Other Military Operations & Technology

By Wheatley, Gary | Strategic Forum, November 1995 | Go to article overview

Other Military Operations & Technology


Wheatley, Gary, Strategic Forum


Summary

* Other Military Operations (OMO) missions are typically poorly defined, complex, difficult and dangerous. Unclear mission goals and guidance and a changing environment place great strains on the military forces involved.

* Technology applications offer opportunities to improve OMO effectiveness and safety.

* The first OMO technology requirement is for systems that minimize casualties. Next needed are technologies that control levels of violence and that can fill the gap between inaction and the use of deadly force.

* Needed systems include: mine clearing, anti-sniper and language interpretation.

* The use of advanced technologies in OMO generates training requirements and training opportunities.

* Technology is not a cure-all, but its innovative use can help to achieve better performance with lower risk of casualties.

* Technologies considered for OMO must have "dual-use" capability (they must add value to warfighting capability as well as OMO).

* A variety of systems from low to high technology are in development; however, there presently appears to be little or no coordination nor structure in the process. This in turn has led to overlap and duplication of effort.

Background

Other Military Operations (formerly called Operations Other than War-OOTW) include peace operations and a diverse group of non-traditional military activities ranging from disaster relief to drug interdiction to noncombatant evacuation. Because of its training and culture, the U.S. military has been reluctant to engage in OMO. But, such operations are becoming more common, in many cases subsuming traditional military missions. Many nations and non-nation groups, reluctant to confront the U.S. military head-on, can find ways to challenge the United States indirectly. In other cases, internal problems in foreign countries cause conditions that U.S. policy makers cannot ignore. Given these conditions, the U.S. military appears to be involved in OMO for the foreseeable future.

OMO missions are typically poorly defined, complex, difficult and dangerous. What started as a humanitarian mission in Somalia degraded into urban guerrilla warfare. Unclear mission goals and guidance and a changing environment place great strains on the military forces involved.

Technology applications offer opportunities to improve OMO effectiveness and safety. While not a cure-all, innovative use can help to achieve better performance with lower risk of casualties.

Common requirements

The first and perhaps most important OMO technology requirement is for systems that minimize casualties. These can be defined in three broad categories. First are systems that create time and space. Those involved in OMO need time to keep situations from escalating and to develop alternative courses of action. Space is a visible or invisible barrier that separates antagonists or protects one's own forces. For example, a system that can stop a vehicle could provide both time and space: time to inspect for explosives and space between the vehicle and potential targets until the inspection is completed.

Next are technologies that control levels of violence. These include methods for individual and crowd control, ways to separate belligerents from other belligerents and from non-combatants, and ways to monitor the separation. Other supporting technology includes systems that can find and neutralize snipers, concealed weapons and so on.

Finally, technologies that can help fill the gap between inaction and the use of deadly force have the potential both to enhance the chances for mission success and reduce casualties on all sides. They include the so-called non-lethal weapons (NLW) that are widely touted and mostly misunderstood.

Non-lethal weapons (NLW)

This class of weapons has generated considerable interest in the media and elsewhere; however, it is not a panacea and should be viewed as a two-edged sword. …

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