Information-Based Revolution in Military Affairs

Information-Based Revolution in Military Affairs

Rafal Kopec (Pedagogical University of Krakow, Poland)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7661-7.ch039


The subject of the chapter is the information-based revolution in military affairs (RMA). The concept of RMA is identified as a way to increase combat capabilities based on a synergy between three spheres: information acquisition, information processing and transfer, and making use of information in order to enhance firepower. RMA includes the following key elements: technological change, doctrinal, strategic, operational and tactical change, and transformation of military organizational structure. Paradoxically, military transformation takes place while the pace of military technology development decreases, which poses a significant inhibitor. Consequently, only the first RMA stage—computerization—might be recognized as a relatively advanced one, whereas its second stage—networking—is far from this level. The chapter's aim is to present the RMA concept and its practical application in transformation of military forces. The chapter examines to what extent expectations emerging from RMA have been fulfilled in armed conflicts over the last two decades.
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Looking for the roots of RMA, it is necessary to recall a number of technological breakthroughs, whose synthesis provides the foundation of the revolution. RMA – similarly to the majority of military revolutions in the history – it is not based on one groundbreaking innovation, but it takes advantage of a number of technological changes. In this case, the miniaturization of computer hardware and creation of highly efficient, decentralized data communication networks are the crucial technologies.

Applying these technologies in military was for the United States and others NATO countries the way to overcome the Warsaw Pact’s quantitative dominance in conventional forces. A number of new types of weaponry were developed in the 80s, and they are generally divided into two groups: reconnaissance systems and striking systems (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1986). The JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) airborne reconnaissance system was the example of the first group, whereas the MGM-140 ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) surface-to-surface missile system represented the second one. These two elements were based on new technologies and cooperated closely thanks to highly-efficient data communication networks. They built together the innovative reconnaissance-attack system, and created background for further transformation.

The roots of RMA go to a given strategic problem, that is, anticipated confrontation with outnumbered Soviet forces. It is typical for military revolutions, which occur at a certain time and place just because they offer solutions to actual, not hypothetical, problem (Cohen, 2002; Bjerregaard, 2012).

The assumptions of the new concept were successfully tested during the Desert Storm operation in 1991. Hence, RMA indicated the direction of transforming the American army, and afterward other modern forces. In simple terms, the transformation was aimed at converting armed forces into one coherent reconnaissance and striking system. It should be based on all available sensors and effectors connected with decentralized data networks (US Department of Defense, 2005).

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