Network-Centric Warfare: It’s Implications for Japan Self-Defense Force
Col. Yukiya Yamakura
Visiting Fellow, The Henry L. Stimson Center and
Air Staff College, Japan Air Self-Defense Force
August 18, 2005
The contents of this paper reflect my own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by
the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Japan Defense Agency, and the Government of Japan.
In the Iraq War, the US Armed Forces showed the world the new know-how
(planning, execution, evaluation etc.) for conducting warfare by Effect Based Operation
(EBO), and Rapid Decisive Operation (RDO). The concept of Network-Centric
Warfare (NCW) and a strong network of highly-effective sensors, precision guided
munitions (PGM), combined with the decision-making capability by US decision
makers, enabled the United States to introduce the new know –how for conducting
Now, the US Armed Forces are pushing transformation under the initiative of
the Office of Transformation. For a new concept for conducting warfare such as NCW,
no official definition has yet to be established. Nonetheless, the NCW concept is
believed to be at the very core of force transformation.
The US Armed Forces have been steadily moving toward the goals of
transformation. Through the process of transformation, the concept of operation and a
way to evaluate it have been established. The concept of NCW network that connects
shooters, censors, and command and control (C2) system has also evolved.
We can expect the NCW concept for US Armed Forces itself to evolve further in
the future. This, in turn, will drive the transformation in other countries’ armed
forces—US friends and foes alike—as well as other innovations in information
technology (IT) or changes in strategic environment.
In Japan, the Security Council and the Cabinet approved the new National
Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) on 10 December, 2004. Under the new
guidelines, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) is to strengthen its framework of joint
operations, shifting away from the conventional concept that each JSDF service
operates independently. In the process of the JSDF pursuing a greater degree of
“jointness”, there are some challenges, including how to establish logistical support,
command, control, communications and computer (C4) and other systems that are more
suitable for joint operations.
Currently, the interoperability between the JSDF and the US forces is not adequate
to conduct joint operations. In order to conduct joint operations with the US forces
successfully, the JSDF has to ensure that the concept of operations, ideas as well as
tactics are shared, and interoperability exists among weapon systems. Therefore, if the
NCW will be at the heart of US force transformation, it is important for the JSDF to
understand US forces’ basic concept for how to conduct war and how it will introduce
the NCW concept, so that the JSDF can transform itself into a force that can effectively
introduce the NCW concept while improving its interoperability with its US
Based on the point of view that I just mentioned, I will first give an overview of
the discussion of NCW concept in the United States, its effect as well as its limitations.
I will then examine the impact of introducing NCW concept to JSDF operations, and
what the future challenges may be.
2. The concept of NCW and the present situation of NCW in the US
Based on the publication 1
by the Department of Defense (DOD), we can
define the NCW concept as:ⅰthe guideline of conducting warfare and organizing
military forces, ⅱ a network that connects dispersed units, platforms, censors, and
decision-making functions that makes it possible to share the information on situations
on a real-time basis, which will enable a military force to acquire information
superiority over its adversaries, and ⅲ a means of winning an ultimate combat
superiority by capitalizing on information superiority. NCW is neither a dogma nor a
It may best be defined as a new concept in how to engage in warfare.
1 Network-Centric Warfare:Creating a Decisive Warfighting Advantage
(Director,Force Transformation,OSD,Winter 2003)
NCW consist of 4 element; censor, shooter, C2 and information infrastructure.
Here, in this paper, I will call censor and shooter platform, the other C2 and information
infrastructure network. In NCW, the information on enemy and friendly forces
collected through the information gathering systems such as reconnaissance satellites,
and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be shared through the network. This will
allow command post in a distant location to command its forces in a very short time,
and can direct attacking forces to the targets in a swift, precise, and flexible way.
Further, by gaining a better situation awareness of battlefield, a military force can
employ its forces much more effectively.
The Transformation Planning Guidelines (TPG) issued after the 2001
Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) has proposed the following four pillars.
1) Strengthening joint operations
2) Exploiting U.S. intelligence advantages
3) Experimenting in support of new warfighting concepts
4) Developing transformational capabilities.
The TPG says that the first step toward forces with these attributes is to invest
more now in these four transformation pillars. 2
Currently, each service has
developed the milestones that it will use to gauge its progress in its transformation to
meet these new challenges. Now, US military has been steadily building up
network-centric forces through its transformation.
