Recent military operations have reinforced the requirement for the Air and Land Environments to work seamlessly together in order to deliver Joint Effect accurately, safely and quickly. The methodology used to enable such coordination is Air Land Integration (ALI) in which both Air and Land Environments have Situational Awareness (SA) of each other’s locations and activities. This Shared SA (SSA) allows weapons systems to be used dynamically and to the full extent of the systems’ capability, whilst reducing the risk of fratricide as far as practicable.
Although the requirement for coherent ALI was first identified during WW1, the continuous evolution of how warfare is conducted has meant that the ‘ALI Issue’ has yet to be fully addressed.
Today’s battlespace is not delineated by clearly defined Fire Support Coordination Lines (FSCLs), as was the case in Cold War doctrine. Instead, today’s warfighters find themselves operating in an non-linear environment in which the threat is from 360 degrees, often in areas still heavily populated by civilians.
Effective ALI relies heavily on Network Enabled Capability (NEC) to ensure “right information, right place, right time – and not too much”. The process of ALI involves many disciplines such as:
• Joint Battlespace Management (JBM)
• Joint Fires (JF) Integration
• Close Air Support (CAS) including Digitally Aided CAS (DACAS)
• Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR)
• Blue Force Tracking (BFT)
Modern technology means that all the pieces of the puzzle are available to provide coherent and robust ALI. However, true cross-environment integration requires more than equipment: the user communities must be engaged at the outset of an ALI project to derive a practicable set of Information Exchange Requirements (IERs) and to draft CONOPS, CONEMP and CONUSE.
Moreover, a fundamental question needs to be asked before any work is undertaken: what is ALI from my perspective?
• Does ALI involve simply delivering Air SA to the Land Environment? or
• Will ALI involve passing SA data back from the Land Environment to the Air
• Will a Command and Control (C2) Tactical Data Link (TDL), such as Link 16 be used to task aircraft? (If so, will the TDL be integrated with your Land Environment C2 systems?) or
• Will the equipment be used as a gateway between Air and Land Environments so
that other TDL data, such as Variable Message Format (VMF), can be passed to
Link 16 and the Land Environment C2 system (and vice-versa)?
• Will the capability need to work in a coalition environment?