Challenges for the 21st Century
- Extra Reading
A lecture on the challenges of the 21st Century with respect to the conduct of UK military operations. In order to express these challenges clearly, it is important to understand the wide scope of operations that we may anticipate being committed to in the future and how we will use our Armed Forces. Therefore the overarching theme of this presentation will be the demands of what have become known as "full spectrum" effects-based operations - operations that encompass tasks from destruction to stabilisation.
THE PETER NAILOR MEMORIAL LECTURE ON DEFENCE
Challenges for the 21st Century
Admiral the Lord Boyce GCB OBE
It gives me great pleasure to deliver this address to you on the challenges of the 21st Century with respect to the conduct of UK military operations. In order to express these challenges clearly, it is important to understand the wide scope of operations that we may anticipate being committed to in the future and how we will use our Armed Forces. The overarching theme of my presentation, therefore, will be the demands of what have become known as full spectrum effects-based operations. And by full spectrum, I mean operations that encompass tasks from destruction to stabilisation.
But what are effects-based operations?
Historically, the majority of military operations have been conducted on the premise that significantly degrading an adversary's military combat power will sap his will to fight, an attritional approach espoused by Clausewitz. However, in the future, some less conventional adversaries may be willing to accept serious losses; whilst society is, in general, becoming increasingly risk averse to casualties on either side of a conflict. Future military operations will, therefore, need to place increased emphasis on influencing the mind of an adversary whilst keeping casualties and collateral damage to a minimum. Such operations may be described as effects-based in that they seek to concentrate on actions against both the will and Command and Control capability of an opponent as opposed to conducting purely attritional operations. Emerging technology and increased weapon precision will be vital enablers in pursuing more effectively such effects-based operations.
How does this fit into British Defence Doctrine? Well, this Doctrine lays down six fundamental themes that represent the UK's approach to the conduct of operations. Lessons from the past, and more recent scrutiny of events in Iraq, show that these themes hold true today and, although some will inevitably develop to reflect future challenges and technological developments, we believe they will be an equally enduring thread in the full spectrum of effects-based operations.
§ First and foremost is the retention of a warfighting ethos, which is a core element of UK capability. In peace support operations, for example, it is what gives our Armed Forces the ability to establish a base of influence from which both they and other agencies can operate with success.
§ The second concerns the Armed Forces' expertise in joint, integrated and multinational operations, through which the UK's full range of capabilities are brought to bear with coalition partners as a coherent entity.
§ In doing all this, they are guided by the third theme, namely the Principles of War, which are as applicable at the strategic level as they are at the tactical; and which are as relevant to peace support operations as they are to warfighting.
§ In conducting operations, UK forces will apply the manoeuvrist approach, in which shattering the enemy's overall cohesion and will to fight, rather than his materiel, is paramount. The advantages of this approach will be better realised in the future through the exploitation of the digitised battlespace – which in essence is real-time command appreciation of all that is going on, on the land, sea and in the air.
§ Manoeuvrist operations require a conditioned and resilient attitude of mind developed through practical experience and training. They also require considerable thought and imagination in both planning and execution, and full confidence in delegation. Together these attributes form the fifth theme, one of flexibility and pragmatism.
§ Last, but not least, the human dimension of leadership and command will remain paramount through the enduring theme of Mission Command. Mission Command is manifest in decentralised control, initiative, and freedom and speed of action, whilst remaining responsive to superior direction.
I have laid out these themes by way of background, but it may be helpful if I were to share with you how theory was translated into practice in the conduct of recent operations in Iraq, before getting into the main part of what I want to talk about where, using examples from this recent conflict, I would like to focus on 3 key areas that will have significant impact on the UK's evolving military capabilities and the way in which future campaigns will be prosecuted. These are the concepts of Network Enabled Capability, Kill Chain Development and the application of Joint Fires. Having developed these concepts, I will then briefly examine their applicability to Joint Operations and in particular how they combine with UK military doctrine to exploit what is now termed "fusion of the battlespace". After that I will explore the international dimension in terms of combined operations, highlighting the nature and scope of such commitments for the UK's Armed Forces and the particular challenge posed by multinational interoperability. And finally, I will outline the attributes required of Defence’s most important and valuable resource - its personnel - to meet these challenges and to exploit the opportunities presented by emerging technology.
