The transformation of the army symbolizes that the new military reform has advanced from the thinking stage to the action stage and from theory to practical movements. The transformation is from a mechanized army to an informationized army.
The new military reforms that are continuously happening in the world are caused by the wide application of new technologies, especially information technology, to the military field. The future of reform is to informationize the army. There are several concepts that should be clarified.
Informationization refers to the process of the improving the organizational structure of the army, the flow of commands, and the reform of war strategies and war operational strategies under the direction of the new thoughts and theories (information war theory and information war regulations), with the new technology cluster having information technology as the core. The development of an informationized army refers to the process of imbedding information technology in the army, while maintaining the original army organizational structure, and the flow of commands and war strategies. Those are relatively simple strategic applications of information technology.
Developing an informationized army refers to the process of forming a new combat capacity with the assistance of information technology to change thoughts about combat, organizational structure, command processes and combat methods so that they are under the direction of the new thoughts and theories. This is the strategic application of information technology. Analyzing the concepts shows that imformationization is not merely a technical issue. Instead, it is a complete process of military innovation. The blueprint for informationization of the army cannot be drawn only by the experts in technology. A scientific design can only be made through the joint efforts of military theorists, military commanders, scientists and experts in technological engineering.
The impact of information technology on the military field can be described as going through four stages.
Stage One. Information technology improves the function of the current military system so that the system can achieve a greater capacity. That is to say, without changing the structure of the mechanized army, we imbed the information technology to realize the informationization of the army. In this stage, the function of the information technology is to “develop,” and to strengthen its capacity, meaning to enhance and improve the combat ability of the mechanized army so that cooperation in the army is more seamless and communications are more convenient and efficient. The military reform in the United States in 1990’s was in such a stage.
Stage Two. The information technology’s function of breaking-through and reorganizing the army has been transformed from “development” to “disintegration and development,” meaning that the organization of the mechanized army will be disintegrated and a brand new organization will be developed. At that time, the army’s development of informationization will be transformed into the development of an informationized army. The reform of the army refers to this transformation. After entering the 21st century, the new military reforms in the world entered such a stage.
Stage Three. The new information technology or intelligent technology creates new combat machines such as the no-human combat platform, the robot army, and different kinds of intelligent weapons. The informationized army transforms into an intelligent technology army.
Stage Four. The information technology indirectly advances the development of new concept weapons such as laser weapons, nanometer weapons, and oriented energy weapons, which further refreshes the appearance of the national defense system and the army. “The last three stages have a fundamental impact on the military forces and are revolutionary.”
Military reform is propelled by the advancement of scientific technology. The critical part is the shift of the core military capacity caused by the core technology.
The technical reason for the defeat of the Beiyang Navy in the Sino-Japanese Jiawu War at the end of the 19th century was that its core military capacity was not as strong as that of the Japanese navy. Before the war, although the gross tonnage and the cannon caliber for the Beiyang Navy surpassed those of the Japanese navy, the firing speed of the German standard cannon was lower than that of the Japanese navy, which had the British standard canon. According to some material, the Japanese navy had 155 quick-fire weapons, but the Beiyang Navy had zero. The Japanese navy was able to fire 8-10 rounds of 120 millimeters quick-fire weapons and 5-6 rounds of 150 millimeters quick-fire weapons, which was twice as much as that of the Beiyang Navy. In terms of firing capability, the Japanese navy was five times as capable as the Beiyang Navy. In addition, the speed of the combat ships of the Beiyang Navy was slower than that of the Japanese navy. In the Pacific theatre of World War II, Japan succeeded in the Pearl Harbor attack. However, it failed to realize the reform of its navy. The US navy perceived the direction of the reform in naval warfare and realized that carrier-borne aircraft had become the core military capacity of naval wars. The U.S. defeated Japan at Midway Island. The winning U.S. navy designed a new combat strategy according to the new core military capacity. The result for the Israel and Syria Air War in 1982 was 0:82. The reason was that the core military capacity for the air war had been transferred into early-warning aircraft. The Syrian air force used the traditional air combat strategy which did not measure up to Israel’s air combat system.
