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Naval forces do not have to be engaged in constant centralized communication.  Deployed Navy vessels have demonstrated independence of action in stealthy coordinated operations for hundreds of years. 

Littoral operations, deployable unmanned systems, and a refactored force mix for surface ships pose a growing set of naval challenges and opportunities.  Network-optional warfare (NOW) precepts include Efficient Messaging, Optical SignalingSemantic Coherence and Ethical Human Supervision of Autonomy for deliberate, stealthy, minimalist tactical communications.

Network-Optional Warfare (NOW)

Vulnerabilities arise for
  • Major vulnerabilities: naval forces conducting constant communications
due to
  • lack
  • stealth and
  • become dependent on continuous data exchange.
Emissions control (EMCON) and deliberate
  • Agile EMCON: "Radio silence" emissions control with judicious use of low-probability of intercept (LPI)
data channels can restore naval covertness and tactical surprise.Data
  •  communication channels, such as optical.
  • Messaging maturity: efficient compression and a
  • coherently defined signal book
can enable fluid operations across NCW and NOW
  • , aiding remote command
  • initiative and operational freedom of action.
  • Ethical Human Supervision of Autonomy: allow unmanned systems with potential for lethal force to operate reliably at a distance, directed by humans to follow same tasking + constraints as any other trusted participant.

Network-Centric Warfare (NCW)

  • “Seeks to translate an information advantage, enabled in part by information technology, into a competitive advantage through the robust networking of well-informed geographically dispersed forces.”
  • “This networking—combined with changes in technology, organization, processes, and people—may allow new forms of organizational behavior.”
  • Source:  Network-Centric Warfare, Wikipedia

Operational emphasis: opportunity to restore naval covertness and potential for tactical surprise, enabling fluid operations by fleet and marine forces across NCW and NOW.

Image Modified

Operational View (OV-1) shows line-of-sight (LOS) optical signaling via Quick Reaction (QR) codes and Digital Flashing Light (DFL).

Only two EM-based

Only two radio frequency (RF) lightning bolts!



Tactical Opportunities afforded by NOW

  • Stealth:  gain deeper access into battle space, utilize inherent covertness of unmanned systems.

  • Surprise:  choose time and place to shift from passive to active use of electromagnetic spectrum.

  • Coherence: formal mission brevity codes are actionable and precise with well-defined semantics.

  • Uncertainty: reduced opponent confidence that threats are located and attack is unchallenged.

  • Flexibility:  tactical commanders decide use of NCW/NOW on per-platform, per-mission basis.

  • Scalability:  incremental response using low-cost assets avoids destabilizing high-cost escalation


Lots more to do with this portal site  Near-term next steps:

  • Transcribe the QR information to a new section
  • Establish an EXI section
  • Possibly a calendar of key events?
  • Possibly a page on Thesis Opportunities?  (These are in the slideset now)


  • Autonomy: loosely coordinated command via Rules of Operation (ROO) and Engagement (ROE).
  • Cyber: smaller "surface area" exposed to attacks employing EM radiation or network connectivity.
  • Asymmetric: increased survivability and independence of action multiplies opponent difficulties.
  • Trust: data-centric security and ethical human supervision of intermittently connected systems.

Overview Resources for NOW

These references describe tactical techniques, operational concepts, and strategic possibilities that emerge when regaining asymmetric advantages.


Don Brutzman, email voice , voice +1.831.656.2149



Official disclaimer 

"Material contained herein is made available for the purpose of peer review and discussion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense."