Power of Networks: Network Enabled Life, Management and Warfare

The first three definitions of the word ‘network’ in the dictionary of Turkish Language Institution (TDK) are as follows:

• A reticular pattern woven from thread, string, wire etc.

• Web woven by such animals as spider using their secretions

• A grid of such services as transportation and communication spread all across a country

The most typical example of first type of networks is fishing nets which make it possible to catch thousands of fishes in a short period of time. The second definition, i.e. spider webs, is strong natural structures which are believed to be made of silk but the mystery of which is not fully understood yet and the artificial versions cannot be produced exactly. The spiders use these webs for hunting, protection and hiding and they might have probably been the source of inspiration for invention of fishing nets.

Third comes the definition of network in the context of ‘transportation’ where the highway, seaways and airways networks have been of critical and strategic importance for the countries. Network in the context of ‘communication’ means all types of network systems for data transmission and communication that have been used all throughout human history.

The diversity, importance and power of these networks have increased and will continue to increase in time with the technological advancements in the field
of electric, telegraph, telephone, wireless (radio), television, computer, fiber optic, satellite etc. With the advancement of computers, the definition of network has become: ‘A network is an operating system allowing for shared use of multiple computers and peripherals connecting with one or more computer or smart device in a physical environment’

The subject of this study is the third definition of the network which connects the physical entities scattered all around the world and the whole spaces such as computers and missiles, structures that constitute cyber space distinguished by using electronic and electromagnetic spectrum including sunrays, digital electronic devices, computers, smart phones/objects, sensors /detectors, satellite systems etc. and facilitates communication between virtual entities.

With the advancement of the technology and by inspiration from other networks available in the nature, these networks are created and developed in line with the needs of the people, groups, institutions, organizations and states, they appear in different structures, characteristics and appearances to serve different purposes and they are called by different names including communication of people or things, private and local networks, wide area network, internet etc. What is the significance, impacts, power and future of such networks in the lives and management of persons, societies and states? This study seeks to answers to this question and sets forth today’s practices and future projections as well as opinions and proposals on these issues.


Communication has had an ever-increasing importance in the history of mankind beginning with the sounds they made to express themselves and share their feelings with others and the drawings they carved on the walls of the caves to the writings they wrote on papers, stones and clay tablets and later on, with the advancement of technology, to written, verbal, visual etc. messages that we send and receive with today’s new communication technologies such as telegraph, telephone, radio, computer etc. Communication has always been a sine qua non for individual and social life.

Thanks to the ever-increasing means and opportunities that cyber space provides to us and the advancement of various types of communication channels by and between the individuals, families, groups, organizations, institutions, nations and states, networks of different sizes have wrapped the world like a spider web and fitted it into our palms. Thus, the life and management have become easier on one hand and new opportunities and power groups are rising and various risks and threats are emerging on the other hand.

‘Communication’ has various meanings in different contexts but the dictionaries define it as conveying the feelings and opinions in a reasonable manner, sending and receiving news and notifications. Another widely accepted definition of communication is the exchange and transmission of information, ideas, feelings, attitudes and opinions from one person or persons to others through a relation between the source and the recipient using meaningful symbols agreed upon by the parties.

This process is general considered a two-way procedure for mutual exchange of messages and it has various components such as source, target, message, channel and feedback. Although all of these components constitute the basis of an effective communication and they are all important, the conveyances that are called channel that carry the message between the source and the target, i.e. the mediums and networks that carry the message through sound, light and radio waves, telephone cables, fiber optic cables, wireless nets, radio-television broadcasting systems, internet etc. have a particular importance as they facilitate and enable the communication much like the neural and circulation system of a body. For instance, radio and television or such social media networks as Facebook and Twitter can be used to convey one piece of information simultaneously to more than one person, even to thousands or millions of people, through a single channel.

Communication means/networks have grown stronger with the advantages of information technologies systems and they have spread to all areas including our business or daily lives, government administrations, communication between people and objects, health, education, transportation, trade, banking, security etc. and from smart houses to smart/safe cities. They are being used prevalently at all times and places and they will continue to be used with increased diversification.

