Army Transformation Wargame 2002:
Objective Force communications in global conflict

by Geoffrey Wells and Donald Paul

In a 2020 setting of worldwide conflict and political tension, the 2002 edition of the Army Transformation Wargame provided senior Army leaders an opportunity to analyze Objective Force capabilities in a joint environment. At the same time, the game offered a wargaming team from the Signal Center a realistic and demanding set of requirements against which the success of the proposed OF communications architecture could be measured. Overall, the results were positive, but the game also highlighted cautions.

Transformation wargame

The third annual Army Transformation Wargame was conducted April 21-26 at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. The wargame was designed to examine the United States� ability to respond to multiple crises in a global environment and to study the strategic value of land power in a joint, combined and interagency context. The game also looked at, for the first time, the strategic role of OF units of employment (division and corps equivalents) in a joint context.

As the Army�s transformation effort has moved forward, the annual wargames have offered both strategic and multiservice settings in which key concepts could be explored. In previous games, the scenario was limited to a single region or conflict. This year, Training and Doctrine Command wargamers built a global scenario designed to stretch America�s military resources and stress the ability of service leaders to command-and-control forces engaged in missions across the full spectrum of warfare.

Spanning the globe, the 2002 wargame included scenarios ranging from a major contingency operation in the Caspian region to humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and a small-scale contingency operation in the Southwest Pacific. Added to these were continuing support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Balkans, a border dispute in Northeast Asia and counter-drug operations in Latin America. For the first time, homeland security played a significant role in the game.

More than 470 players and analysts filled the Army War College�s Collins Hall as the game began. The cast included a large number of players from sister services and other government agencies, allied armies and all the TRADOC school commandants.

MG John Cavanaugh, Signal Center commandant, provided guidance and insight on communication issues as a member of the game�s global-strategic team. Other players from the Signal Center�s Directorate of Combat Developments handled communications staffing for the Caspian and Southwest Pacific force-on-force (Blue and Red) teams and served as a member of the homeland security panel. The Communications-Electronics Command�s Research, Development and Engineering Center provided continuity by assigning a veteran of two previous transformation wargames to the Signal Center team.

Blue communications architecture

Blue forces had successfully played advanced communications architectures, primarily drawn from RDEC�s Army After Next work, in previous iterations of the transformation wargame. In the 2002 game, the Blue 2020 communications architecture was based on the revised objective Warfighter Information Network-Tactical and Joint Tactical Radio System. This advanced multitiered architecture, featuring self-configuring and self-healing capabilities, provided secure, wireless, high-speed digital communications service to all echelons on the battlefield.

ATWG 2002 communications architecture The communications architecture for ATWG '02 -- specifically the 2025 multitiered architecture supporting Blue forces. (Illustration courtesy of Communications-Electronics Command's Research, Development and Engineering Center.)

The terrestrial level, embedded in user platforms, simplified force deployment, provided immediate network access and enabled automatic reconfiguration of the network as ground forces maneuvered.

The space and airborne tiers allowed the traditional network �backbone� to be moved into the sky. In addition to high-altitude unmanned relays, the airborne layer contained manned and unmanned aerial-relay platforms organic to the deployed forces. Operating at a variety of altitudes, these relays gave commanders the ability to adjust coverage at critical points on the battlefield.

This vertical portion of the architecture provided range extension and alternate routing of information for the widely dispersed and fast-moving ground elements. It also afforded a means for deployed forces to reach theater and strategic sustaining bases. Most importantly, this �backbone,� so essential to the network�s functioning, could be moved into position prior to force deployment, ensuring availability of network services as forces arrived in the operations area.

Working together through a highly automated network-management system, the pieces of the network created a reliable, flexible and survivable communications structure. As a completely integrated portion of the Global Information Grid, the network gave warfighters access to information from a broad range of organizations and other sources.

Red communications architecture

Red communications and information capabilities in both force-on-force scenarios reflected a projection of technologies available on international markets in 2015. By adapting commercial capabilities, Red forces fielded systems roughly one generation behind those employed by Blue forces. Though Red forces didn�t enjoy the robust airborne and space capabilities available to Blue, their warfighting networks were flexible, secure and difficult to degrade. The commercial telecommunications infrastructures to which Red forces had access � fiber and commercial switches installed in hardened sites � presented an equal challenge. Red command-and-control could survive.


