Military Embedded Systems

How the kill web manipulates time and space


March 31, 2020

Ray Alderman

VITA Standards Organization

WARFARE EVOLUTION BLOG: The best way to start this essay is with a simple formula that shows how the kill web manipulates time and space, and then explain how it works: t= (d/s)/i. Time (t) is equal to distance (d) divided by speed (s), divided by intelligence (i). The more intelligence we have about the enemy, the more we can manipulate time and space.

Raw information from sensors processed into intelligence will enable us to speed up or slow down time in a war to our advantage. Since time and distance (space) are interchangeable, we can manipulate space, too. If the enemy can’t hide from all the kill web sensors and weapons, we control the amount of space the enemy has to maneuver.

World War I lasted for four years. World War II continued for six years, and the Korean War lasted three years. United States combat troops were in Vietnam for over eight years. U.S. soldiers went into Iraq in 1990 and have been there for 20 years, off and on. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, and our troops are still there (19 years). Obviously, our enemy’s strategy is to slow down time and make the war longer (protracted war) through deception, subversion, guerrilla warfare, insurgency, and terrorism. Their goal is to force us to cut our losses and leave (like in Vietnam). The first objective of the kill web is to introduce a new strategy for fighting wars, manipulate time and space, and shorten future wars. The process that makes the kill web work is the rapid devastation of enemy soldiers and their weapons. We must eliminate the “proportional response” and “limited war” strategies of the past. Wars of the future will most likely be similar to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan since Russia and China don’t want a major war with the U.S. So, we must take control of time.

U.S. Air Force Gen. John Jumper said that we need to hit enemy targets in 10 minutes or less. Army Gen. Mark Milley said that if our combat troops and ground vehicles sit in one place for more than two or three hours on the battlefield, they are dead. What these military commanders are saying is that the enemy wants to slow down time, and we must speed up time. Then, we can quit fighting time and focus on fighting the enemy.

To read more Warfare Evolution Blogs by Ray Alderman, click here.

As you have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are already manipulating time and space to some degree. Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf War (1991) lasted 100 hours for our ground troops, but it seemed much longer for the Iraqi Army. We forced the Iraqis onto the “Highway of Death” as they came out of Kuwait, controlling the space they had to retreat, and we destroyed them and their gear. However, we need to get much better at this game. How can we do that? The kill web is a dynamic, multi-dimensional warfare concept that tightly integrates all warfare domains (land, sea, undersea, air, space, cyberspace, electromagnetic spectrum) with our armed forces (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Space Force). Then, it combines all their intelligence and weapon systems together on a network. Go read about the Air Force Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) program to understand this theory.

The best way to explain things and avoid confusion is to use the 5F kill web model: find (identify), fix (track), fire, finish, and feedback. This complete integration will drive the strategy of shortening wars. Instead of fighting protracted, low-intensity wars for many years, the kill web concept will create a violent, deadly, and fast-paced war for a short period of time. Let’s examine how it works.

Find (identify)
The first phase in erecting the kill web is to saturate an area with sensors and move our weapon systems into position around it. We’ve done this before. Go read about Operation Igloo White, where we dropped sensors along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos in 1968. Radar, sonar, infrared, acoustic (sound), electro-magnetic (SIGINT and ELINT), electro-optical (IMINT), magnetometers (metal detectors), seismometers (vibrations), motion detectors, chemical detectors, cyber warfare systems, and radiation sensors are focused on the target area by our satellites, ground vehicles, troops, planes, helicopters, drones, ships, and submarines. Once in position, the sensors begin collecting information about the enemy from any signature they might emit (Find), process it into targeting intelligence (Identify), and share those targets on the network. This phase must take place in minutes or seconds and is called persistent monitoring. Lots of money is going into sensors, communications equipment, and powerful embedded computers to accomplish this goal. Go read about the C4ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS) program. Then, read about the Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) initiative. When you’re done with that, read about the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Target Recognition and Adaptation in Contested Environments (TRACE) program.

Fix (track)
Some targets inside the kill web will move (like tanks), and some are stationary (like enemy command/control/communications centers). The information from the sensors is processed into fixed-target and moving-target intelligence (fix and track). That is fed to the weapons systems in real time and is called “sensor fusion” or “sensor-to-shooter.” This is the first manipulation of time and space: We control the best time and the best place to attack, not the enemy. We have sped up time for us and slowed down time for the enemy here. This phase needs to occur in minutes or seconds, too. Again, lots of money is going into artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that analyze the raw sensor information and transform it into targeting intelligence. Humans must be removed from these first two phases because they cannot handle the volume of raw data or the processing requirements. Go read about the Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) program and the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) initiative. When you’re done with those, go read about DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environments (CODE) project.

We have the most advanced, most accurate weapons in the world. What we need are targets. Let’s take an example to prove that point. During Operation Enduring Freedom (the invasion of Afghanistan) in October 2001, U.S. and British forces destroyed 31 enemy targets on the first day and 13 targets on the second day. The Joint Chiefs were concerned that the attack was slowing down, so they called in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for an explanation. He told them, "We’re not running out of targets. Afghanistan is.” The second objective of the kill web is to make the enemy run-out of targets fast. When that happens, the war is over.