Network Enabled Life

Communication, a basic human need all throughout mankind’s history, has evolved in time with the use of telegraph for communication from one point to another and telegraph lines have created communication networks by spreading to important centers of the countries in a short period of time. Telegraph lines were followed by telephone, wireless, radio, television and computer networks and internet.

Today, the fixed phones connect to networks via metal or fiber optic cables whereas mobile phones are connected to networks via wireless, radio-link and satellite systems. According to records of Turkish Statistical Institution, there are 11,542,548 fixed telephones and 82,896,108 mobile phones in Turkey.

The percentage of mobile phone/smart phone ownership in households increased from 57.3% in 2004 to 98.7% in 2019 whereas the ownership of fixed phone lines decreased from 81.6% to below 20%. These figures show that 1/5 of Turkey’s population is connected to fixed telephone network and almost all of the population has connection to mobile telephone networks. It is seen that more than 50% of the connections to internet and social networks are through mobile phones and mobile systems.

Internet, a communication network that connects many computer systems, is widespread across the world and it continues to grow larger. Internet has emerged as a result of people’s desire to ‘store/share and have easy access to the information they created’. What makes internet so valuable and powerful is that it is indeed a living entity that receives, archives and stores new data continuously so that those who look for information can have easy and quick access to most up-to-date information.

In addition to the communication networks, the number and diversity of cable/wireless networks are ever increasing inside the households for connections between devices, machines and equipment including computers and televisions, refrigerators, ovens, air conditioners, heating and lightning equipment. Networks created between smart devices that connect and share information within the scope of the ‘internet of things’ are gaining widespread use day by day.

E-mails that are used on personal or organizational networks created through internet-connected computers or smart devices such as tablets or mobile phones makes it possible to carry out all functions of conventional mails in a more swift and comprehensive manner and it minimizes the risk of any loss or damages to such information as writing, video, visual, file etc., while it is being forwarded and it can be accessed at internet speed of the relevant location. In addition to correspondences between persons, most of the correspondences within the companies or between the organizations are conducted via using e-mails today.

People can monitor the safety and security of their homes and workplace or follow up their children at home or kindergarten or communicate and exchange information/documents with their family, friends, doctor or lawyer. Doctors can observe the conditions of their patients and take measures through communication of things without a face-to-face consultation or examination. People can purchase their needs by placing orders on the networks created through the coordination of banks and sellers. The buying and selling transactions are conducted through complete automation and the networks increase the interest and use by providing three-level accelerated process: ‘learning the prices, choosing the seller and completing the shopping in 30 to 90 seconds’.

Emerging as a result of social life and connections and impacting not just societies but the whole world, today, the social networks provide its users with opportunity to communicate with persons of similar interests. ‘Social Network’, aka ‘Social Media’, have gone well beyond the conventional media by providing two-way, simultaneous and unlimited sharing and communication environment and a free and authentic platform of discussion with the ease and speed of new generation internet technologies.

Unlike the connections within/between the groups created by certain people, the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google Plus, Windows Live, Tumblr, etc. are created by using various techniques and structures and the means and capabilities provided by technology and internet. The power and impact created by such social networks attracts the attention of countries and governments as well as institutions and organizations and it becomes an area of scientific studies and researches. Today, thanks to the ease of communication through mobile applications like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc. provided by the mobile communication devices such as smart phones and tablet that people carry around all the time, it has become easier to connect to social networks. People show that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts by constituting the knots of the social networks and they can achieve the things that could not be achieved by separate groups or communities not connected to each other.

Being cost-free or very low costs, easy to use and allowing for unlimited sharing, social networks may have immense influence and impacts on the persons and societies when used timely and properly and it is very difficult to control and prevent such social networks. This fixation is best supported by the incidents called ‘Arab Spring’ in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and Libya in 2010 and 2011. During this process, revolt and revolution movements created by influencing and channelizing the anger of persons and societies accumulated over the course of time using information technologies and social media generally resulted in success. Researcher-Journalist Ms. Banu Avar quotes from Former Secretary of the State Clinton: ‘Our aim is not to teach people how to use internet but how to use the main squares of the cities’, ‘Facebook and Twitter followed every moment of the incidents in Egypt’, ‘The next step of the protests were coordinated. The public shared their fear and hopes through social media...’. These opinions that ‘Arab Spring’ is called ‘Facebook Revolution’ also confirms this fixation.

Having created a huge impact on social movements and yielding positive results, social networks have become indispensable instruments used by political party managers to access to masses and lead them in line with their objectives. It was claimed that social networks were used for the purposes of manipulating the public by distorting the fact with fabricated news during the Brexit voting and USA Presidential elections and achieving very significant results. Social networks were widely used and similar processes were experienced in some public movements in Turkey, for example the ‘Gezi Park Protests’ and the elections in the aftermath of these protests in 2013. The fact that public was influenced and led by using social networks and the prohibitions and bans were defeated by using various methods proved that it is very difficult to prevent the social networks.

Network Enabled Management and Working

Most of the critical services delivered to large masses by the institutions and organizations today are provided and/or controlled by information technologies systems. Critical infrastructure informatics systems, which are integral components of society and economy, have private or local area networks for purposes of confidentiality or safety but most of them are connected to internet due to wide range of services and costs as well as the connections of private sector organizations and citizens.

Although each ministry and affiliated public institutions have private networks isolated from the internet, the public sector also has information technologies system serving through internet connections for the purposes of administrative needs. These networks are established by the relevant ministries and institutions with their own budgets and means and in line with their duties, responsibilities and authorities for the purposes of communication, education, health, transportation, banking, security etc. and they aim to facilitate paperless communication, creating, storing and sharing of information. These networks are of crucial importance for administration of the state and the delivery of services.

The most widely known information technologies network used by the managers and personnel of public/private institutions and organizations is ‘e-Devlet’ application which provides electronic connection between the government bodies and citizens, institutions / organizations and personnel and increases efficiency and effectiveness by saving time, labor and money.

These networks are widely used by the citizens in the fields of civil registration, education, salaries, retirement, title deed registry, certifications, taxation etc. and they are becoming more important day by day. The state can monitor the conditions and situations of all its citizens, institutions and organization through the networks whereas citizens can access all information and documents related to them and query the administrative registries and carry out their proceedings. Remote access can be provided in many fields and information and services can be received and delivered in real time audio and video environment and mutual communication and sharing can be conducted.

Law enforcement agencies can conduct General Information System Scans (GBT) by connecting to relevant networks such as Police Information Network (POLNET) and Gendarmerie Integrated Communication and Information System (JEMUS). Geographical information management systems and networks established in 81 provinces are used for combating crime and criminals by means of vehicle plate and face recognition through camera systems. National Judiciary Network Project (UYAP) is used for judicial proceedings whereas Title Deed Register Information System (TAKBIS) network is used for effective monitoring and control of title deed registries and immovable properties and Election Informatics System (SECSIS) is used to complete elections in a short period of time all across the country. With the recognition of the importance of networks in state administration and the increase of their use, the security aspects of these networks are becoming more and more important. In this regard, the Circular issued by the Prime Ministry in 2012 ordered to establish Public Virtual Network (KamuNet). The activities continue to complete this project in the shortest time possible as it is very important for ensuring national cyber security.

Within the scope of combating new type coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which broke out in Wuhan City of China on 12 December 2019 and, spreading very quickly around the world, diagnosed for the first time in Turkey on 11 March 2020, the use of internet has increased significantly due to the containment measures such as lockdowns and curfews and many other restrictions in the fields of education, health, economics, transportation and business life. Many new needs have emerged in the fields of information and communication and people started to use newly developed information technologies and systems.

In this scope, such systems and software as remote education and work, video calls and meetings etc. and network enabled services such as e-state, e-trade, e-banking have become more widespread and used more intensively in this period. Besides the increased information technologies systems and networks related needs, cyber security needs have also increased due to heightened rates of cyber-attacks and incidents.

Network Enabled Capabilities and Military Cyber Power

It is known that wars have been fought between the societies and states since the dawn of the human history. Such weapons as bows, spears and swords were used at the beginning of warfare and today the armies use weapons with massive impacts. Most of the technologies, especially the communication technologies, have been used and developed by the armies before they were commercialized to the markets and, later on, they were used for civil applications.

The areas of warfare throughout human history have traditionally been land, naval, air and space each having specific characteristics and requirements and ‘cyber space’ has been added as fifth warfare area including other areas in the 21st century. Information has been one of the most valuable assets for mankind and today information is processed, transmitted, protected and used effectively with the means of information technologies systems supported by warfare-purposed networks.

The power of networks, after becoming visible with the use of information technologies systems in daily lives and administration, has started to be used by the military forces of the countries for the purposes of increasing military impacts and functional effectiveness in the military area and in today’s warfare being named as ‘Network Enabled’ or ‘Network Centric’ operations and warfare. In this scope, in transition from industrial age to information age and unlike the former practices, information technologies and experiences developed using civil technologies have started to be used by the armies in the operation fields to increase military power and effectiveness through cyber power. Although Network Enabled/Centric operation and warfare is still a developing concept, it is accepted as the highest-level response of the military forces to the information age.

Network Enabled Capabilities and Network Centric Operation and Warfare

This concept, first defined by the USA Armed Forces as ‘Network Centric Operation (NCO)’and used to emphasize and elaborate the importance of information superiority with respect to future of warfare, was later on named and used as ‘Network Enabled Capability (NEC)’ by NATO and some European countries.

At the heart of network enabled execution of operation lies the idea to transform information superiority into a military force by effectively connecting the components in the battlefield using information technologies networks. NEC consists of three main aspects, i.e. Human, Information and Networks, which are all overlapping and interconnected to achieve this objective. This formation aims to ensure uninterrupted transmission of right information from right resources to right person or persons at the right time and place and in a right manner as well as secure processing, distribution and sharing of such information and to increase operational effectiveness with swift decision and action through timely situational awareness.

Being one of the systems and capabilities that shape the warfare of today and future, NEC is defined as ‘an operational concept based on information superiority that enables the combat power to be increased with operational decisions made through right and swift assessments by connecting the network infrastructures of the sensors, decision-makers and weapon system users in order to have joint awareness of the situation in the operation field, increase the speed of command, increase the swiftness of operation, amplify the effectiveness the striking force, strengthen the persistence and ensure self-adaptation to battle field’.

This approach aims to use all means and capabilities on the battlefield simultaneously in the network environment. In this regard, with a view to ensuring joint understanding, increased command control (K2) speed, higher operational speed, increased destructiveness, longer persistence and self- adaptation to battlefield, the three components of war, i.e. sensors, decision-makers and weapons, are connected to each other in a network environment and it aims to execute an operation based on information superiority which ensures superior combat power.

Using the technological and network means, each and every element on the battlefield can be monitored closely using reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence systems and real-like tactical pictures can be drawn detecting / identifying information obtained about the target systems / units, orders can be given quickly and simultaneous control and information sharing can be ensured swiftly between decision- makers, sensors and weapon systems, and fire support systems and maneuver components can swiftly react to the changing conditions.

NEC is accepted by the strategic commands of NATO as one of the highest-level capabilities to transform NATO into military organization of information age. This concept aims to provide all civil and military authorities with more clear and timely situational awareness, increased efficiency, significant increase in interoperability between the countries, advanced and secure information sharing and, thereby, ensuring and increasing swift command benefits. Within this scope, beginning with the NATO summit held in Prague in 2002, NATO has recognized the importance of military transformation based on the principles of information age and started to attach greater importance to NEC efforts. In 2003, it was decided that an ‘Assessment Study’ be conducted with the participation of twelve countries including Turkey and a Project Team was established to achieve NATO NEC by 2020.