So let me first turn to the recent conflict in Iraq.
From the outset, our Military Campaign Objectives absolutely recognised that Coalition operations in Iraq would comprise two parts of equal importance. The first would be the military combat operation, designed to remove Saddam's regime from power and thereby allow the regime's illegal weapons capability to be dismantled. In the event, defeat of Iraq's military capability was completed with extraordinary speed and precision, and well within the planned timelines. The second part’s focus in the short term was upon normalisation, and is now increasingly upon the development of long-term political security and economic stability for Iraq.
The relationship between these two halves is an interesting one. The campaign in Iraq was not one that focused solely on the fighting stage until that was over, prior to examining what to do next. In fact, from a very early stage both combat and stabilisation operations were taking place, the one following the other almost immediately, or in some cases even simultaneously. For example, while some elements of Coalition forces were still advancing upon Baghdad, those who remained deployed in the southern half of the country were concentrating in equal measure upon subduing remaining resistance and, crucially, upon helping civilians in their areas of responsibility.
The task for UK’s forces included making secure the whole of Basrah province and then Maysan Province around Al Amarah, an area approximately the same size as Wales. This gave protection to the US rear area and, with our having one third of the available armoured combat power in theatre when the conflict started, could also provide substantial reinforcement to US forces approaching Baghdad if needed. In addition to concerns of security and law and order in our AOR more generally, there were also requirements to bring in humanitarian aid to Basrah, to augment their water supplies and to re-connect their electricity. This sort of task, of course, is something in which the UK has probably unrivalled experience.
By 1 April, the already increasing normality in some areas of Southern Iraq was being reflected in British patrols dismounting from the more intimidating armoured vehicles to work on foot, and exchanging helmets for berets. And the speed and success with which our forces were able to move from high-intensity combat operations to lower-intensity stabilization work was, I think, one of the achievements of our people in this conflict of which we can be most rightly proud – it is a talent borne from decades of experience matched by no-one else. Incidentally, we have recently been sharing our expertise in this respect with coalition allies in Iraq using our Operational Training and Advisory Group, which is an element of the Army’s Warfare Centre; and their efforts have been extremely well received.
Returning to the two parts of our operation, we totally recognised the dependence of the second on the first: obviously, the way in which UK forces operated in the combat phase needed to be heavily influenced by the requirements of the second, stabilization phase. So planning for the post-conflict phase proceeded alongside that for combat operations; for example, the targeting process set out to achieve the maximum effect on the regime's command and control structures, and to neutralise the opposition of regime security forces, with the absolute minimum impact upon the civilian infrastructure that would prove crucial to the political and economic reconstruction of the country. The UK's surgical and patient approach to the capture of Basrah was highly illustrative of this general principle, where another might have been to deploy all available firepower in an attempt to wrest control of the city as quickly as possible. Such an option would have involved high casualties on all sides, and considerable damage to infrastructure. But the welfare of the citizens of Basrah was made key to determining the most appropriate strategy, and commanders on the ground used their own professionalism, and sound military judgement based upon intelligence accumulated over several days, to decide when and how to enter the city, calibrating the use of force very carefully to minimise unintended casualties on both sides. Following careful collation and analysis of intelligence and probing raids and getting to know some key players and informants, British forces entered Basrah on 6 April from three directions and encountered only patchy resistance. In all, a fine example of effects-based operations.
Al Faw Peninsula
Another example of putting theory into practice was the operation to take the Al Faw Peninsula, where the concept of joint and combined operations was successfully put into effect on a scale, and with a coherence, that was truly impressive. This was a crucial operation, not only to establish an all-important beachhead on the shores of the Gulf, but also to prevent a repeat of the disastrous sabotage of the oil infrastructure and consequent ecological disasters that were seen in 1991. Following hydrographic survey and mine clearance operations, the UK Amphibious Task Group landed the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade alongside elements of the US Marine Corps on the peninsula, using helicopters from the Joint Helicopter Command and the USMC and a variety of landing craft, with UK and Australian frigates providing Naval Gunfire Support. Heavy artillery was also in play, as were US and UK aircraft in Recce and Close Air Support roles. From this, you will gather this was an immensely complex operation, bringing together fast moving light forces, highly mobile armoured capabilities, Joint Fires and Close Air Support, and a serious need for near real-time situational awareness by day and by night; and, in fact, it involved just about the full range of UK deployed military capabilities. It provided a clear demonstration of just how effective such operations, properly co-ordinated, can be; and, of course, it saw the oil facilities safely secured, and it also allowed the seizure of the port of Umm Qasr through which all subsequent seaborne cargo and aid has been channelled.
NETWORK ENABLED CAPABILITY
I would now like to build on the couple of TELIC events I have briefly described to develop in more detail the 3 key concepts of Network Enabled Capability, Joint Fires and Kill Chain Development that I mentioned earlier.
Recent operations, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, have shown that the UK's Armed Forces are having to operate at significantly higher tempo, producing military effect with vastly greater speed and precision than hitherto; and that if we are to remain on the pace, we must continue to evolve our concepts and processes, and develop the technologies, to support them. And the key to remaining on the pace is the ability to gather, manage and then exploit information to deliver military effect. In other words, to be able to move information around the battlespace at all levels through the linking of sensors, decision makers and weapon systems - a concept exemplified at the tactical level by the provision of tactical radio communication for every soldier.
In the US, the capability to do this is known as Network-centric Warfare. The UK recognises its overriding importance and is equally committed to improving this type of capability, although the issue is viewed here from a slightly different perspective. Network-centric Warfare seeks to put the network at the heart of warfare, but the UK takes a different approach and continues to place emphasis on the pre-eminent role of Command as well as the moral, physical and intellectual components of Fighting Power. Nonetheless, the network does enable these capabilities and acts as a multiplier and so the UK uses the term Network Enabled Capability or NEC. In simplest terms, it is a web of linkages spun through the entire command chain,strategic commander to tactical front line force element; and it involves the linking of sensors, decision makers and weapon systems by a network to enable the rapid passage of information and intelligence to deliver effect. NEC is an important step in developing the UK's ability to conduct warfare in the information age and will facilitate more rapid decision-making and response with greater agility, control and precision.
Whatever the conceptual differences in approach between the UK and US, for both nations the improvement of Information Technology and communications systems will underpin the step changes in information availability. They will give the UK the ability to plan collaboratively and enhance situational awareness, thereby enabling us to achieve decision superiority through better decision-making at enhanced tempo.
The most obvious aspects of NEC will be delivered through the equipment programme: the key is development of optimal capabilities that can be effectively operated and sustained within the funding available, and much has already been achieved within a short space of time:
§ Development of a dedicated UK Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance or ISR system, through the Watchkeeper programme, has been advanced by a minimum of 12 months and will be in service in 2006.
§ A Joint Unmanned Air Vehicle or UAV experimentation programme has been approved and is being established now to inform all aspects of UAV development beyond Watchkeeper.
§ The RAF's Airborne Early Warning aircraft have been enhanced to aid interoperability with the US.
§ There is investment in experimentation, which has a growing and important role in developing Command and Battlespace Management capabilities. In the future, experimentation – in which we expect to invest further still - will become a normal facet of capability development, whether in the form of computer modelling, bespoke man-in-the-loop experiments or through incorporation into routine exercises and training.
Technological fixes alone, however, will not suffice. NEC will also have profound effects on command and even force structures, necessitating new processes and concepts to underpin ways of doing business. These wider aspects, which sit outside the equipment area, are being co-ordinated through the UK's Command and Battlespace Management programme, which is the authoritative framework for the development of C2 capability.
Clearly there are risks and vulnerabilities in pursuing change at the rate the UK is doing and much of the work, at both the conceptual level and through experimentation, is involved in identifying such risks and offsetting them. An example of this, directly related to what NEC can offer,is to ensure that capabilities are developed that will be robust and resilient in the face of potential counter-measures or routine unserviceabilities. And I am sure it has crossed your minds already that particular account will need to be taken of the potential for interference and disruption to nodes, sensors and communications systems, and vulnerabilities in commercially developed software such as databases and operating systems, when CIS systems are attacked. Unhealthy degrees of dependency upon technology could be exposed and so a lot of emphasis is being given to new disciplines such as Computer Network Defence to counter any such problem. And the potential for "decision paralysis" through information overload is also being addressed directly by far reaching work on Information Exploitation, in which it is recognized that these sort of risks will only be reduced by ensuring that just sufficient information is available at each level, rather than giving everything to everyone.