Dr. Yves Boyer, Assistant Director of The Foundation of Strategic Research in France,
in describing European view of US military transformation, said, “US views on future
warfare epitomized in the notion of “network centric warfare”, is supposed to become
the standard views in Europe as well.” 3
If that is indeed the observation among US
2 The Transformation Planning Guidelines(DOD,Apr.2003, pp10)
3 Yves Boyer “Security Problems in a Global Age and the Future Course of the Transformation of the
Military: French view”(The National Institute for Defense Studies , International Symposium on
allies in Europe, US allies in Asia, including Japan, will also have to regard the NCW
concept as their standard-setter for future warfare.
3. The limit and restriction of NCW
There are some restrictions in building up units for NCW. One of them is the
budget. To provide the military with NCW capability requires a large budget. In fact,
the costs for next generation aircraft, submarines, and aircraft carriers with high-speed
data links used for NCW have been skyrocketing. In addition, the estimated cost for
updating so-called “legacy system”—the systems that have been used up to
present—might be just as expensive as, or more expensive than purchasing new
NCW-capable systems. For example, the cost to upgrade a cruiser with NCW
capability is just as expensive as purchasing a brand new one.
At present, US military wants to acquire new types of fighters and submarines.
With US government’s apparent desire to keep the cost for such new purchases below a
certain level, a serious negotiation is underway in order to determine an appropriate
balance between these new purchases and providing US forces with appropriate NCW
In Japan, a similar challenge exists. For instance, the Japan Air Self-Defense
Force (JASDF) has to upgrade their F-15s’ avionics system with a Multi-Information
Distribution System (MIDS) that will allow linkage with Link-16. 4
It will cost more
than 5 billion yen 5
per aircraft for this type of upgrade. Because high performance is
expected from the new platform itself, maintenance cost for such a system will likely be
Security Affairs 2004)p.44
4 Link 16 is a military inter-computer data exchange format of NATO. With Link 16, military aircraft
as well as ships and army units can exchange each other their tactical picture in real time.
5 It is equivalent to 45 million dollars, If 1 dollar is calculated for 110 yen.
very expensive. Similarly to the United States, Japan has to consider what an
appropriate balance should be between cost for purchasing new platforms, renovating
legacy systems, and investing in command, control, communications, computers,
information, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). The failure to strike a right balance among
these three factors may result in exposing deficiencies in NCW capability at a critical
juncture in operations.
(Limitation in technology)
One of the biggest technical challenges in introducing the NCW concept in
actual force structure is how to come up with a way to evaluate, to select, and to
combine the information from different sensors into one common picture. The staff at a
command post needs much time to analyze this and might not be able to act on time.
Some analysts have pointed out the risk of an error in the content of information caught
by sensors because information is transmitted to the forces on a front line through many
systems and converted repeatedly in each system. Transmitting accurate information in
real time to systems and units that can act on it immediately is the challenge. The other
serious problem is the existence of an enemy who tries to manipulate the NCW system
to provide misinformation.
For instance, well-experienced enemies may falsify
activities and hide themselves from our sensors using everything on the ground.
Terrain affects the usefulness of the censors as well.
Capturing accurate information in
forests, where they can avoid the detection from air very easily, is a lot harder than
doing so in a desert where there is nowhere to hide.
Electronic waves might not
penetrate well in an environment like a forest.
(Vulnerability in network)
Information on a network is transmitted mainly by radio waves through
computers and communications equipments with high technologies in a vast operational
theater or outer space. The vulnerability of a network can be summarized into the next
three problems; configuration management of the equipment, control of frequency
usage electronic waves, and the enemy’s jamming of communications.
Today, configuration management of weapons and systems has become more
complicated both in hardware and software. In today’s weapon development
environment, applying modern technologies that have been progressing day bay day
while making appropriate corrections to their deficiencies is a necessity. If we fail in
managing configuration of weapons, it is impossible to maximize their capability, let
alone connecting them to a network.
In the future, a network system in a battlefield will further depend on electronic
waves from communication satellites. There are two aspects in the information
warfare. One is to prevent enemies from interruption communications, and the other is
to actually utilize electronic waves used by enemy forces. Therefore, maintenance of a
network system will become much more important. For example, the Electromagnetic
Pulse (EMP) is a quite effective weapon to disrupt systems of enemy forces by using
electromagnetic waves and to destroy them electronically. If a military force is not
prepared for enemy forces’ attempt to jam communication, it will leave the force
vulnerable to enemies’ disruption of its network system by the enemy.
