Confuse the enemy with chaos. Come at him in many ways from many angles. Do it as fast as possible. Change tactics quickly. But don’t lose control of your own forces in the maelstrom you’ve created.
As results come in, the experimenters will show field commanders how to recognize changing threats and alter their approach to combat.
U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and the U.S. Marine Corps were heavily involved in developing the Wolf PAC concept, said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Greg Glaros, OFT’s architect for Wolf PAC. Special warfare groups will get first crack at the exercises, which will begin next fall with exercises in the Atlantic off Virginia and Newport, R.I., and in the Pacific off the California coast.
The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., also is taking part, Glaros said, and already has been running exercises to solve technical aspects. Full-scale exercises should begin in late summer.
Glaros sees a model for adaptability in an unusual place: the al-Qaida insurgents in Iraq.
“With the IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] right now in Iraq, al-Qaida has been learning at a far faster rate than we’ve been able to operationally engage in,” he said. “That’s why almost every day one of our soldiers or Marines die. Because they are out-learning us in that respect.”
Glaros has designed Wolf PAC to take advantage of network-centric communications linking weapons and sensors spread over a wide region. While working out the complexities of asymmetric warfare, he realized the Iraq insurgents, who are effective at quickly changing tactics, were providing an example of what he’d like to see the experiment accomplish.
“In some ways, it’s more successful than we are,” he said. “They can hide within the clutter, within the complexity of the urban environment where they can always retreat.” A single suicide bomber or remote-controlled mortar can cause great destruction and disruption, “massing effects without massing their forces.”
Fast and accurate communications combined with multiple response efforts are key to combating the threat, he said: “If we’re not connected, we’re not communicating, we’re alone in this world.”
But it remains tough to coordinate responses to rapidly changing circumstances.
“We don’t understand the engineering mechanisms of that, and we actually do it by trial and error right now. Which is OK,” Glaros said, “but we’d like to get at the fundamentals.”
Wolf PAC will try out various schemes to “keep coming at you from different vantages, different approaches at such a high rate, and controlling the tempo, that you have no capacity or ability to respond,” he said.
The project gets its name from studying the behavior of wolves, and their ability to operate in groups with a natural leader and coordinate their actions, as well as to harken back to submarines operating together. As for stylizing the project’s name in capital letters, “PAC” isn’t an acronym.
“I didn’t want to have p-a-c-k,” Glaros said. “It’s just wolfpack spelled a different way.”
To play out various naval combat scenarios, OFT is building a revolutionary vessel called Stiletto. The $6 million advanced technology craft is being built at San Diego in an unusual “M-hull” configuration: five hulls arranged across a beam that is half the ship’s length. Designers claim it will be stable up to 60 knots. The craft’s box-like structure will cover a well deck and stern ramp that can embark an 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat. The vessel will be designed with an “electronic keel,” a computer framework able to easily switch equipment and software to fit a particular mission.
With a shallow draft of no more than 3 feet, Stiletto is configured to handle the needs of special operations forces — a key customer for Wolf PAC’s products.
The Wolf PAC flotilla will soon add Sealion, a 71-foot technology demonstration craft designed by the Naval Sea Systems Command and operated by the U.S. Navy’s Special Warfare Group 4 in Little Creek, Va. OFT also is negotiating for a European-designed surface-effect ship.
Glaros wants Stiletto and other vessels to carry out three to four experiments a year, rapidly generating a large amount of data and experience to pass along to operational forces.
“We want to … keep churning those things out instead of going programmatically down the line 10 to 15 years,” he said.