It should come as no surprise that development of a robust Network Enabled Capability will not be achieved without considerable financial expenditure, and realisation of true effects-based operations will rely on development of this capability. The key here is one of long-term investment. Effects-based operations offer considerable potential to achieve greater levels of effect, more rapidly and more precisely – and perhaps from reduced numbers of platforms and, therefore, supporting infrastructure and resources. Increased precision will certainly tend to reduce weapon expenditure, whilst a comprehensive intelligence picture, facilitated by NEC, will permit more focused targeting through the concept of Kill Chain Development - which I will expand upon in a moment – thus helping to reduce casualty numbers, collateral damage and the inherent costs of rebuilding infrastructure during post-conflict reconstruction.
KILL CHAIN DEVELOPMENT
Since I have mentioned Kill Chain Development, let me now move on to this overlapping and complementary element of NEC, and one which forms a vital component of effects-based operations.
Our operational experience in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq has driven home the imperative for UK forces to deliver appropriate effects in a timely and precise fashion with the minimum of collateral damage and within appropriate legal constraints. In the three campaigns I have mentioned, adversaries have made extensive use of concealment, deception and mobility to overcome the advantages enjoyed by more technologically capable forces who are normally better able to impose their will and tempo upon operations throughout the spectrum of conflict. Such tactics present an enormous challenge to effective targeting methods, however sophisticated; and when, say, a missile launcher that has been hidden emerges briefly to be used for potentially disproportionate strategic effect, it must be swiftly neutralised. Opportunities for the destruction of such targets will inevitably be scarce and will require all elements of the Kill Chain - Concepts, Doctrine, Procedures and Methods of Operation - to be harmonised.
Thus we have underway the Kill Chain Initiative to deal with, inter alia, such “time-sensitive targets” as they are known. Enabled by a network approach, we need to generate a 'chain' of events to take place - from detection, targeting and planning at one end, to delivery of desired effect in a timely and co-ordinated manner. Such a chain must incorporate a thorough understanding of the environment within which our forces have tooperate, exploitation of the intelligence picture to allow situational awareness for future action, timely dissemination of information to the correct nodes to allow effective target prioritisation and allocation of weapon systems to task androbustcommunications across the networked chain to the point of delivery to cope with any last second changes.
Let me now move on to the third element of future warfighting capability I mentioned in my introduction – Joint Fires. I have fleetingly discussed their use in TELIC, and it must be obvious this is something which again is facilitated by NEC. The Sensor to Shooter Kill Chain deals in individual actions at the tactical level. But it is important to be able to plan across a whole campaign, interweaving all the separate kill chains to a common goal, deciding priorities and co-ordinating all the various moving parts drawn from the Navy, Army and Air Force. This complex challenge of achieving effective integration of the full range of lethal and non-lethal fires across maritime, land and air offensive power is at the heart of what the UK knows as "Joint Fires". Work is well underway to modernise this wider aspect of warfighting, using the Kill Chain Initiative as its spearhead.
The creation of physical effect from Joint Fires is usually kinetic in nature through the delivery of ordnance, interwoven with elements of non-kinetic attack such as through the electromagnetic spectrum or psychological operations. And a meaningful Joint Fires capability will require sensor, decision maker and platforms to be linked together in a real-time information and decision-making environment - certainly as important as developments in the accuracy, lethality and range of the weapons themselves. A small example of this is the incorporation of the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System, known as JTIDS, into the RAF's air defence Tornados. As an active element of the network, able to contribute to and receive the 'Recognized Air Picture', JTIDS has significantly magnified the crews' situational awareness and thereby the platform's targeting capability; and, incidentally, thereby revitalised this ageing aircraft.
