SPECIAL REPORT: China Pursues Its Own Version of JADC2
Wiki commons photo via Igor Rudenko
Part 7 of 7-part special report on the Defense Department’s joint all-domain command and control, or JADC2, concept.
The U.S. military wants to seamlessly integrate its sensors and weapons and tie them all together with artificial intelligence and a robust network in a concept it calls joint all-domain command and control, or JADC2.
And so does China.
The People’s Liberation Army is working on its own version of JADC2 while simultaneously seeking ways to disrupt or destroy the U.S. system, China watchers said.
“PLA writings state that a key concept of seizing information dominance is to preempt the enemy by conducting operations to paralyze adversary information systems. As the conflict progresses, the PLA will continue to use cyberspace and kinetic attacks to suppress and jam enemy information systems,” according to “Military and Security Developments Concerning the People’s Republic of China 2022,” an annual report produced by the Defense Department for Congress.
Kim Lehn, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the fact that China is developing its own JADC2 — translated as “multi-domain precision warfare” — should come as no surprise.
“China closely watches everything that the United States is doing, including our military operations and plans … China tries to quickly emulate them, advance them, use them for their own capabilities,” said Lehn, who formerly served in the U.S. intelligence community and as a staffer on the House Armed Services Committee.
And in the event of conflict, as China deploys its own JADC2 system, it will be doing everything possible to disrupt and disable the U.S. system, she noted.
Heather Penney, senior fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said the U.S. version of joint all-domain command and control grew out of analyses of China’s capabilities to threaten the U.S. military’s kill chains.
Leaders realized that they needed to more quickly pass and exploit information, she said in the institute’s May 20 podcast.
Ultimately, it could all come down to a kill chain-versus-kill chain scenario.
“We don’t have a theory of victory in this competition against China. China has a theory of victory. Their theory of victory is that if they can target our operational systems and our kill chains, they can paralyze us and collapse our operations and win that way,” she said.
“If we’re looking at this as a kill chain competition that provides us a theory of victory that we can pursue — and it will help us understand and begin to evaluate and measure our systems — we can begin to bring these operational concepts forward,” she added.
China will seek to dismantle and destroy JADC2’s kill chain in four ways, she said.
First, they’re going to target nodes. Those are aircraft, sensors or satellites. JADC2 is a kill chain, which comprise real, physical things, she noted.
Next, they will target networks — how information is shared. They will jam airwaves, destroy gateways and obstruct communications.
“They will also seek to disrupt our relationships. They know the dependencies that we have on each other because we operate as a system in combined arms,” she said. They will go after joint aircraft or satellites that connect the services.
Finally, they will seek to extend or defeat operational tempos either passively or by “shoot and scoot” methods.
“They fire a weapon and then they move quickly before we can find and target them is one way they can defensively be inside of our tempo,” Penney said. Or they can also make U.S. forces extend tempos. “They can exploit rules of engagement using deception or other techniques that force us to go back to an earlier step in the kill chain,” she said.
Lehn said it is difficult to discern how far along China is in its quest to create its own JADC2.
However, unlike the U.S. military, it doesn’t have three different programs under three different services and has a more top-down bureaucracy.
“I would say they have probably an easier ability to have a comprehensive system,” she said.
But the United States has experience: “We’ve been in wars; we’ve been in conflicts. We’ve done different types of operations and conflicts in the gray zone area to the high kinetic area,” she said.
“I think the advantage that the United States [has] … is the people part of it — and the leadership and the training,” Lehn noted.