The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is known for developing cutting edge weapon systems and technology, but when it came time to celebrate its 60th anniversary at a big conference held at National Harbor, Maryland, in September, it was a concept its leaders wanted to talk about.
The military can spend its time developing weapons that are just a bit more faster, a bit more protected or a bit more deadlier than its competitors, but at the end of the day, potential adversaries will come up with something to counter them, said Timothy Grayson, director of DARPA's strategic technology office.
"Sure, we can try to spend more money and apply advanced technology to our weapon systems and try to stay ahead, but this is ultimately a losing proposition," he said at the conference. "Every single step in this competition is more complex, more challenging, more costly, and time consuming than the one before."
The U.S. military must instead use what it has in innovative ways to overwhelm adversaries, create multiple dilemmas and "get inside and disrupt its leaders' decision-making processes," he said.
DARPA leaders are calling this "mosaic warfare." The term was coined by Thomas J. Burns, former director of the strategic technology office and his former deputy director Dan Patt.
Grayson--who has taken up the mantle as mosaic warfare's chief evangelist after Burns' retirement--likened modern-day weapons to pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece of the puzzle is exquisite. It can only fit one way into the picture, and if one loses a piece, then the picture is incomplete.
A tile in a mosaic is one small part of a bigger picture. "If you lose one tile, not a big deal," he said. In this metaphor, a tile equals an individual weapon.
Part of the concept is "combining weapons we already have today in new and surprising ways," Grayson said. Key will be manned-unmanned teaming, disaggregating capabilities, and allowing commanders to seamlessly call on effects from sea, land or air depending on the situation and no matter which of the armed services is providing the capability.
An example in the air domain might include a series of drones to accompany a typical battle formation of four fighter aircraft. One of the robotic wingmen might be there solely to jam radars or employ other electronic warfare capabilities. Another might have a weapon payload. The third might have a sensor package and the fourth could act as a decoy, Burns said in an article...