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Digitization of the Battlefield

The concept for information operations describes the explosion in information technology and the effects on Army operations. It relates the importance of information and how to win the information war in military operations, now and into the twenty-first century. The ability to manipulate, isolate, or negate portions of information infrastructure systems (electromagnetic spectrum, computers, and so forth) will be key element of future military operations--in war and MOOTW. Disrupting an opponent's ability to effectively use these systems, while protecting our own, will prove crucial in the future.


Information Age technology will provide the means to control and dominate the battle space in any situation. The Army of today and into the twenty-first century will meet the challenges of the Information Age by achieving force coherence through shared knowledge, instead of through traditional means such as graphic control measures or geographical demarcations. Joint Pub 3-13 and FM 100-6 establish doctrine for this new domain. Information operations provide commanders the METT-T-specific knowledge, coupled with a rapid and precise vision of the battlefield, to gain dominance in a battle space and control the tempo of operations.

Rapid advances in automated C² systems require commanders and soldiers to operate highly sophisticated equipment to function effectively on the battlefield. Information about the adversary and friendly formations will be distributed among all committed forces--land, sea, air, and space--to create a common view of the battle space and a shared situational awareness across the force. This shared situational awareness, coupled with the ability to conduct continuous operations, will allow Force XXI armies to observe, decide, and act faster, more correctly, and more precisely than their adversaries.

Soldiers do not gain advantage over the enemy by simply using automated equipment. Soldiers achieve and exploit the advantage when they optimize information presented by digital systems. Optimizing the use of automated information begins with discretion in the use of digital reporting. Digital reporting and the digital display are not substitutes for hard copy reports or maps; they are aids in managing and presenting information for the purpose of decision making.


Future information technology will provide the means to collect, process, disseminate, and display information in unparalleled volume, speed, and accuracy. Digitization of the battlefield provides common formats, rapid processing, and timely transmission of data. The ASCC/ARFOR commander must be concerned with asymmetrical capabilities within the force. While modernizing the force, he must be cognizant; of units that are maintaining current capabilities--not only ARFOR but also joint and multinational as well. The digitized force has capabilities and limitations distinctly separate from its conventionally-equipped predecessor. The digitized force has an improved capability to achieve the agility, depth, and synchronization that characterize successful Army operations through the use of shared collective unit images.

Collective unit images form a battle space framework. This framework is based on shared real-time awareness of the arrangement of forces in the battle space, instead of a rigid framework of battlefield geometry such as phase lines, objectives, and battle positions. Digitization of the force permits commanders at every level to share a common, relevant picture of the battlefield scaled to their level of interest and tailored to their specific needs. Commanders of digitized units at the same echelon share a perspective (situational awareness) of their position in relation to adjacent units. Combat, CS, and CSS leaders, horizontally linked by common information, visualize how they will conduct and support major operations, battles, and engagements. Their execution is integrated by a shared vision of the battle space.

The commander of a digitized force has significant advantages over commanders of conventionally-equipped forces. The most significant advantages are--

  • An increased situational awareness.

  • Enhancement of the planning and preparation of orders and the distribution process.

  • Digital aids that enhance the timeliness and accuracy of the reporting process and employment of assets.

  • An improved capability to achieve mass at the decisive point. (This includes the achievement of mass of CS and CSS assets as well).

  • Digitization and automation of reports, which provide the capability to share information at each level of the chain of command. The recipient of a report can look at the location of the reported enemy element and compare it to his operational graphics and friendly unit locations. This comparison allows the recipient to determine potential problems with the disposition or orientation of friendly units and adjust accordingly.

In offensive operations, automated reporting is useful in synchronizing the scheme of maneuver during unexpected contingencies such as identifying enemy obstacles. This exchange of automated combat information provides the commander and his staff critical information necessary to maintain and exploit the initiative during offensive operations. In defensive operations, automated reports enable commanders of digital units to transmit all information on enemy activity in sector in one digital spot report, instead of in many separate spot reports. With the increased reliance on digital technology comes the limitations of the hardware and software associated with the systems. Limitations in computer memory and communications capabilities address the requirement to maintain conventional control methods for units.


The integration of digitally-equipped elements with conventionally-equipped (nondigital) elements into the force presents special challenges for the commander and staff. The commander must ensure that both digital and nondigital procedures are available for communicating and supporting. The ASCC/ARFOR commander must establish provisions to receive automated information from digital units. Control measures used by digital units are identical to hard-copy overlays.

The ASCC/ARFOR commander must use liaison officers or establish other positive control measures to ensure proper coordination between digital and nondigital units. The ASCC/ARFOR commander must establish procedures that specify which reports will be communicated digitally, by voice, or in hard copy. Digital information will be processed for distribution to nondigital units.


Application of information operations (electronic management and information systems) necessitates the formation of strategic alliances between Army logistics mechanisms in theater and civilian industry. This forged linkage between the sustainment base and the ASCC/ARFOR commander will negate the requirement for Army-managed, in-theater stockpiles and incorporate split-based operations. Because of situational awareness (the shared knowledge on the digitized battlefield between combat, CS, and CSS units), CSS units can maintain an on-time Inventory of supplies and deliver the supplies more efficiently. CSS units will push required support forward--to the right units at the right time.

Digitization of the battlefield will increase awareness and coordination over a wide area enabling the commander to obtain the near real-time information he needs in the most efficient and effective format. This digitization provides the commander with--

  • A common view of the battlefield.

  • Situational awareness.

  • Battlefield synchronization.

  • C² on the move.

  • Horizontal integration.

  • Combat identification.

  • Fratricide prevention.

To effectively plan the application and employment of these new technologies within the force, the ASCC/ARFOR commander must be aware of their advantages and disadvantages. Synchronizing digitized and nondigitized units will be a major task.

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