Moscow Showcases Breakthrough in Automated Command and Control
Russia’s defense ministry has announced a breakthrough in its ongoing efforts to introduce advanced automated command and control (C2) within its Armed Forces. The importance of this development cannot be underestimated, as it places the Russian military decision-making process and automated C2 beyond the existing capabilities of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) militaries (see EDM, June 11). Of course, the system being introduced extends far beyond C2, to include the wider integration of C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capability. NATO militaries and planning staffs must now adjust to a new reality, that Moscow has developed the capability to plan and develop its military decision-making process to a stage well beyond the existing standards and capacities of Alliance standards; meaning that Russian military C2 is faster than that of its potential adversary. The breakthrough relates to uniting artificial intelligence and Big Data technologies to analyze the battlefield situation and through the automated system to rapidly provide commanders in the field with several possible solutions (Izvestia, November 13).
The defense ministry designates the new system, which was tried and test during the strategic exercise Tsentr 2019 in September, as a “combat control information system” (Informatsionnaya Sistema Boyevogo Upravleniya—ISBU). Russian Armed Forces combat regulations specify that each commander must make a decision about combat, taking into account numerous factors: the quantity of his own forces and equipment; intelligence on the enemy; the condition of roads; weather; the amount of ammunition, fuel, material and technical equipment; the moral and psychological state of personnel; and many more. All this data, expressed in specific indicators, are calculated according to special algorithms, after which a battle order is drawn up: how much force should be sent in such a direction, for what purposes and areas, how much ammunition to fire, where to place reserves, how to arrange transportation provisions, evacuation of wounded and damaged equipment, etc. (Izvestia, November 13).
The ISBU collects data from all services and sources, processes them and develops solutions in a matter of seconds. The various scenarios presented to the commander are ranked, starting with the most potentially successful. Consequently, this reduces by a massive amount, the time an individual commander spends making a decision and increases its accuracy. Viktor Murakhovsky, the editor-in-chief of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, explained, “In fact, this is one of the elements of an automated control system (avtomatizirovannoy sistemy upravleniya—ASU), such a special software package that can be applied at all levels: from tactical to strategic. Its main task is to automate operational-tactical calculations, solve information and communication tasks. Previously, data were collected and analyzed almost manually: chiefs of staff and operator officers received information from subordinate units and summarized it. Of course, they counted in much smaller volumes, took into account significantly fewer parameters, and this took several times more time. The new algorithm is capable of providing all types of combat, including conducting a combined-arms operation using various types of troops and types of weapons” (Izvestia, November 13).
The software package in the ISBU calculates the situation on the battlefield and offers options to the individual commander. He can set the system to rank options in order of importance for executing a particular combat mission. “For example, it may prioritize the time it takes to complete a combat mission, forecast losses or consume resources. Also, with the help of artificial intelligence, the possibilities of completing tasks to occupy certain areas and borders are evaluated. The accuracy of the system depends on the source data and the prescribed algorithms, which are now constantly being improved,” Murakhovsky added (Izvestia, November 13).
In the military sphere, artificial intelligence and Big Data technologies can be exploited with great efficiency, minimizing casualties, according to Denis Kuskov, the director general of the Telecom Daily analytical company. Kuskov noted, “Big Data technology makes it possible to transfer virtually unlimited amounts of data, including video, text and graphic information. In battle, this data will come from military personnel, equipment, [and] various reconnaissance equipment, including unmanned aerial vehicles. All this will happen in real time. Using an artificial intelligence system, information will be instantly processed, synthesized and analyzed. This will undoubtedly help the commander understand and decide how best to use the troops and resources” (Izvestia, November 13).
An important element in this breakthrough is the Akatsia-M sub-system, which plays a key role in uniting ASU technologies in the Russian Armed Forces. The defense ministry has already allocated more than 21 billion rubles ($330 million) for their purchase. The system offers a commander and his headquarters online information about the combat situation, including the state of their troops as well as enemy actions. Based on this data, the commander can issue orders to subordinate soldiers. Akatsia-M interacts with other ASU present in different arms and branches of service, which includes units and formations of the Military-Maritime Fleet (navy), Aerospace Forces and the Airborne Forces. Akatsiya-M also exchanges information in real time with the National Center for Defense Management in Moscow (Militaryarms.ru, April 29, 2019; Izvestia, July 5, 2018).
The testing of this overall automated system occurred during the strategic exercise Tsentr 2019. This included the Akatsia-M, Andromeda (Airborne Forces variant) and the Unified System for Command and Control at the Tactical Level (Yedinaya Sistema Upravleniya v Takticheskom Zvene—YeSU-TZ). Part of that testing related to the security of the ASU system to protect it from viruses and malware (Izvestia, October 29).
The ISBU and the importance of Akatsia-M represent a breakthrough in Russia’s efforts to introduce and unify automated C2, as well as a significant step along its path to adopting greater C4ISR capability. While the existing Russian military decision-making process—with fewer steps than its United States or NATO counterparts—was already faster, it appears that the gap in the speed of C2 will only increase due to the ISBU and other ASU developments, leaving Western militaries slower in their military decision-making vis-à-vis their potential adversary.
Roger N. McDermott specializes in Russian and Central Asian defense and security issues and is a Senior Fellow in Eurasian Military Studies, The Jamestown Foundation, Washington DC, Senior International Research Fellow for the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and Affiliated Senior Analyst, Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen. McDermott is on the editorial board of Central Asia and the Caucasus and the scientific board of the Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies. He recently wrote The Reform of Russia’s Conventional Armed Forces: Problems, Challenges and Policy Implications (October 2011).
This article appeared originally at The Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor.