Ever since there have been armies there has been a need for tactical intelligence. The first intelligence officers were the scouts that rode ahead to gather information on the terrain, position and size of the enemy’s army. With time, single battles became wars and there grew a need for even more information. In 1776, during the Revolutionary War, Captain Nathan Hale was the first officer to volunteer to go behind enemy lines and gather intelligence.
Although over the years a lot has changed in how wars are fought, information is still as important than ever. In his days, Captain Hale could only rely on his eyes and ears for gathering information, and now there are hundreds of devices that scan, intercept and analyze all kinds of information. In modern warfare information can decide the fate of a battle. Cracking the German Enigma code in the World War 2 was most probably one of the main breakthroughs that contributed to defeating the Germans.
The New Battleground
The more sophisticated and precise weapons are getting, the more they rely on information and communication to function properly. For many years the US Military had a large technological advantage over its rivals; GPS guided missiles, stealth warplanes and armed drones contributed to a swift victory in the Gulf War. But now combat zones are not so easily defined and the enemy is not always that easy to identify.
Cheap technology and the abundance of easy accessible information is moving the odds, simultaneously introducing a whole new kind of battlefield.
Cyber is the new domain where a lot of battles are fought. Cyber wars are not limited to the hacking of computer systems or stealing information. Electronic warfare on the battlefields is not a problem of the future, as Syria has shown, it is very much a problem of today. And not limited to military powers, even terrorist groups, like ISIS, have acquired threatening cyber abilities making tactical cyber security all the more important.
American troops stationed in Syria are increasingly reporting electronic attacks that could potentially have dire consequences for their safety. Officers have reported jamming of their communications, or radar, by conventional forces active in the country and terrorist groups alike. Such attacks can leave troops “blind” or incapable of requesting support. Miscommunication, in such a crowded battlefield, can also easily escalate the situation, that could lead to war.
The Department of Defense is aware that with the growing cyber capabilities of adversaries, electronic warfare is becoming a serious threat to troops on the battlefield. Just like the internet of things (IoT) poses security risks in civil life, the vulnerability of the internet of battlefield things (IoBT), especially through the close proximity of opponents, is a problem that has to be addressed.
Another problem is a shortage of cybersecurity specialists who are capable of effectively addressing cyber threats, in real-time, on the battlefield. The constant flow of new, innovative technologies does not make the situation easier.
It is up to the military to work closer with industry to come up with small form-factor automated solutions to address mobility problems and reduce the dependence on highly skilled operators.