The primary problem with our present weapons is the time it takes for them to reach the target after firing. That can be solved by reducing the distance between the weapon and the enemy target, but that exposes our troops and equipment to destruction by an enemy using an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategy. If we increase the speed of the ordinance, we reduce the time in flight. That’s why we have a number of programs to develop hypersonic missiles, hypersonic rocket-powered artillery shells, and high-energy laser weapons. If we can find, identify, fix, and track enemy targets in seconds, but it takes our weapons 30 minutes to hit them, we have failed to meet Gen. Jumper’s goal. That’s why stealth is so important today. The kill web will feed targeting information to stealthy 5G and 6G fighter planes, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the area. They can close the distance without being detected and hit identified targets in 10 minutes or less with conventional munitions.

Just because our weapons have hit an enemy target does not mean that target has been destroyed. We need confirmation. Let’s say the kill web has launched an attack against a column of enemy tanks. After the initial attack, the sensors on UAVs, fighter planes, satellites, and ground vehicles in the area will assess the damage quickly. If some enemy tanks survived, the kill web will start the find, identify, fix, and track phases again, feed the new targeting intelligence to the weapons, and launch a second attack in minutes. The finish phase applies to fights on land, in the air, and at sea.

While the kill web is primarily an intelligence, tactical operations, and fire control system, it also has some administrative and archival duties. All the data about the enemy’s weapons, positions, movements, tactics, and reactions during battle, collected by the sensors during the find (identify), fix (track), and fire phases, is sent downstream to the area command centers. Additionally, data from our weapons systems and how they performed (the finish phase) is also collected and sent. That data is stored and analyzed on large computers or in data centers by the Pentagon.

Let’s take a hypothetical example using the tank battle mentioned above. IMINT and satellite radar find enemy tanks at a certain location, and the kill web dispatches helicopters with Hellfire missiles to eliminate them. When the helicopters are about 20 miles from the targets, the tanks disperse and run for the cover of the trees for protection. Obviously, the enemy has a mobile air defense radar system somewhere that warned the tanks about the incoming helicopters. The data from the ELINT systems on the kill web show certain wave forms, frequencies, and pulse rates (radar signal intercept, radio fingerprinting, and direction finding) coming from a location near the tanks. Data from the SIGINT systems on the kill web show voice chatter from the same location (voice signal intercept, radio fingerprinting, and direction finding). That’s the radar operators warning the tanks about the inbound helicopters.

Now, we know how the enemy protects their tanks. We also learned that when ELINT picks up certain waveforms, frequencies, and pulse rates from enemy radar systems, there are enemy tanks nearby. When IMINT and satellite radar find enemy tanks again, the kill web dispatches helicopters with Hellfire missiles to destroy them like before. F-22 stealth fighters with laser-guided bombs are sent to circle overhead in case a second strike is needed in the finish phase. The kill web also dispatches electronic warfare (EW) systems to the target area, that jam the enemy radar. Cyber warfare (CW) systems are also allocated to hack into the enemy RF communications computers. SIGINT sensors are also focused on the area to see if the radar operators are talking to the tanks. If they are, the EW systems will jam those frequencies.

When the CW people, working with the Psychological Operations people, hack into the enemy's communications computers, they send a fake emergency message from the enemy commander to the tanks telling them to halt and wait for a change in orders. IMINT continues to watch the tanks, to see if they stop or disperse and head for the trees. The data from all these sensors goes onto the kill web network so all systems involved in the fight can see what’s happening in real time. In 10 minutes or less, the enemy tanks and their air defense radar system are destroyed. UAVs fly over the location to complete the finish phase to see if any tanks survived, thus requiring the F-22s to drop their laser-guided bombs. All of that data feeds back into the computers at command centers and the Pentagon for analysis. The enemy never saw the attack coming because we connected the dots and manipulated time and space to our advantage. Additionally, the kill web can be scaled up or scaled down depending on the battlefield requirements. It can fight across all warfare domains and on many fronts simultaneously.

As you can see here, the more data the kill web collects, the smarter it gets. The AI people call this process deep learning. What will all this collected, archived, and analyzed battle data tell us? It will give us the ability to know how our enemies think and anticipate what they will do in certain battlefield scenarios with a better degree of certainty. That, in turn, will give us even more control of time over our enemies. Go read about Project Maven (Algorithmic Warfare Cross-function Team). Then study the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) project. Put all the programs I have mentioned here together, and what you have is “war in a box”.

We could go through more elaborate battle scenarios that drag every sensor and weapon system attached to the kill web network into the picture. But that would get complicated, create a lot more work for me, and turn this essay into a Michael Crichton novel. I’ve given you a basic template about how the kill web works, so you can come up with your own complex scenarios and go through the 5F sequences independently.

If you want to dig deeper into this topic, go back and read my previous articles on the kill web. Then, read Donald Stoker’s new book, “Why America Loses Wars” (2019). He goes through the history of the previous limited wars (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq) and the mistakes that were made. He analyzes the political, strategic, operational, and tactical reasons those wars ended (or continued) as they did.

Let’s end this thesis with a quote from a Russian, Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” One way or another, you will somehow be involved in any wars the U.S. has to fight in the future. After reading this piece, you should know more about how we are planning to fight them and where your tax dollars are going.

What should we explore in our next adventure? There’s a veritable cornucopia of kill web processes and elements we could investigate, but many require a mastery of multivariate calculus, differential equations, 27 different AI algorithm types, Riemann geometry, Lorentz Transformations, and quantum physics to explain them. So, let’s take a look at the “loyal wingman” autonomous drones that will escort our fighter planes into battle in the future. That topic will successfully avoid all the math.