A military force’s dependence on electric waves in battlefield communication
brings another problems as well. For instance, its interference with radio waves causes
a communications blackout. This affects not only the military system but also civilian
communication facilities and systems in the theater. In order to avoid such situation,
managing (and sometimes restricting) the frequencies that can be used by for our
friendly forces will become necessary.
From now on the US forces are going to introduce “Commercial off the shelf”
(COTS) equipment in order to apply the latest civilian technologies in a timely manner.
But the introduction of COTS into military operations is quite risky. US forces have
already learned that they cannot get the best performance out of COTS under a harsh
operational environment with minor modifications. The front line does not have well
air-conditioned headquarters. Members in charge of logistics have to supply the front
line with the weapons which can endure very severe environments such as sandstorms,
strong wind, rain, low temperatures at high altitude, hard vibrations etc. Procurement
of COTS with good cost bearing with its limited performance is a current trend. But
the unbalance with the military specification leads to a dangerous situation for our
members on the front line. They might not be able to turn on their computers and
connect the network due to the outrange of equipment’s usage condition.
(Difference in culture)
Arguably, the biggest challenge for introducing and successfully implement the
NCW concept is difference in cultures of each military service. While the United
States have been promoting “jointness” since the 1980s, and its effects were seen in the
Iraq War, there are still a lot of cultural clashes among military services. Currently,
there is neither a consensus on the necessity of NCW nor the common vision for the
requirements for the NCW system among four services of the US military. This is
because of different cultures among the services. For example, the top management
and leaders at all levels in the US Marine Corps may think that leadership is much more
important than NCW, while Army commanders on a front line may be more skeptical of
the effectiveness of NCW, including the credibility of information transmitted through
the system. They have stressed that so-called the “fog in a battlefield” will not clear
up. In the meantime, navy and air force, because of rapid technological progress in
improving situations awareness of aircrafts and ships, they seem to be more open to the
NCW concept from the beginning.
In the budget process, each service is most concerned with increasing their share
in the defense budget. While such a sentiment is understandable, hard lobbying by the
military for a larger budget create problems in allocating appropriate resources for
NCW which is essentially a joint capability. This would lead to different levels of
NCW capability in each service, which would present serious problems in actual
4. The present status of Japan SDFs
Based on new NDPG which emphasize the need of “jointness”, the JSDF are
going to transition to a Joint Operations System at the end of our current fiscal year,
which ends on 31 March next year 6 . In 2004 Japan began to introduce the Ballistic
Missile Defense(BMD) as one of the JSDF’s new capability which deal with new threat,
stated in NDPG. While this BMD consists of the sea-based midcourse defense system
by Aegis ships and the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile
system, the new joint structure which can operate these two systems effectively and can
command by one commander is truly needed. BMD is at the vanguard of the JSDF’s
“jointness”. Indeed, the introduction of the BMD system has been driving the efforts
toward establishing the Joint Operations System.
(The 2004 National Defense Program Guidelines)
New NDPG defines Japan’s national security objectives much more clearly
compared to the previous ones. With the three basic principles 7 , the NDPG sets the
two goals for Japan’s national security policy: defense of Japan and improving
international security environment. To achieve these goals, the NDPG envisions three
missions for the JSDF—effective response to the new threats and diverse situations,
preparations to deal with full-scale invasion, and proactive efforts to improve the
international security environment
To this end, the NDPG dictates that the JSDF should try to develop its
capability first by enhancing its joint operation capability as well as intelligence-sharing
capability. But beyond that, how should Japan develop its defense forces to meet these
6 DEFENSE OF JAPAN 2005(SUMMARY/Tentative Translation) Chapter II Section 4, p29
7 1 Japan’s own efforts, 2 cooperation with the international community, 3 cooperation with the United States
goals? How can the JSDF introduce net-centricity to adapt to future operational and
tactical environments? As Japan continues to develop its defense capability, the
clarification of the role of defense capabilities in order to achieve national security
policy goals must continue. In this process, outcome of the debate over constitutional
issues, particularly the one surrounding its Article 9, is critical.
By centralizing the operational functions of each SDF service to a
newly-established Joint Staff Office (JSO) 8 , the JSDF aims for a more timely
decision-making by JDA Director General and a more effective operations.
