CDR Joseph Fraser, Information Warfare Directorate, NAWDC

By Robbin Laird

With the strategic shift from the land wars to the more fluid battlespace involving peer competitors engaged in full spectrum crisis management with the United States and its allies, one aspect of the change for military forces is how to use lethal force effectively.

This comes down in part to how to target dynamically in a fluid political and military situation.

And within the dynamics of management of escalation, how do I ensure that I have had the combat effect which provides an effective solution set?

From a strictly military point of view, the strategic shift is from deliberate to dynamic targeting.

As one analyst has put the issue of the shift affecting the maritime domain:

“Perhaps the most acute differences that the maritime theater will present are the target sets.

“Targets that can be categorized as deliberate will now be the exception to the rule. Relatively fixed land targets will yield to highly mobile maritime targets.

“Therefore, targets may be known but not fixed.”1

How significant the shift is can be seen in a USAF explanation of the difference between deliberate and dynamic targeting.

“Dynamic targeting complements the deliberate planning efforts, as part of an overall operation, but also poses some challenges in the execution of targets designated within the dynamic targeting process.

“Dynamic targets are identified too late, or not selected for action in time to be included in deliberate targeting.”2

The assessment adds that:

“Dynamic targeting is a term that applies to all targeting that is prosecuted outside of a given day’s preplanned air tasking order (ATO) targets (i.e., the unplanned and unanticipated targets).”

“It represents the targeting portion of the “execution” phase of effects-based approach to operations (EBAO). It is essential for commanders and air operations center (AOC) personnel to keep effects-based principles and the JFC’s objectives in mind during dynamic targeting and ATO execution.

“It is easy for those caught up in the daily battle rhythm to become too focused on tactical-level details, losing sight of objectives, desired effects, or other aspects of commander’s intent.

“When this happens, execution can devolve into blind target servicing, unguided by strategy, with little or no anticipation of enemy actions.”

But what if dynamic targeting becomes the norm and deliberate targeting the exception?

With specific regard to the Pacific, the strategic shift could well generate a significant targeting shift.

But how to train, plan, and execute a dynamic targeting approach?

That is a challenge being addressed by the NAWDC team, with CDR Joseph Fraser, head of the Information Warfare Directorate, which has been designated the executive agent for targeting for the United States Navy.

I had a chance to discuss the strategic shift and the way ahead for working integrated strike within the maritime kill web with CDR Fraser.

I have a number of takeaways from that conversation, but am not quoting the CDR directly, for those takeaways will include some of my own personal extrapolations.

The first takeaway is simple enough: NAWDC is an integrated warfighting center, not simply the classic Top Gun venue.

With officers from the various elements of Navy warfighting present within NAWDC, as well as enhanced engagement with the other services’ warfighting centers, NAWDC makes perfect sense to work the 360 degree dynamic targeting solutions set for an integrated distributed force.

Obviously, this is both challenging and a work in progress.

But the core point is that Navy has laid the foundation within and at NAWDC to shape such a way ahead.

The second takeaway is that the new combat platforms coming into the force provide the information and data environment to work a dynamic targeting solution set.

Notably, both the F-35 and the Advanced Hawkeye have come to the carrier wing since we were last at Fallon, but it is also the case that the data being generated by these aircraft are being worked across not just the fleet but the joint combat force.

Or put another way, the new platforms coming to the fleet are capable of enabling a kill web maritime force.

Or put yet another way, the quality of the data that’s coming off of these new platforms enables dynamic targeting.

The third takeaway is that with the reliance on a precision weapons stockpile, it is crucial to get best value out of that capability.

It is not World War II weapons stockpiles at work; weapon effectiveness in terms of being able to identify and destroy targets that matter most need to be prioritized and dealt with in a combat situation.

The fourth takeaway is that within a cluttered maritime combat environment, target identification is always challenging, but if one wants to prioritize the most significant targets, clearly effective ISR with time urgent decision making against mobile targets is a key element for mission success.

The fifth takeaway is that by working a new model of dynamic weapons engagement now prior to the coming of directed energy weapons to the fleet, it will be possible to determine how to use these new technologies effectively by which platforms, in which situations and in which combat areas within the fluid and extended battlespace.

This can also be true with regard to future precision weapons as well and can provide a guide for shaping a future weapons inventory.

Which weapons would make a significant difference if added to the fleet to maximize dynamic targeting capabilities against which adversaries and in which situations?

The sixth takeaway is this is an area where expanded work with the other services is clearly crucial.

But if the Pacific is taken as a baseline case, then the question of maritime targets, or targets that operate within that domain become crucial challenges to be dealt with.

And, certainly in my view, these targeting challenges really have little to deal with the legacy targeting solution sets generated in the land wars, and, frankly, the lessons learned will have to be unlearned to some extent.

What this means in blunt terms, is that the Navy plays a key role in this strategic targeting shift.

In short, we are talking about targeting solutions enabled by interactive webs, but not necessarily what passes for joint targeting.

The maritime domain is very different from the land or air-space domain.

While the US Army and USAF can provide key capabilities to provide for dynamic targeting, the domain knowledge of the US Navy will be a central piece of the puzzle.

And much the same could be said with regard to the other domains, and what the role of the US Navy would be in a dynamic targeting solution set.

Much like how words like C2, ISR and training are being changed fundamentally in terms of their meaning with the building of a kill web integrated distributed force, the term joint also is changing, or will need to change if combat effectiveness is to be realized.

There is a tendency to slip into the last twenty years of jointness which has been dominated by the US Army and the land wars.

The Pacific is dramatically different.


  1. Lt. Commander Mitchell S. McCallister, “The Maritime Dynamic Targeting Gap,” Naval War College, May 4, 2012.