After several days of move and countermove, assessment and adjudication, and consideration of interwoven events around the globe, several insights emerged. These insights were based on feedback from experienced warfighting leaders and reflect the outcomes of wargame operations executed by Blue and Red forces. Blue was able to get to the fight quickly and, once engaged, could consistently see first, understand first, act first and finish decisively. None of that would have been possible without information superiority delivered by the WIN-T/JTRS network.

Insight 1: The 2020 WIN-T/JTRS architecture can meet the demands of full-spectrum operations. Faced with global missions that included near-major theater war, small-scale contingencies, peace enforcement, humanitarian assistance, counterinsurgency, counter-drug and homeland security, the 2020 Army placed a heavy demand on its information systems. The WIN-T/JTRS architecture provided the flexibility to meet each requirement as it emerged.

The architecture�s modular features allowed warfighters to tailor forces for each mission without concern for the communications and information-systems structure that would support them. At each echelon, the combination of embedded ground-based systems and the airborne- and space-based network �backbone� provided needed connectivity and throughput.

Equally important was the architecture�s ability to move information among legacy, interim and objective forces, and sister services. Allies and coalition partners were also readily accommodated, with the levels of connectivity and shared information more a matter of policy than an issue of technology.

The ability of the architecture to instantly become a fully integrated part of the GIG gave warfighters located anywhere in the world the ability to tap a broad range of government and commercial organizations and information sources.

Insight 2: The 2020 WIN-T/JTRS architecture enables rapid force deployment and immediate entry into the fight. The WIN-T/JTRS architecture placed the communications/information network components on-board warfighter platforms or in the airborne- and space-based �backbone.� The warfighter, in essence, carried the network to the fight and, as a result, could accommodate more combat systems in the early-deployment airflow.

The architecture also ensured arriving forces would be able to enter the fight �off the ramp.� With the constant availability of space segment; prepositioned, high-altitude airborne platforms; and the embedding of components on warfighter platforms, the network formed automatically as the force arrived. The warfighter didn�t have to delay combat operations while waiting for establishment of the information network. As the force grew and began to maneuver, network managers configured the network, monitored network performance and allocated network resources to meet changing requirements.

Insight 3: The 2020 WIN-T/JTRS architecture allows warfighters to take advantage of opportunities and execute rapid, decisive operations. The same capabilities that allowed arriving forces to fight �off the ramp� enabled the rapid execution of multiple, dispersed operations over extended areas.

The combination of ground-, airborne- and space-based components and a highly automated network-management system ensured the network would automatically cover the warfighting elements. There was no requirement to manually reconfigure the network or to position � and protect and support � ground relays. This feature allowed warfighters to act quickly as opportunities emerged or as the situation changed.

Insight 4: The WIN-T/JTRS multitiered architecture enhances survivability of the warfighter�s information network and ensures the flow of critical information. Red attempts to degrade the WIN-T/JTRS network had little effect on Blue information flow. At various points in the game, Red attempted to jam network components, and at one point succeeded in destroying one of Blue�s high-altitude airborne platforms. With the density of alternate paths offered by the multitier network, and the ability of the network to automatically reroute traffic and allocate bandwidth based on command-directed parameters, the incident was virtually unnoticed by warfighting commanders and their staffs.

As expected, the combination of capabilities built into the multitiered architecture provided reliability through redundancy. That same feature also removed single points of failure. A more subtle but equally important aspect of the multitiered design was the targeting problem it presented to Red. To have any real impact on Blue�s information flow, Red would have to repeatedly target multiple components in all tiers of the network. Red found this difficult and costly, and chose to search for other ways to attack Blue�s information (for example, Special Operations Forces attacks on the homeland information infrastructure). This outcome reinforced the importance of the investment in the multitier structure.

Insight 5: The 2020 WIN-T/JTRS network is interdependent on joint systems and must be fully interoperable with joint and nongovernmental-organization capabilities. A key part of what made the WIN-T/JTRS network function was the availability of assets owned by other services, such as communication-satellite bandwidth and long-range, high-altitude airborne platforms like the Air Force�s Global Hawk.

These critical network components allowed WIN-T to be put in place even as combat forces were deploying. The components also provided network coverage over extended distances as maneuver units conducted combat operations throughout the operational area. Allocation of these resources among participating services and agencies required management by the theater commanders-in-chief. In the case of multiple global crises, such as those portrayed in the 2002 ATWG, distribution of these high-demand/low-density items among several theaters will have to be managed at a higher level.

When Red destroyed one of Blue�s high-altitude airborne platforms, it became clear that protection of these joint assets � and high-value targets � would require careful coordination. Although the network was designed to identify and take immediate action to eliminate Red systems that threatened Blue�s information infrastructure, a defensive measure, such as scheduling a combat-air patrol to cover the high-altitude relays, could have prevented the loss of an important � and limited � resource.