The new JSO will take over the operational control of the JSDF forces, which
currently belongs to each service’s Staff Office. The Ground, Maritime, and Air Staff
Offices will continue to manage training/education, personnel, force build-up and so on.
For the time being, each service will maintain control over logistics, although in the
long run, the JSDF will need a joint logistics capability for effective operations. In other
words, JSO will perform a function to operate troops (force user), while each service’s
Staff Office will perform a function to build troops (force provider). This transformation
is focused on the strengthening joint operations. We cannot conduct a swift military
operation with only operational forces. In addition, the JSDF are currently reviewing
the new doctrine based on joint operation has yet to be reviewed.
(Ballistic Missile Defense)
The mid-term defense build-up program adopted in December 2004 states:
“Strengthen Japan-US bilateral efforts to enhance ballistic missile defense (BMD)
capabilities, and promote cooperation with the US from the fields of defense policy,
operations, and equipment and technology” to strengthen the tie with US for security.
Current Office to be reorganized into New Joint Staff Office has the same English translation but
the Japanese word for it (Toubaku-Jimukyoku) literally means “Secretariat of Joint Staff Council” and
has limited functions compared with those of the New Staff Office.
When ballistic missiles targeted at Japan are launched, the Maritime
Self-Defense Force (MSDF)’s Aegis ships, together with the ASDF’s radar, Patriot
missiles, and C2 systems will make initial efforts to engage and intercept the missiles.
Should the interception effort fails and missiles hit Japanese territory, Ground
Self-Defense Force (GSDF) will have to handle consequence management. In order
for the JSDF to conduct there operation seamlessly, the JSDF needs to build the BMD
System as a joint capability between Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces.
In addition, close coordination with US forces in Japan and the US government will also
In 1995 Japan Defense Agency started to review our air defense system. In
1999, we started the joint technical research on future equipment and in 2004 we began
to introduce the BMD. After Japanese government decided to introduce BMD, we
have held meetings regularly with the US to strengthen cooperation for BMD between
the two countries. The new radars have been developed, and old systems have been
upgraded. At the same time, ASDF is also developing the Japan Aerospace Defense
Ground Environment (JADGE), which will be the C2 system for BMD. In 2006 we
will have a partial BMD capability.
The 2004 NDPG emphasizes the significance of improving command, control,
communications and information (C3I) capability. Due to stovepipes among the
services, the linkage between each and among service’s staff office and major
commands, particularly in the area of C3I, is inadequate today, both at the operational as
well as tactical levels. Currently, the JSDF has been developing the Defense Information
Infrastructure (DII)—a new secure communication network—in which classified
information can be communicated at the command level of each service from April
But the DII doss not resolve problems at operational and tactical levels. Today,
the MSDF and the ASDF already have separate guidelines for developing C3I with the
NCW concept. Based on these guidelines, MSDF has already acquired a new C2
system and deployed it to some units. Currently, however, it is difficult to share
information and have a common recognition of battle fields between the two services’
units in real time except between Aegis and the ASDF’s AWACS. While the
introduction of BMD has been driving the efforts for joint operations by developing
communications infrastructure and C2 system to cope with ballistic missile threats,
there are still some challenges remaining in the development of communication
infrastructure by which we share information such as the detection of a missile launch.
(The need of NCW concept for JSDF)
For the following reasons, I believe it is indispensable for the JSDF introducing
NCW concept which will improve the operational capability and “jointness” of JSDF.
1) The way of US Force’s new warfighting based on NCW concept was demonstrated
successfully in Iraq War. Considering strategic environments and use of IT technologies
in the battlespace, the JSDF should move to introduce NCW.
2) NCW concept need the highly “jointness” itself and promote more effective joint
operation, enable to use the power of military. The essence of joint operations is to
employ military forces and use the power more effectively and swiftly depending on the
situation of the battle. For that purpose, we have to establish a network of military
forces at all the levels of command.
3) NCW concept contributes to enhance the interoperability between the JSDF and the
US forces. In order to ensure interoperability with the US forces in operation, the JSDF
has to understand the concept of NCW and have the connectivity with the US Forces
through developing NCW capability.
