“U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army conduct first real world test of Advanced Battle Management System” in NorthCom –Navy Recognition

Coast Guardsmen secure communications equipment to a line to bring it aboard USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) in the Gulf of Mexico Dec. 16, 2019. The Navy used that equipment during the first demonstration of the Advanced Battle Management System, operators across the Air Force, Army, Navy and industry tested multiple real-time data sharing tools and technology in a homeland defense-based scenario enacted by U.S. Northern Command and enabled by Air Force senior leaders at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16-18 (Picture source: U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Karissa Rodriguez)

There is good news and there is bad news.

NavyRecognition reports on an Homeland Defense exercise run by NorthCom using an Advanced Battle Management System.

A three-day-long exercise of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) tested technology being developed to enable the military’s developing concept called Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). When fully realized, senior leaders say JADC2 will be the backbone of operations and deterrence, allowing U.S. forces from all services as well as allies to orchestrate military operations across all domains, such as sea, land, air, space and cyber operations. The technology under development via ABMS enables this concept by simultaneously receiving, fusing and acting upon a vast array of data and information from each of these domains – all in an instant. The Air Force expects to receive around $185 million this fiscal year for this effort and intends to bolster these resources over the next five years, underscoring both its importance and potential.

It looks like this exercise was viewed primarily a counter to the possibility of a cruise missile attack. but interestingly it included an Army HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) unit equipped with a mobile surface to surface missile launcher. I presume in light of the nature of the exercise they would have been shooting at a maritime surface target.

The problem with this exercise is that other than delivering a piece of equipment as depicted in the photo above, it appears the Coast Guard played no part in the exercise. If there is a maritime surface threat to the United States, what is the most likely agent to detect it–the USCG. US Navy presence along the US Coast is extremely limited. Significant armed US Navy surface warships are based in the US in only five major port complexes, Pearl Harbor, Puget Sound, San Diego, Mayport, and Chesapeake Bay. Other than training and transit, they spend almost no time underway in US waters.

This looks like an attempt allow a coordinated response to an attack on the US using all available assets. The fact that this is, to say the least, difficult has lead me to believe the Coast Guard should be independently capable of responding to unconventional maritime threats. Even a common operational picture will not guarantee success. Defense assets are not always based within range for timely action. Most Air Force and Army pilots have no training in recognizing various ships types, so even if they arrive on scene, with appropriate ordnance, they may not know which ships is hostile. Giving Coast Guard units laser designators to identify the target and even point to where the target should be struck, might help. In any case, the Coast Guard needs to be included in access to any “Advanced Battle Management System” “Joint All Domain Command and Control” that is expected to defend the US.

“Connectivity Maketh the Cutter” –USNI

In the August 2019 issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings, their annual “Coast Guard focused” issue, you will find the three prize winning Coast Guard themed essays. First prize went to Cdr. Craig Allen, USCG. The essay contrasts the promise of Networked assets, that was a major feature of the Deepwater Program and still being touted, with the disappointing reality he sees in the actual implementation.

Put bluntly, in the past several years cutter connectivity has climbed in urgency from concern to crisis. The negative impact of poor connectivity on current mission execution already is cause for alarm, but the more important concern is the constraint it will place on the Coast Guard’s ability to shape future operations.

The whole essay is well worth the read.

The common operational picture promised is no where to be found.

As I have been pointing out since at least 2011 (also here), there is no reason our units should not have Link 16. The Navy puts it on helicopters, and I believe on the 85 foot MkVI patrol boat, so it would certainly fit on Coast Guard patrol boats, fixed wing aircraft, and our helicopters. It would improve interoperability not only with other Coast Guard units but also other US armed forces and Allies. It is a proven, widely used system. Link 16 would be very useful if we ever do become part of the US Fleet’s distributed lethality or if we need to call in Navy assets to assist the Coast Guard.