During the time of mechanized warfare, the mechanical energy released by airplanes, tanks, warships and so on, greatly enhanced the weapons’ maneuverability. When three major war operational platforms are launched from three major spaces on the earth, then military theoreticians call the combat style “platform-centered warfare.” In the situation where the three major platforms have equivalent power, “maneuverability” became the center for innovation in the mechanized warfare period. In that case, the aeronautic technology became the core essential technological factor as it had the strongest maneuverability. The army with an airborne strategic advantage, without doubt, has the initiative and will dominate in the war. Afterward, the aeronautic technology, space technology, and the information technology are unified, and their status in military strategy becomes higher and higher. The enormous deconstructive power of nuclear weapons have created an awkward situation for the use of nuclear weapons. At the same time, the huge consumption and destructive power of mechanized warfare also forces the people to head toward technological innovation; therefore, ‘information strength’ is gradually becoming the new core military power.”
“In future informationized wars, the spatial battlefield will become the main battlefield and spatial power will become the main combat force. Therefore, “spatial information technology” will be the core essential technology factor for the informationized war in the future. “Spatial information technology” is not just a few independent technical factors; instead, it is a cluster of technologies unifying detection, exploration, transmission and processing with the spatial platform as the carrier. It plays the most critical role in the utilization and function of a special war force and it is the neural network center for a special war. It is precisely this neural network center that expedites “network-centered warfare.”
Innovation in the military field is extremely complex. The important thing is to be able to perceive the shift of the core military capacity and to grasp the new technology that will influence and decide the core military capacity to improve the ability to innovate. “Developing the informationized army” that we have established is also a directional concept and serves as a motivator for military innovation. From the perspective of technology, informationized military equipment has become the critical factor for the combat ability of an army. In an informationized war, the side with an information advantage that can be effectively transformed into a decision advantage is more likely to grasp the initiative in combat strategy on the battle field.
“In the current army reform stage, military information ability mainly manifests in four aspects.
Integrated information support ability. Through a digitized, networked, automated, and intellectualized information system, using the communication network as a link, and the information processing as the core, to integrate a combat system including the sensing system across land, sea, sky and space, the automated command system, and the firepower attack platform, etc. into an organic body, results in the omni-dimensional information sensing, information transfer, and intelligent information processing, and provides unified information support for unified combat. The “network-centered warfare” theory of the U.S. army is based on such an integrated information support capacity. At present, on the base of developing the C4ISR system, the US army is proceeding with global information GIG, which will guide the direction of the development of the supporting capability for integrating and unifying information.
The capacity of informationization firepower, namely using information technology, information system transformation, and the conformity and improvement of weaponry and ammunition so that they have a faster reaction rate, attack targets at a farther distance, and with higher accuracy, and better adaptation performance. In the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. military only less than 10% of its airplanes could carry a directed precision bomb. In the Iraq War, all U.S. military fighter planes could launch offensive union missiles, each bomber aircraft could carry a spatial cruise missile, and “the Predator” had the ability to “detect and attack.” An important trend of development is that informationized equipment is developed to be precise, intelligent, microminiaturized, hidden, and without a human driver.
Omni-directional information combat ability. In the future informationized battlefield, the key to victory in war will be whether we can destroy the enemy’s combat informationed system. Along with the development of the electronic combat target from single electronic equipment such as radar, to the whole information network, information combat capacity will leap from tactical support to strategic striking force on the battlefield. The side with the information advantage can firmly gain the upper hand on the battlefield.
Information, Integration, Protection Capability. In the informationized battlefield, the defense not only faces the threat of a precise attack from integrated firepower from the sea, land and space, but also faces intense electronic interference, network attacks, and all kinds of new concept weapons. Therefore, it is an inevitable choice for the defense side to construct an omni-directional and unified comprehensive information security protection mechanism that fuses the army and civilians.
The further development of the informationized army is intellectualization and no-human control. Therefore, the construction of the informationized army is not a fixed goal. Continued innovation is more significant. The long-term planning for the army is a dynamic improvement; the pursuit of the process and the pursuit of the results are equally important.
 Informationization: n. the computerization of business, industry, and military.