Network-centric warfare is a military doctrine or theory of war pioneered by the United States Department of Defense in the 1990s. It seeks to translate an information advantage, enabled in part by information technology, into a competitive advantage through the robust computer networking of well informed geographically dispersed forces.
Network-centric Warfare brings together command and control (Social Domain) with assets on the ground (Physical Domain) and intelligence/recon data (Information Domain) to create a network-inclusive military. (Text Source)
Net-centric warfare is heavily reliant on information technology integrated within military units to help units communicate, locate, and share information to each other in a rapid manner increasing mission effectiveness. Command units would be able to have a real-time assessment of where friendly forces are located while on the ground units are given an increased level of situational awareness through shared combat data such as enemy disposition, status of forces.
It's advantages are clear to see, units can have an increased degree of situational awareness almost down to the individual company, with its most extreme potential fitting small transmitting and receiving input and output capable computers down to the squad or squad member. Commanders from the very top can easily locate and visualize units on their own up-to-date map with a high degree of accuracy and informational support to allow for the best decision.
Network-centric warfare is possible due to a series of technological devices including IFF transponders, global position system, radio communications, RADAR contact, and other similar assets. The final dream of network-centric warfare is to allow units across the spectrum, from space, air, sea and land to share and relay communications, targeting and acquisition data, intelligence, and other related data with each other efficiently, securely, and on-demand. The end goal is to allow commanders throughout the command hierarchy a real-time command and control of units in a streamlined and yet precise manner.
The disadvantage to this however is the heavy reliance on technological convenience (over "warrior skills") and the degree of difficulty in controlling electronic emissions . The scope of a massive network-centric unit makes its communications vulnerable to enemy attacks attempting to destroy key nodes preventing the "self-healing" concept of a shared network. A large net-centric paradigm also demands much of the limited bandwidth physically capable by the EM spectrum especially if every individual unit is to have a emitting device. Encryption, secrecy, and signal interception by the enemy are also major concerns. The emissions of any radio or microwave signal can be detected easily by other enemy signal and electronic warfare units which can give away unit positions. Finally net-centric warfare still has several of the major issues that most, if not all, communication systems have in harsh terrain (such as urban centers, mountains, caves) with intermittent signal strength and sometimes signals blocked out entirely.
The Inter-Relation within Information Operations - by Gp.Capt.Niwat Niamploy, Royal Thai Air Force
Sense-Shoot-Command on the Battlefield After Next - Presentation by Alexandra Romero
Sense-Shoot-Command on the Battlefield After Next. Koblenz Symposium on Information Technology Network Centric Warfare 28 August 2008. COL (ret) Kevin Cogan U.S. Army War College Center for Strategic Leadership Contractor: Booz Allen Hamilton.
Collaborative Information Sharing Environment Through Network Centric Operations - Presentation by Danton Knox