«Unified Vision 12 » - putting interoperability to the test
Since its foundation more than 60 years ago, the Alliance has strived to enable its military forces to work together effectively and efficiently. Modern threats such as terrorism and cyber attacks combined with economic austerity have made the need for increased cooperation and exchange of information even more important. Interoperable solutions are tested regularly through various means, including training and trials such as the “Unified Vision 12” trials held in Ørland, Norway from 18-29 June.
Seventeen nations took part in the two-week event to train Alliance member countries to work together in the framework of NATO's Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) plans.
Organised by the NATO Air Force Armaments Group (NAFAG) and partly subsidised by NATO's Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW), “Unified Vision 12” trained and tested the nations in a very specific aspect of operations: NATO's Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) arrangements. "ISR means getting different systems to work together to maximise interoperability without impairing the performance of each system," explains Françoise Perret, who heads the DAT POW.
Finding a common vision
Each nation has its own method for collection, dissemination and distribution. JISR makes all these systems interoperable, providing a common vision of a theatre of operations which is as precise as possible. "You have a piece of the answer; I have a piece of the answer. And when we bring those two pieces together, it gives you a much better answer for the commander," explains Richard Wittstruck, Chairman of the Joint Capability Group on ISR.
For this to work, nations have to agree on common standards such as terminology. "Lots of nations use different terms for collection management processes, for exploitation. Each of those words have specific definitions and they are not all the same," explains John Neumayer, ISR analyst, Allied Command Transformation.
Richard Wittstruck adds that it is not always easy to reach agreement, but harmonised data-sharing is essential for Alliance operations. During an operation, the information collected is shared and compared, the threats can be identified, and a picture of "what is going on" is produced. Wittstruck continues, "And then if we find particular targets - it could be high-value individuals or high-value vehicles or fixed buildings, we can start performing surveillance, which means we're constantly looking at it – we are looking who is coming, who is going? Where is that person walking to? Who are they talking to?"
Valuable information which leads to intelligence: "Intelligence is really answering the question: what is the intent, current and future, of this target? Is this target simply someone who showed up because they are visiting this town one day from another town? And they are just visiting the market or visiting family? Or is it an insurgent who is conducting command and control operations or planning an attack against that town within the next twenty-four hours?" explains Richard Wittstruck.
The Alliance will continue its work in this area in order to connect all its forces as effectively as possible.