5. Implication for JSDF
(Challenges for GOJ and JDA)
The capability that the JSDF should have depends on whether Japan can
exercise the right of collective self-defense or not. Generally, it takes for long period to
build up a certain military capability. The present and future efforts for building the
joint capability would be neither efficient nor effective if Government of Japan (GOJ)
couldn’t solve the issue of collective self-defense at an early date. Indeed, this issue has
significant impacts on the JSDF’s future efforts in developing defense capability with
NCW concept. I hope GOJ solve the issue of collective self-defense as soon as possible.
On the other hand, although the authority to operate troops is transferred to JSO,
each service still holds authority to build up troops. It may be expected that the negative
effect, such as budget battle by the difference in culture of each services limit to build
up the joint capability properly. Therefore, to do appropriate budget allocation to each
service, JDA and JSDF should consider taking in a system like Joint Requirement
Oversight Council (JROC) which has been adopted at the U.S. DoD.
(Balance of investment to network capability and platform)
The introduction of NCW is quite essential for the JSDF to strengthen the joint
operational capability. We have to establish the network (C2 and information
infrastructure) in such a manner that we can ensure interoperability in operations with
To this end, the JSDF first has to understand the concept of NCW and tenets of it
in the JSDF’s joint operation. However, the JSDF have not come to fully recognize the
necessity of introducing NCW concept. This may be due to the skepticism about the
benefit of NCW. But it also may come out of budget concern that still lingers in the
JSDF. My sense is that although most in each service’s Staff Office may recognize the
necessity of network capability, they may be unwilling to commit too much resource to
network capability because of the limitation of budget. I assume that the JSDF still need
to upgrade the capability of its major platforms. It is obvious that investments into both
network and platform will become immense expenditure. While it is important to invest
in NCW capability as much as new platform or upgrade of platform, we should still
keep a balance to invest in defense capability.
(Developing doctrine and operational concept with NCW)
There are other challenges, however, for the JSDF to introduce for the NCW
concept to its force structure. But such challenges are not uncommon when a military
force tries to develop a new concept or new military doctrine.
An immediate challenge for the JSDF is to establish a common doctrine and
operational concept. Once new doctrines and operational concept for a new way of
war are established, the JSDF needs to intensify training, experiments, and exercises.
Throughout this process, a close coordination with US forces will be extremely
important. In this process, it is most important to clarify the operational concept, and the
NCW concept is introduced to the JSDF with a clear direction and methodology.
Effort toward that end should start in each JSDF service. While it takes many years to
build up defense capabilities, formulating a shared operational concept among three
services is quite an urgent matter.
(Difference between offense and defense)
If an offensive force has problems in a battle because of the disruption of its
network system, or inability to obtain actionable information on its targets, it has an
option of suspending their attack. However, a defensive force, such as the JSDF, does
not have that option. For a defense force, in fact, the shutdown of a network system
might create risks that are critical for our forces. For example, our command post may
not get important information (e.g. information on the locations of target) in a timely
manner and deploy necessary forces. This is why it is critical for the JSDF to establish
a robust network system.
(Effects on the acquisition system: Impact on defense industry)
The introduction of NCW will have a great impact on JSDF’s acquisition system
and organization as well as the defense industry in Japan. Although the JSDF cannot
avoid the use of COTS as necessary in order to quickly introduce the latest technology,
good balance with the military specification needs to be struck.
For instance, if considering interoperability with the United States, one can
argue that the best way to achieve that is procure the US equipments and weapons. In
fact, with the start of a joint operations system, we will need more interoperability for
newly acquired equipment.
But it is also quite important for our strategy of national
defense to build up the basis of our defense industry. That means that Japan has to
change its weapon procurement system from the one our, in which each SDF service
buys its own equipment to a more of a joint procurement process.
But such an acquisition reform may bring some pain for the industry, and
therefore will not be easy. However, as Japan revises its process of defense capability
build-up, similar revision needs to take place on the acquisition side as well.
Introducing the NCW concept to the JSDF’s posture, there are many challenges
such as a technical issue, budget limitation, budget battle between each services, and
acquisition reform. However, the impact of introducing NCW capability on the
operational effectiveness of the JSDF is immeasurable. All services can share the
information of battlespace at all (shooter)’s action quickly with full and swift
understanding of a commander’s intention. This will allow the JSDF to operate jointly
with a greater efficiency, which can only contribute to defense of Japan. So the JSDF
should not hesitate to introduce NCW concept. In the hope that relevant political issues
such as the right of collective self-defense will be solved quickly, the JSDF should
tackle introduction of NCW concept earnestly in order to build up future defense