War has broken out. After years of threats Korona finally invaded its smaller neighbour Kartuna.
The United States led calls for Korona's total withdrawal, but the aggressor stays put. A United Nations resolution sanctions military action against the invader.
An allied force is dispatched, led by the United States with the support of the UK, Canada, New Zealand and France, Turkey and Spain.
Operating in this kind of situation is how the Ministry of Defence (MoD) tests leading edge technology. The scenario is of course fictional; the effort behind it all too real.
To check out the latest in high tech warfare equipment, hundreds of military personnel, defence researchers and defence contractors descended on the Blandford army base last month.
The Dorset home of army signals had more than 50 tests of leading edge communications technology on display.
And Blandford is just the UK wing of demonstrations. Military from the US, Canada, New Zealand and via Nato France, Turkey and Spain are also jacked in to a coalition Wan allowing full international demos of the equipment.
The exercise, curiously dubbed the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration(JWID), has become an annual event.
It lasts three weeks: the first two weeks being technology tests; the third showing off the kit to top brass and involves all three armed forces.
Anything they want is ready to be bought. Wing Commander David Ward, project management officer, says: "I think the world record, held by the Americans, from demonstration to deployment is 18 months." He added that the MoD has to regularly get it down to that speed or risk purchasing the obsolete.
Signals specialists from General Sir Mike Jackson's K for Kosovo command were amongst those in attendance - identifying a series of technologies that would have made a key difference in Kosovo.
War has always required effective communications as anybody who's played paint ball suddenly realises as office colleagues head off in random directions. But the background to the JWID demonstrator is the realisation that communications are now becoming the most important battleground.
JWID's project manager is Colonel Philip Pratley. He describes the purpose of technology as securing real time flows of accurate information - the same requirement as for City traders.
"Mike Jackson didn't have everything he needed [in Kosovo]. You've got to be able to be kept instantly up to date and you've got to be able to go into a situation at a moment's notice."
In a briefing he refers to a little reported speech made last month by Tony Blair¹s chief spokesman Alistair Campbell at the Royal United Services Institute.
Campbell was discussing the role of spin doctoring in the Kosovo war, and was stressing the 24-hour a day requirement to get favourable) pictures of the conflict out to the media pack.
Pratley accepts Campbell's remarks as a new requirement for war - in other words it is the military's role to act as newsgatherers bringing back pictures to convince a world audience. But the shift brings new technological requirements.
"Pictures need bandwidth, bandwidth we possibly don't yet have," he said.
However at Blandford there are 50 demonstrations to scout out for the bandwidth hungry and visitors are shown around each one by one. The demos are not run in isolation, but are all linked to the scenario.
It is central to the exercise to test the interoperability of each new technology - both within and between countries, because of the modern requirement for coalition war.
The technology being tested is largely not yet in military use, but is commercially available and if impressive, ready to be bought.
It is an approach that other parts of government, the National Health Service most obviously, would do well to adopt. Detailed testing of product interoperability and a close working relationship with suppliers - before a tender is issued - might help reduce the number of poorly designed, poorly performing computer systems that the public sector saddles itself with.
At the heart of the scenario is the COP - the common operational
picture. The software is supplied by US defence firm INRI, which is owned by defence giant Northrop Grumman.
The COP aims to provide a single view of the entire operation, in which local information is inputted into an overall picture, of divisions advancing over maps, which is widely distributed. It also has security features allowing a separate UK eyes only view and a general view shared by all the coalition partners.
In JWID the COP is far more widely available than normal and represents a far greater sharing of data than is normal.
Most similar systems derive their picture from central datastream broadcasts. The COP shares the picture across the operation, allowing junior and senior officers the same virtual view of the battlefield.
It's like creating a real time financial information system for a company and distributing the picture widely down within the organisation.
That picture can be distributed to handheld technology - there are demonstrations of the virtual battlefield running on a 3Com Palm Pilot or a Hewlett-Packard CE palmtop.
In the demonstration the users are 3 Commando brigade of the Royal Marines who are involved in a beach head invasion armed in part, one might assume, with palmtops for maps with a real time view of the best information of what's going on in the battlefield.
Around the COP are a range of trials of familiar technologies. The military's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), showed off a mobile GSM base station, the Piconode, supplied by Nortel. This can be driven anywhere and simply switched on. Soldiers are issued with mobiles which are then immediately useable.
Up and until now, the military have not used GSM for mobile comms. The test demonstrates the willingness to use commercially available technology - dubbed in an endlessly deployed acronym COTS: Commercial Off The Shelf products - over obscure bespoke systems.
Emerging commercial networking favourite asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) was on trial in a range of settings. Military planners now recognise that the fast multimedia networking protocol is the future - and incidentally ideal for beaming back images from the ground to the media pack.
ATM is the protocol for the core wide area network, but was also being trialled over a satellite link to the US. The key problem is to keep the error rates low - because ATM only functions effectively in such circumstances.
The problem is that military communications tend to be noisier, a function of the speed and circumstances in which they are deployed. As a result also on trial are 'cell hardening' technologies from British defence giant British Aerospace - a bid to ensure the protocol is robust enough in the field.
Surprisingly most of the demonstrations are rather prosaic. No flight sims; no VR headsets, although there is a 3D mapping application from British firm Tenet Systems which takes detailed maps, including those from satellites to produce highly realistic terrain images for battle rehearsal or assessment.
JWID is about communications. There are no demonstrations of technology being used to jam or intercept enemy communications. Clearly it's too sensitive to show in public.
The project staff also down play speculative talk widespread in the United States about 'information warfare' - the idea that the next war will be fought between hackers slugging it our over global networks aiming to disrupt critical national assets: stock exchanges or power grids.
Kosovo of course was a highly traditional conflict. Colonel Pratley says: "I don't subscribe to the cyber war theory. But there is an electronic flank."
JWID is the home of the electronic flank.
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