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‘The Future of Indigenous Operations’ by Will Martin

How Lynq PRO enables secure, effective communication with local forces. 

As the last of the smoke wafted and the smell of sulfur waned, all that remained was confusion and pain. A simple security checkpoint, manned by several Afghan soldiers, had erupted into a half-hour firefight between NATO forces and their Afghan colleagues. While ammunition and grenades did the actual killing, it was distrust between the supposed allies that ignited the firestorm in the first place.

“These green-on-blue (attacks) have really driven a wedge,” a NATO official told The New York Times of the February 2012 insider assault that left four Afghans and two Americans dead in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province. 

The attack was hardly an isolated event. In his 2017 analysis of insider attacks in Afghanistan, “Dress like Allies, Kill like Enemies,” Javid Ahmad, then a fellow at West Point’s Modern War Institute, wrote that 157 NATO personnel and 557 allies had been killed during insider attacks over about a 10-year stretch.

“Despite the last sixteen years of engagement in Afghanistan, the United States and its NATO partners still fumble when trying to communicate with Afghans,” Ahmad wrote.

Training and empowering indigenous forces has been fundamental to U.S. military strategy in foreign spaces in recent decades. It’s not enough to cripple the Taliban or topple Saddam’s regime. On some level, that’s the easier task for a war machine like the U.S. Armed Forces. The more difficult and critical task is partnering with indigenous forces so they can ultimately assume defense of their own nation.

“When the U.S. is at its best, we are empowering indigenous forces to embrace and defend democracy on their soil,” said Mark Batts, Product Manager at OTTO Engineering, a leading manufacturer of tactical communication gear. “But in leaning into a partnership like that, we can’t be so naïve as to leave our own forces vulnerable. We won’t sacrifice the lives of our men and women on the altar of goodwill.”

These insider attacks, added Batts, are evidence of gaps in communication capabilities. Too often, there is a trade-off between security and trust. Either U.S. and NATO forces fault on the side of transparency in their communication, leaving them vulnerable to insider hostility, or conversely, they tighten their belt on communication security, splintering cooperation and trust among indigenous forces.

“This doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario,” said Batts. “The missing piece, I’d argue, is better technology. I think we’ve got that zeroed in with Lynq PRO.”

Lynq PRO enhances team awareness, is incredibly secure, and is easy to use, making it an ideal fit for U.S. and NATO forces operating with indigenous forces. 

“We’re talking about a device that can fit in your hand,” said Batts. “You can hand off a Lynq Pro device to indigenous personnel, and in no time they’re trained up and carrying the device on a separate and secure network. Best of all, you’re gaining positioning data and trading messages with local forces in real time, all while maintaining the safety of your forces.”

OTTO’s Lynq PRO device operates off a long-range, low-power, RF-quiet network. In plain speak, it’s both secure and effective. And its communication features can be tailored to operational needs. U.S. forces can track and communicate with local forces, but limit the sharing of information that might compromise security, such as location or movement of U.S. forces.

“Operators can watch and guide indigenous forces, pushing them rally points or the location of hostile forces, but never reveal their own coordinates. They choose what information they’ll enable for sharing,” said Batts. “Most amazingly, they can accomplish this without the benefit of a traditional communication network or platform.”

Each Lynq PRO device acts as a node in the mobile ad-hoc network, eliminating the need for communication infrastructure and dramatically expanding the force across a battlespace. Vulnerable communications are replaced by highly secure devices that can share selective positioning data and messaging across several miles, maximizing situational awareness. 

In addition, Lynq PRO’s ease of use minimizes the learning curve for indigenous forces. Local personnel are no longer tied to complicated mapping software and unreliable cell phone or Satcom networks.

“Because Lynq PRO is easy to deploy and even easier to use, it empowers confidence and trust between U.S. and local forces, and that translates to mission success,” said Batts. “It really is the future of indigenous operations.”

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