commander has the personnel resources and systems that accomplish the mission. The two must work as a team. It is imperative that they have confidence in each other's work. Neither organization should ever discount any information on the sole basis that it has not been analyzed by their organic teams. The two sections must always work together with a single goal in mind: to provide intelligence to the commander so that he can make the important decisions earlier in the fight.
Our fears that this could not be accomplished led to a decision to keep the MI ACT a separate command post that was tethered to the brigade tactical operations center (TOC), approximately 300 to 400 feet away. During the course of the rotation, we made the decision to attach the MI ACT to the brigade TOC next to the brigade S2 operations' vehicle. The results were miraculous. When questioned, the analyst in the MI ACT could bring any brigade staff representative to the fusion map or to the Joint STARS terminal to view a particular piece of combat information or intelligence. The information flow became more streamlined, enhancing our ability to quickly disseminate intelligence. This was a definite enhancement to the concept of support. The MI ACT must be part of the brigade TOC and S2s must cooperate with the MI ACT to ensure that the commander is provided with quality intelligence.
Clarify digital duties. We did not establish a proper delineation of digital duties. There were times that the MI ACT was placing information into the ASAS database that had already been loaded by the Battalion S2s or by the Brigade S2. Additionally, the MI ACT developed enemy COAs through the ASAS while, at the same time, the S2 Plans section labored on a similar and duplicative product just a few hundred feet away. Although some effort went into determining the division of labor, a lot more coordination must occur to ensure that work is not duplicated and that soldiers are more efficiently employed when accomplishing their shared mission.
Manage collection assets effectively. One of the most important tasks that must be accomplished to properly focus intelligence is to manage collection assets effectively. This task requires the S2 section to have a thorough comprehension of the dynamic enemy situation, a clear understanding of the commander's intent, and a thorough knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the collection systems that broadcast their information to the MI ACT. This function is best performed by the DS MI Company Commander and the S2 Plans Officer. Without assigning this responsibility, the attempt to synchronize intelligence collection systems will be in vain.
DS MI Company should control I-REMBASS. We found that the responsibility for planning a successful I-REMBASS surveillance mission rests squarely on the DS MI company leaders. The company developed a cooperative relationship with the Brigade Reconnaissance Troop, which paid great dividends. Along with learning some new techniques, participating in nested rehearsals, and developing more thorough precombat checks, the I-REMBASS teams became a credible source of intelligence for the 1BCT. During the AWE, we conducted two missions with the Brigade Reconnaissance Troop. We later found out that the I-REMBASS teams were not so survivable with a much more aggressive threat. Because of this, we put the I-REMBASS teams directly under company control so that they were in General Support to the Brigade. We also brought the Team Sergeant into the MI ACT and made him responsible for processing and fusing the information. The I&S Platoon Leader, in conjunction with the S2 Plans Officer, developed an I-REMBASS surveillance plan. This proved to be a good move, and the value of having another sensor that could cue the UAV was well worth it.Conclusion
In light of the challenges we faced at the NTC, we continue to develop the role of the MI ACT. We are evolving the MI ACT concept further, working on developing a fusion center that will ensure that the data collected from combat sensors (such as the AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder radar, Kiowa Warrior, and Brigade Reconnaissance Troop) are properly fused with information collected by intelligence sensors. We are attempting to apply the lessons we learned to ensure that the organizational structures, roles, and responsibilities, as well as the employment and control of our equipment, that are being written into the standardization and authorization documents are valid and will meet the needs of the maneuver commander and his intelligence team.Endnotes 1. The MESHNET is a system that was tested during the AWE. It allows the user to monitor a variety of radios and intercoms through a headphone set.
2. SALUTE stands for size, activity, location, unit, time, and equipment. It is the mnemonic for the elements of a properly formatted spot report.
3. The Surrogate Digital Radio was used during the AWE as a substitute for a system that has not yet been fielded.
Captain Lloyd Bell is S2 of the 1st "RAIDER" Brigade, 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized). He was the Commander of A Company, 104th MI Battalion, during the Army's TF XXI AWE; and, before that, the Intelligence Collection Manager for the Force XXI Division (4th ID (M)). CPT Bell has a bachelor of science (BS) degree in Biology from the University of Central Arkansas. Readers can contact him at [email protected] and by phone at (254) 618-7477 and DSN 259-7477.
Captain "Alexa" Hoffner is presently assigned as the S1, 104th MI Battalion. She was the Army's first Digital ACT Chief in A Company, 104th MI Battalion, during the AWE. She developed the TTP for the MI ACT. Previously, she was assigned as the S2 for the 124th Signal Battalion, 4th ID (M). CPT Hoffner has a BS in English Literature from the U.S. Military Academy. Readers can contact her at (254) 288-3910, DSN 738-3910, and via E-mail at [email protected] and hoffner @centraltx.net.
First Lieutenant Merrel was the I&S Platoon Leader in A Company, 104th MI Battalion. He was previously assigned as a battlefield information control center officer in 3-67 Armored Battalion, 4th ID (M). He has since left military service.
Staff Sergeant Woods is currently the GSR Section Sergeant in B Company, 104th MI Battalion. During the AWE, he was an I-REMBASS Squad Leader in A Company, 104th MI Battalion. You can telephone him at (817) 288-4696 or DSN 737-4696.