Paris Air Show Highlights Networked Warfare

Friedman, Norman
August 2003
U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings;Aug2003, Vol. 129 Issue 8, p4
Conference Proceeding
As forecast, the 2003 Paris Air Show, held in Paris, France, revealed few entirely new developments. Some of what was on display, however, dramatized a continuing shift toward what the U.S. military calls network-centric warfare. Another way to characterize the shift is that it emphasizes sensors and sensor fusion over weapons and platforms. Better data can increase the value of each weapon. One conclusion would be that fewer weapons can do the same job. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to define a new style of operation in which an initial campaign is waged to eliminate the enemy's air defenses, after which aircraft can operate freely. The ability to hit targets precisely has little chances to succeed unless targets are properly identified, hence, the greatly increased interest in reconnaissance assets such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). For the first time, much of one hall at the Paris show was devoted to UAV themselves. It was striking that many of the air-to-surface weapons on view in Paris were guided by the global positioning system. Thales SA, the electronics and defense conglomerate, did show a network-centric approach to air-to-surface warfare. An animated sequence showed a mobile missile launcher that was detected by a UAV. Several builders at Paris also displayed model or full-scale unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). Because they have no cockpits, UCAV can be shaped more freely than conventional aircraft, and they thus can be stealthier.


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