US Armed Forces and its allies developed NEC techniques and methods based on the lessons learned from 1st Gulf War in 1991 and operation executed in Bosnia in 1995 and these techniques and methods yielded successful results during their implementation in Kosovo Operation in 1999, Afghanistan War in 2001 and 2nd Gulf War in 2002. Especially for the Afghanistan operation executed beginning from 2001, ‘Afghanistan Mission Network’ was established within national networks and NATO networks. Afghanistan Mission Network seems to be the most informed and functional application of Network Enabled Capability (NEC) providing a classified common network between the coalition forces participating in the operation, allowing to sharing of information one-to- one or collectively depending on task types, fulfilling all these functions successfully and serving basis for similar practices in future.

Beginning from 1996 with the implementation of Integrated Communication Systems (TAFICS) project, fiber optic cables have been laid and radio-link stations and satellite-supported node stations have been established and, thus, Turkish Armed Forces have gained a crucial capability within the scope NEC. A network system called ‘TAF Network’ is used all across Turkish Armed Forces. A broad network system has been established providing effective, swift and secure services by connecting military units, headquarters and institutions using local area networks. Connections are provided through borrowed circuits in cases where there is no TAFICS infrastructure and,

in cases where this is not possible or in the case of front-line units, Tactical Are Communication Systems (TASMUS) are used. Besides, Air Forces Information System (HvBS) and Network Enabled Data Integrated Combat Management System (ADVENT) of Naval Forces are domestic and national NEC/NCO systems that have gained global significance and recognition.

It is seen that NEC/NCO techniques and methods are used effectively and successfully by TAF both for domestic security missions and operations and cross- border operations. Some of the NEC/NCO applications of TAF during Olive Branch Operation started on 20 January 2020 against the terrorist elements in Afrin region of Northern Syria were shared on television broadcasts and in internet environment. Targets were detected and identified by special intelligence and operation units and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the operation areas. Such information was transmitted through the networks to the operation centers for instant assessment and targets were monitored and their free movement and maneuver capabilities were restricted and destroyed by fire support units or fighter jets or they were eliminated by maneuver units’ operations. A huge contribution was made to the success of the operation by the NEC/NCO capabilities and means acquired and successfully implemented by TAF’s command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance units (K3MBİG, C4ISR) and elements using satellites, manned/unmanned aerial vehicles, civil and military communication electronic and information systems and the networks established for the region.

The fact that technology and networks were used coupled with weapon systems and some examples of the results were announced in details in printed and visual media channels created a deterring factor on the target elements and such deterring effect has significantly increased the speed and success of the operation. Another important feature of this operation is that the activities at the frontline could be monitored and managed in real-time conditions in digital environment at the Command and Operation Center of the General Staff in Ankara thanks to the means provided by technology and networks. This has further increased the prestige, effectiveness and deterrence of Turkish Armed Forces.

Conclusion and Evaluation

All throughout human history, the networks have been diversified and improved, some by inspiration from the networks in nature, for the purposes of creating, sharing, transmitting, integrating, developing, storing etc. the information for different uses especially for the communication needs.

Thanks to the means and opportunities provided by networks that have wrapped our world like a spider web and fitted it into our palms, the life of people and the management of life have become easier. On the other hand, there is emerging need to take measures against new risks and threats posed by new opportunities and power groups rising with the globalizing networks.

The states and their governments, while easing the lives of their citizens, must also consider their countries’ security and strengthen their powers and ensure deterrence against threats. In this regard, while executing national powers based on national security strategies it is crucial that they make their plans for future and implement such plans resolutely taking into account the power of all types of information technologies networks as a part of their cyber powers. Because, the effective use of all powers including cyber power depends on the information technologies networks today and the development of information technologies and networks happens almost at speed of light.