Development of Joint Fires capability will require enhanced connectivity, collaborative planning tools and information databases to enable decision and knowledge superiority – all part of where NEC will take us. We are also going to have to implement new procedures to ensure that the opportunities provided by the new technologies are optimised to full effect; and, where appropriate, even adjust staff structures, including the roles and relationships between specific commanders and staffs within the Command and Controlhierarchy.
This is an exciting field to be exploring – it will optimise the efficient use of resources within the battlespace and enable war-winning effect to be applied at optimum tempo; it will allow effective prosecution of prioritised targets within a Kill Chain; and it will enhance our ability to plan and co-ordinate overwhelming effect in order to dislocate an adversary and destroy his will to fight.
JOINT OPERATIONS AND FUTURE BATTLESPACE
Thus far I have covered how Network Enabled Capability will be vital to the development of effective kill chains against specific targets at the tactical level and how this capability is integrated within the Joint Fires concept. In considering the overall contribution of Network Enabled Capability, however, we need to understand the applicability of the concept in the conduct of Joint operations where the aim is to exploit the strengths and capabilities of the single Service components in what has been termed "fusion of future battlespace".
The Future Battlespace
The future battlespace, obviously at the least an amalgam of land, sea (including under the sea) and air (into space) environments, must also now accommodate the electro-magnetic spectrum (EMS), the dimension of time and "Computer-generated Space". But as modern society and our military capabilities become ever more reliant on computer technology, so we become increasingly vulnerable to attack through the latter dimension, within which considerable disruption of unprotected systems and infrastructure can be achieved remotely. But equally, digital technologies will significantly increase the quantity and flow of information throughout, into and out of the battlespace and, provided we manage it, give a much clearer appreciation of friendly force dispositions and capabilities and a better understanding of those of our adversaries. This in turn will further blur traditional and geographic boundaries already affected by other technological developments: we will increasingly find reach is not limited by physical constraints or lines on a map.
And finally, to add to the complexity, the battlespace will become larger in terms of distance and space as ballistic or cruise missile systems, or covert attack, offer the potential for adversaries to reach well beyond theatres of operation to the homelands of coalition members, transforming local or regional conflicts into ones of a global dimension. And within this extended battlespace there will be many different organisations, agencies and forces with whom the UK's Armed Forces will have an enduring need to operate with and amongst.
To meet the challenge posed by these changes and to exploit the opportunities offered by NEC will require the integration of previously compartmentalised activities at the tactical and operational levels. This fusion of the battlespace will be brought about by the exploitation of networks, and examples of some of the key areas to be examined include:
§ Enhanced situational awareness through better information management and exploitation.
§ More effective command structures, processes and relationships that are optimised to take advantage of the future operating context and technical capabilities.
§ Improved Joint Fires capability.
§ Enhanced Logistic situational awareness and control.
§ Enhanced Combat Friend or Foe Identification.
But the exploitation of NEC needs to be viewed even more widely and related to the wider command context that it serves. NEC is complementary to, and acts to support, the wider Command and Battlespace Management (CBM) work going on which is looking to deliver the enhanced tempo and decision superiority that will be critical to successful operations in the future. CBM will pose some real challenges to UK military command philosophy and Command and Control processes where the future emphasis will be on agility. I have already hinted at this in speaking about the changes in Kill Chains and Joint Fires. But beyond this, better communications capabilities, coupled with in-service surveillance systems, will enhance situational awareness. This, combined with the ability to operate at a much higher tempo, may challenge the traditional command structure, particularly as it may tempt higher-level commanders to exert an excessive degree of influence at the tactical level.
At the heart of meeting these command and control challenges is the need to ensure that the moral and intellectual components of command are preserved. Leadership must remain central to command and the philosophy of Mission Command will survive, foremost because it provides the freedom of action for subordinates that so enriches our Armed Forces' ability to operate in almost any conditions and circumstances. However, UK thinking must go further than this: the future provides an opportunity to exploit Mission Command and take it into the information age. Thus the UK will also need to develop its doctrine and personnel if we are to exploit the advantages of Network-enabled capability and achieve true fusion of the battlespace.
In terms of doctrine, the UK's current Joint Vision document articulates Defence Capability through seven components which make up the Defence Capability Framework. These are: Inform, Command, Prepare, Project, Operate, Protect and Sustain and, in fact, these do offer a sound basis for exploiting fusion of the battlespace in two ways:
§ First, the UK believes that successful command is linked to fusion of the battlespace as it will improve the ability to understand, plan, integrate and control the use of military capabilities.
§ Second, UK doctrine places considerable emphasis on gaining, analysing, exploiting, disseminating and maintaining all aspects of information crucial to success. Fusion of the battlespace and UK doctrine are thus complimentary to each other.
From a personnel perspective, British commanders promote decentralised command, initiative, freedom and speed of action, while remaining responsive to superior direction. This is what the UK's Armed Forces understand as Mission Command as I highlighted earlier. There is also an increased emphasis on the joint nature of command, with Commanders showing the ability to integrate operations in all dimensions of the battlespace with an attitude of mind in which originality and doing the unexpected are combined with a ruthless determination to succeed; and in which the exercise of flexibility and pragmatism in their approach when faced with new or challenging circumstances is ingrained. All of these attributes will be better realised in the future through the exploitation of the digitised battlespace; and will be complemented by UK Servicemen and women who, coming from a society which is increasingly driven by information, understand both its utility and effect more so than in the past. I hasten to add that in no way does NEC replace our robust warfighting ethos amongst our people: that remains absolutely fundamental if we are to continue to win.
So far I have concentrated pretty much on a national perspective, with the emphasis on what the UK's Armed Forces must achieve to provide the most effective Defence capability. However, it would be wrong to assume, particularly in light of recent operations, that the UK expects to operate alone in the future. So let me now briefly cover multinational or combined operations to highlight how we should address the nature of future operations, their diversity and the challenges of interoperability when working alongside coalition partners.
First of all, the nature of operations.
The Strategic Defence Review, which underlined the rationale for having the UK’s Armed Forces trained and equipped to meet the most demanding combat operations, whilst being readily adaptable to meet the diverse needs of peace support operations, established their expeditionary posture and identified 3 core regions (Europe, the Mediterranean and the Gulf) where crises were most likely to have direct impact on our security. Whilst operations since SDR have reinforced this policy as a sound foundation, the UK has in fact found itself committed to a wider variety of operations and at greater frequency than had originally been envisaged; and many smaller scale operations have been conducted beyond the core regions. Analysis of these activities has shown that we need to take account of the considerable impact of being committed to multiple concurrent Small or Medium Scale operations, their implications on force structures, strategic enablers and, most importantly, our people.
Spectrum of Operations.
The work to do this has started with an expansion of the description of operations beyond the stark definitions of 'warfighting' or 'non-warfighting', reflecting the diversity and complexity of current and future crises. The revised definitions include: Deliberate Intervention, exemplified by recent operations in Iraq; Power Projection and Focused Intervention, such as UK engagement in the Iraqi no-fly zones and Sierra Leone respectively; and Peace Support Operations and Humanitarian Relief, typified by the enduring commitment to the Balkans over recent years.
But whatever the nature of future contingencies, the UK will almost invariably wish to operate within a coalition framework when committing its forces. This may be from within an established institutional framework or an ad-hoc coalition of the willing, the basis of each coalition framework depending primarily on the type of operation and its location. EU-led operations will tend to focus on peace keeping and peace enforcement roles; whilst Focussed Intervention and Deliberate Intervention operations will be either under NATO auspices or in a coalition of the willing, as often as not under US leadership. These operations will require the effective and rapid delivery of combat capability, with lead elements held at very high readiness, supported by the balance of forces at lower readiness states.
But no matter with whom we work, being in multi-national frameworks will require our forces to be interoperable with our allies, with our main focus being on the US alongside whom we are most likely to operate in the majority of more demanding contingencies. This presents us with a particular challenge if we are to keep up with the US plans for Transformation – a challenge we must surmount if the UK is to maintain its unique position as a partner of choice. But we are on the case, and we are working closely with the US Joint Forces Command who has been charged with US Transformation and the development of a Standing Joint Force Headquarters. Transformation, by the way, is not just a technological revolution. It will impact on all aspects of US military doctrine, procedures, equipment and force structures; and in some of these aspects we in the UK are actually ahead of the power curve and we have a valued contribution to make to US thinking.
