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Winning (and Losing) the First Wired War

This war in Iraq was launched on a theory: That, with the right communication and reconnaissance gear, American armed forces would be quicksilver-fast and supremely lethal. A country could be conquered with only a fraction of the soldiers needed in the past.iraqtech_illo_485.jpgDuring the initial invasion in March 2003, this idea of "network-centric warfare" worked more or less as promised -- even though most of the frontline troops weren't wired up. It was enough that the commanders were connected.But now, more than three years into the Iraq conflict, the network is still largely incomplete. Local command centers have a torrent of information pouring in. For soldiers and marines on the ground, this war isn't any more wired that the last one. "There is a connectivity gap," a draft Army War College report notes. "Information is not reaching the lowest levels."And that's a problem, because the insurgents are stitching together a newtwork of their own. Using throwaway cellphones and anonymous e-mail accounts, these guerrillas rely on a loose web of connections, not a top-down command structure. And they don't fight in large groups that can be easily tracked by high-tech command posts. They have to be hunted down in dark neighborhoods, found amid thousands of civilians, and taken out one by one.David Axe -- recently back from his 6th trip to Iraq -- and I have a special report in this month's Popular Science, on "Winning (and Losing) the First Wired War." Give it a read. And see how this network-centric ideal is playing out, for real.

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