Basic communication/information interoperability with legacy and interim forces that were part of the wargame force structure wasn�t an issue since the assumption was made, for game purpose, that all units were equipped with at least WIN-T Block I technology. The key issue, instead, was the high degree of joint interdependence.

Insight 6: The extended network will demand an information-assurance effort that is thorough and constant. As U.S. forces dealt with conflicts around the world, the information network became extended, offering increased opportunities for unauthorized entry or attack.

Red commanders recognized how difficult it would be to degrade the tactical portion of Blue�s information network and instead actively sought other avenues to disrupt the flow of information. The manipulation of force-deployment schedules, the destruction of military- and civilian-payroll records and the misdirection of critical �just in time� supplies are only a few examples of ways in which determined opponents tried to attack Blue�s information infrastructure. Red also found that critical commercial telecommunication hubs inside the United States and overseas could be physically attacked, depriving the network of significant capacity and alternate routing capability.

Thinking opponents will constantly search for ways to disrupt the flow of information on which we�re so dependent. We must use all of the available information assurance tools � technologies, policies and procedures � to protect our vital information networks. By carefully and consistently applying these tools, we can ensure the validity and authenticity of information flowing over the network.

Insight 7: The United States will face adversaries whose c2 communications capabilities are sophisticated and survivable. In 2020, Blue faced opponents whose command and control systems were effective and difficult to take down.

Our adversaries studied emerging technologies and their application to warfighting, and recognized the value of information as a force multiplier. They reasoned that if information could allow the United States to transform into a smaller, lighter force, then a country with a force that was already small and light could reach a form of warfighting parity by using information.

These countries also understood America�s tendency to attack an opponent�s C2 system early in a campaign. To counter that possibility, they expended considerable money and effort to protect their command, control and communications infrastructure, transitioning from exposed microwave systems to buried fiberoptic cable and building hardened underground switching centers. Blue targeting cells had difficulty finding these facilities; most remained operational during the conflict.

Equally important, Red found it could equip its tactical forces with mobile systems that were readily available in the commercial marketplace. Even systems that were a generation behind U.S. technology possessed enough capability to allow Red commanders to compete with U.S. forces.

We must consider that future adversaries may possess a C3 capability that will be far more difficult to defeat or degrade than those we�ve faced in the past. Even more worrisome is the thought that smaller adversaries will be able to employ leading-edge �niche� technologies available on commercial markets much more readily than the United States can because of their smaller size and the fact that they are not confronted with a lengthy acquisition process.

The road ahead

Throughout the game, the WIN-T/JTRS network performed as expected. Forces deployed rapidly, changed and rehearsed missions enroute, entered the fight quickly and enjoyed unprecedented freedom of maneuver. The network enabled a high degree of situation understanding at all echelons and enhanced the warfighter�s decision-making process. The multitier structure and advanced network-management capability absorbed attacks and kept critical information flowing. Integration with the GIG gave deployed forces access to theater and sustaining-base resources and made joint interdependence a reality.

Results of the 2002 ATWG are now being analyzed in-depth, and information will be fed into TRADOC�s ongoing OF development effort. Ultimately, insights gained through the wargaming process will help the Army�s senior leaders reach key decisions about OF systems and force structures.

Wargame results will also help us refine communications-system requirements and provide an operational setting against which emerging solutions can be measured. The wargaming process � ATWG 2003 � will continue to give us a vehicle with which we can �test drive� concepts in a future environment, thus ensuring the systems and doctrine we develop always meet the warfighter�s needs.

Retired COL Wells is a veteran of three ATWGs. A former TRADOC systems manager for the mobile-subscriber-equipment system, Wells works for L-3 Communications/EER Systems, Inc., supporting the Concepts Branch of the Signal Center�s Directorate of Combat Developments.

Mr. Paul is a telecommunications specialist in the Signal Center�s DCD Concepts Branch. ATWG 2002 was his first venture into the world of transformation wargames.

Acronym quickscan
ATWG � Army Transformation Wargame
C2 � command and control
C3 � command, control and communications
DCD � Directorate of Combat Developments
GIG � Global Information Grid
JTRS � Joint Tactical Radio System
OF � Objective Force
RDEC � Research, Development and Engineering Center
TRADOC � Training and Doctrine Command
WIN-T � Warfighter Information Network-Tactical

dividing rule

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