So, our attention is very much westward-looking – but we must also ensure that interoperability with the US is complementary to our linkage with NATO and European allies. At lesser scales of operation, the UK may find itself with lead or framework nation status in contingencies to which the US has not committed forces – and interoperability here will be further complicated by having to accommodate aspirant nations, who have a steep technological ladder to climb but whose contribution should not be underestimated, particularly in less demanding operations where regional influence may outweigh military capability.
HELMETS TO BERETS
Having covered some of the challenges of the 21st Century relating to where future warfare might be taking us, you will have noticed one aspect of our business that I have so far omitted – people. What sort of attributes must they have if we are to optimise our new doctrines, technologies and so on?
British forces are multi-disciplined, and trained, equipped and, above all, experienced, to meet any number of tasks from intense warfighting to humanitarian relief; and we have seen ample demonstration of this capability in the success with which they have carried out widespread and varied tasks in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq. And in Iraq, particularly after the seizure of Basrah and other southern Iraqi towns, I never ceased to be awed by our servicemen and women’s unique ability to switch from serious warfighting to peacekeeping duties and back again with comparative ease. This attribute – which I might characterise as helmets to berets – is going to remain fundamental to success as long as we continue to engage in the full spectrum of operations; and this is well recognised in the training that is provided today. Our recruitment and training also needs to take into account that the men and women in the Services will need to be highly adaptive, literate and multi-skilled if they are to be capable of operating successfully in a Network-enabled environment. And I have to say that the quality of young people joining the Armed Forces today gives me no qualms on that score. But, as I mentioned earlier, the warfighting ethos which is central to the British approach to operations, and which inculcates the extraordinary mental resilience and toughness needed to be able to cope in this environment, is going to remain the bedrock of successful conduct of any future operations.
The experience of recent operations, and in particular Operation TELIC, has reinforced the requirement for our Armed Forces to be trained and equipped to undertake the full spectrum of military operations. These will become increasingly effects-based and will vary from high intensity combat operations to the delivery of humanitarian aid, two ends of a spectrum within which we must have the flexibility and adaptability to transition rapidly - or even to manage concurrently. Operations in Iraq also demonstrated the potential of Joint Fires – the harnessing of the combined resources from each of the 3 environments to deliver decisive effect; and this potential will be delivered through development of a true Network Enabled Capability, at the heart of which is the ability to gather, manage and then exploit information across the battlespace in real time. NEC will also allow the UK to exploit the prosecution of time-sensitive and fleeting targets by means of a robust Kill Chain in which the process of detection, analysis, decision-making and execution is optimised to achieve decisive effect.
Future operations to which the UK might want to commit forces are likely to be joint, combined and expeditionary in nature, but the additional burden which multiple, concurrent Medium and Small Scale operations is having on our Armed Forces has been recognised and some reshaping of SDR planning guidelines is underway. The spectrum of such operations is diverse and will necessitate agility and adaptability in UK military personnel and force structures; and they will almost invariably be conducted as part of a multinational coalition, formed either around a NATO or EU framework or as a bespoke coalition of the willing, dependent upon the scale and nature of the particular operation and its location. The military effectiveness of such coalitions will be highly dependant on interoperability and, whilst NATO doctrine and procedures provide an excellent foundation, the participation of less technologically advanced allies will provide a tough challenge.
Coherent both with the Principles of War and the UK's manoeuvrist approach, effects-based operations are not a new concept, but limitations in military capability have hitherto generally forced an attritional approach, focused on an opponent's fielded forces. At the dawn of the 21st Century, however, the aspiration for effects-based operations is finally becoming a reality, and our challenge must be to exploit all it has to offer. The rapid evolution of military technology, which enables the precise and effective delivery of overwhelming combat power, gives us the opportunity to do this; and the increasing pressures to minimise casualties and collateral damage provides an additional spur. I am confident that the emerging policy and doctrine, coupled with the high calibre of our people, will provide a firm foundation to take forward the concept and so strengthen the UK's ability to continue to act as a force for good in the world.
(c) Admiral the Lord Boyce GCB OBE, 2003
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