Most people’s first encounter with the term network-centric warfare (NCW) ought to set off their undefined-buzzword-that-sounds-fancy radar. It appears sufficiently generic an expression to encompass any computer-based warfighting system. It is true that there is no dictionary definition of the term. This calls for a clarification of the sense it will have in this article: NCW is about leveraging existing information assets using an infostructure. Now, let us dissect this statement: The term infostructure is an amalgamation of the words information and infrastructure – it refers to the infrastructure used for information sharing. This could be anything from a long-wave military radio network to an office Local Area Network (LAN). The next keyphrase is existing information assets. This establishes that NCW is not about creating new information, but rather about using the information that is already in our possession. Finally, the word leveraging is of crucial importance: We are trying to make better use of what we already have. Based on these premises, NCW is about creating battlespace superiority through more efficient use of existing information. The concept of NCW can be further illustrated by an example. Think of a situation where Army tanks, Navy ships carrying short-range missiles, and Air Force ground attack aircraft would be deployed to take out a mobile enemy command unit. Rather than each moving independently toward the target, they would use a common data network to coordinate their efforts. Each unit type has various sensors to track the target, and this data is fed into the data network. The data is processed into one single target reading that is returned to the units, rendering much more accurate positioning. As the units move in closer to the target, they all have the friendly tank positions plotted on their map displays to avoid friendly fire incidents. The Navy ships have real-time information on the location of the attack aircraft as the ships get ready to launch their missiles. Finally, when weapons are launched, all unit
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