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Multidomain Operations Rely on Partnerships to Succeed

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Army Secretary Mark T. Esper, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson spoke about the ongoing efforts to reform operations within the military services during a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Feb. 8.

The secretaries specifically addressed multidomain operations, which involve integration across the services and with allies and partners in the five warfighting domains: cyber, space, air, ground and sea.

The benefit of multidomain operations is employing offensive and defensive operations in all five domains, which leaves the enemy guessing and overwhelmed before they know what’s going on, Wilson said.

Staying in Sync

To achieve these effects, the services need to be synchronized with each other regarding such things as communications and integrated fires, Spencer said.

Man points missile launcher upward
Missile Team
An Army Stinger missile team with the with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade identifies an unmanned aerial vehicle target during RIMPAC 2018 at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, July 24, 2018. The training exercise is in support of the Army's Multi-Domain Task Force Pilot Program and demonstrates the ability to detect, track, and defeat air and ballistic missile threats in a joint and allied multidomain environment.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Claudio Tejada
VIRIN: 180724-A-UK347-005C

A joint memo on interoperability of communications was signed recently by each of the services, ensuring that there’s an "open missions systems architecture," so that everyone has the same standards for communications, Wilson said. This is important because "it enables having any sensor connected to any shooter at very rapid machine-to-machine speeds," she said.

Examples of Multidomain Operations

  • The Army can support the Air Force with long-range suppressive fires of enemy air defense systems, Esper said.
  • Last year, the Army used an Apache helicopter to guide an unmanned aerial vehicle to a Navy target ship in the Pacific, Esper said. The UAV relayed targeting data back to a ground-based Army rocket system that engaged the target ship. Similar effects can be shared across the space, cyber and ground domains, he noted.
  • The air wing of an aircraft carrier can take out enemy ships and aircraft, as well as project power on land, Spencer said. "We are in multidomain every single day."
  • The Air Force operates 80 satellites, some of which provide communications, while others provide missile warnings, Wilson said. So when a satellite locates enemy operations on the ground, that information can be sent directly to forces in the field so that a Navy ship or Army formation can redirect fires and destroy things.

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