Air Force Link News Article

Computers to fight wars

by TSgt. David P. Masko

Air Force News Service

SALT LAKE CITY -- Technology in today's Air Force is accelerating at such an incredible pace that it's breeding a new kind warfighting where computers are just as important as planes and guns.

The goal, say Air Force leaders, is to make "information warfare" the foundation for the military's digital future.

It is thus a sign of the times that Lloyd Mosemann predicted an Information Warfare Command for the Air Force within the next 10 years. Mosemann, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for communications, computers and support systems, said "software-intensive systems" will provide the leverage for power projection in the future.

Mosemann and key representatives of the Air Force, government, industry and academia discussed this next generation technology at the recent Department of Defense-wide software technology conference -- "Architectonic the Information Highway for the Warrior." In its seventh year, the Salt Lake City-based conference has become a "think-tank" to help shape and direct the future of software engineering in the DOD.

Of course, not everyone in the Air Force or DOD identifies with this new electronic frontier. But, Lt. Gen. Carl O'Berry thinks they should.

"We need to take advantage of new technology as it comes along," said O'Berry, Air Force deputy chief of staff, command, control, communications and computers. "The bottom line is we can't let the future in fast enough no matter what we do."

O'Berry is also bullish on the Air Force staying competitive with software technology being developed in the market place. "Each base has to be very richly connected to the information super highway. In other words, we've got to wire the Air Force."

The outcome that O'Berry is referring to will not be immediate by any means. Completion of the elaborate rewiring project may not come before the turn of the century. Unlike the Internet -- the E-mail system that connects 30 million to 40 million people today throughout the world -- the Air Force's "global village" is aimed at keeping its people informed for a different purpose.

If Desert Storm taught the Air Force anything, say Gulf War planners, it's the importance of computer-aided systems in the battlefield and of intelligence being one of the central resources of winning wars in the future.

In this post-Desert Storm environment, warfare is now almost fully automated. This means its gone the way of future science-fiction fantasies, where computers simulate battlefield scenarios.

While Air Force leaders concede this high-tech approach to warfare is still in the planning stage, the idea of using advanced information and computer systems is becoming a reality today.

For example, they say the smart bombs used in the Gulf War provided only a hint of capabilities in which computer-driven systems could make key military decisions.

Beyond the destructive power of this new "information," there is the idea that war need not be bloody. One scenario is a game of chess could emerge where one country, the United States, would declare "check-mate" and win a war without firing a shot.

Though information warfare will have a tremendous advantage over today's warfare systems, O'Berry is cautious. He said any real change means decisions have to be made right now on how much the Air Force is willing to spend on "non-direct" warfighting capability.

"I regard every single item that we use in this business, any business for that matter, as an information appliance," O'Berry said. "Sooner or later, that's going to apply to a single round fired from a soldier's rifle. That round will consume information and produce information.

"And we need to find a way to take advantage of that."

To look at information warfare from a "cybernetic" point of view, the result is automation. But from an Air Force point of view, it's still tasking brightest minds to reinvent, and perhaps change, the face of warfare.