If we may make a simple overview of the history until today, the information technologies networks and their use have become more and more complicated. Today we already experience that the dwellers of modern metropolitan cities commute to work with driverless vehicles, participate in meetings with their three dimensional images (holograms), have their domestic works performed by robots and a farmer or fisher can follow up what is needed in the market using his smart phone and coordinate his sells accordingly. It is difficult even to imagine the benefits of establishing and using networks in a virtual world of future.

With the advancement of technology, information technologies networks will make life and management easier and governments will be able to provide their citizens broader services easily in the future. With the support of information technologies networks, people will start to live in environments that were once a dream like smart houses and smart and safe cities, Besides, governments will be able to inform, guide, control and manage their citizens more effectively without limitations of time and space. However, new and more challenging problems may arise for the governments. Because, citizens and the terrorist groups will come together individually and collectively and get stronger using the means of networks and, thus, new problematic areas will emerge for the governments. On the other hand, using the information technologies networks which will diversify and become more widespread in near future, unprecedented malicious actions and attacks will be organized on the information and informatics systems with more diversity and intensity. In this regard, the cyber-attacks and incidents using information technologies networks in past and today, especially the ‘Arab Spring’ in the Middle East region and ‘Gezi Protests’ in Turkey, must be analyzed carefully to draw lessons and develop measures from the perspective of mass movements lead and guided by social networks.

During the Turkish Liberation War in Anatolia lead by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Mustafa Kemal was on one end of the telegraph cables and Commanders of the Army and Governors of the Provinces were on the other end of lines and, thus, they organized the whole nation for a national liberation war. Mustafa Kemal Pasha listened to the pulses of Anatolia through cable lines and led the Turkish Nation to victory with the nation’s passion for freedom. When asked by a foreign journalist as ‘How did you achieve the victory?’, Mustafa Kemal ATATURK answered ‘Through the cable lines’. Turkish Liberation War is called as ‘War of Cables’ by some historians. The ‘Cable Lines’ or ‘Cable Networks’ of those times have now evolved into ‘Information Technologies Networks’ and now we call this war/operation as ‘Network Enabled Operation/Network Centric Warfare’. Accordingly, we must keep in mind that new and more effective techniques and methods as NEC/NCO will be used in every area of life including cyber wars in cyber environment and the wars to be fought in the battlefields of conventional military forces.

Considering the cyber power provided by the information and communication technologies together with their users and the great power that networks currently provide or may continue to provide increasingly in future, strategies must be prepared in a holistic manner to develop this great power and use it effectively to ensure deterrence, and the policies to be adopted in line with these strategies must be implemented resolutely.

Research and development activities and efforts on secure information technologies networks, technologies and infrastructures must be prioritized to defend against the new risks and threats especially those posed by social networks. It is very crucial to create local, national and authentic solutions and to establish and develop safe and competent networks.

It is very important in the context of safe and effective use of networks to deliver training to and increase awareness of the users ensuring that they have trust both to one another and to their country and government, and governments must act in coordination and cooperation with all public/ private institutions and organizations. Information technologies networks of the critical infrastructures must be improved in daily life and in administration, and while the dependency on these networks continues to increase, measures must be adopted to address negative aspects of any over-dependence and indispensability. Otherwise, economic and social damages may be suffered across the country very much like the experience of Estonia in 2007 when the internet and banking services almost came to a halt.

Finally, the topic of Network Enabled/Centric Operation in military area must be attached importance and priority to acquire and effectively use the desired capabilities. Measures must be adopted to gain capabilities related to all physical/virtual secure networks including social networks in social life and in administration and to use such capabilities at every level within the country in line with the public welfare and national security. Necessary planning must be made without any delay within the context of national cyber strategies and such plans and strategies must be implemented resolutely.

Source: 6th edition of HAVELSAN Journal  / by Former Vice Chairman of the Board of HAVELSAN Mustafa Şenol - Dean of the Graduate School of Science, Engineering and Technology at ITU Professor Ertuğrul Karaçuha.



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