Air Drive Flies C-17 as Command and Management Platform in ACE Experiment

Airmen took a C-17 from the 62nd Airlift Wing on a brand new mission earlier this yr through the use of the transport jet as a cellular command-and-control station for coordinating simulated air and floor operations at Nellis Air Drive Base, Nev. The experiment may pave the way in which for area commanders to have extra choices for controlling a battlespace because the Air Drive retires its present fleet of ageing command and management (C2) platforms.

“Our work presents some extra options or resiliency” because the E-7 Wedgetail comes on-line to interchange the E-3 AWACS, Air Drive Maj. Paden Allen advised Air & House Forces Journal. “You’ll be able to solely make airplanes so quick, so then the query turns into: whereas we’re ready, what are another issues we are able to do to construct the resiliency of our C2 enterprise?”

Because the commander of the C2 division of the 422nd Take a look at and Analysis Squadron, Allen oversaw the experiment at Nellis, which happened in late February throughout Black Flag 23-1, an operational check for brand spanking new capabilities and techniques. 

C2 refers to a commander’s potential to maneuver forces to perform aims, Allen defined. Battle administration is a tactical subcategory of C2 the place battle managers give particular instructions to particular warfighters, a bit like a stage supervisor coordinating a theater manufacturing, Allen mentioned.

The Air Drive depends on a number of platforms each within the air and on the bottom to kind a theater air management system. These embody ground-based Management and Reporting Facilities (CRC) and Air Help Operations Facilities, alongside airborne E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS platforms. A lot of the expertise utilized in these platforms comes from the Nineteen Seventies or Nineteen Eighties and is outdated or cumbersome, Allen defined, which makes transferring ground-based components just like the CRC round a dynamic battle zone a time-intensive prospect.

“Our time frames are about one to 3 days to get all the pieces packed,” mentioned Employees Sgt. Hannah Fisk, a weapons director with the 422 TES. “And that’s not even the set-up as soon as we get to the placement we have to be at.”

These very long time frames harm the Air Drive’s potential to maneuver rapidly, Fisk defined. Mobility is a central tenet of the department’s technique to disperse operations in order that it’s harder for adversaries to pick out airfields to focus on. The excellent news is that there’s loads of fashionable expertise obtainable that the Air Drive can use to carry out C2 with out the majority of older tools, Allen defined.

“We took off-the-shelf tools, issues that the federal government both already has, or may simply go get at this time, pieced all of it collectively and with a little bit of pc science, bam we have been doing greater than we may beforehand and it’s a lot lighter, leaner and quicker,” he mentioned. 

United States Air Drive and Military service members disassemble the Command and Management Ingredient after Black Flag 23-1 operations at Nellis Air Drive Base, Nevada, Feb. 23, 2023. U.S. Air Drive photograph by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades

The lighter footprint was evident at Black Flag, the place all of the tools vital for C2 took up simply two bounce seats in a C-17 or the trunk of an SUV, Allen mentioned, whereas a cumbersome CRC could take a number of C-17 journeys to maneuver to a brand new location. The Black Flag experiment left loads of house for the jet to haul troops and cargo if the mission requires it, he defined.

Integrating that tools onto the C-17 required coordination with a Joint Communication Help factor from U.S. Transportation Command, in addition to maintainers from the 62nd Airlift Wing. It was the primary time Senior Airman Anthony Vargas, a COMM/Navigation Methods Journeyman with the 62nd Plane Upkeep Squadron, helped flip a C-17 right into a battle administration platform.

“My palms have been full previous to takeoff as I had to make sure all of the plane’s radio and navigation methods have been operational and I assisted the testing personnel with cables and connectivity,” he advised Air & House Forces Journal. “In flight, I monitored plane methods to make sure they have been working so the testing may run easily.”

Through the train, Fisk and Tech. Sgt. Megan Wolfe, one other weapons director aboard the C-17, labored with Allen and ground-based C2 Airmen, who operated from a Cellular Tactical C2 car, an SUV geared up with radios and computer systems. Allen oversaw a floor workforce of Pararescuemen and Tactical Air Management Celebration Airmen working to get well a simulated downed pilot whereas Fisk coordinated fighter jets flying overhead each in assist of the restoration mission and as half of a bigger air-to-air struggle. 

Fisk discovered that she may nonetheless do her job regardless of working with only a laptop computer and radios, however there have been just a few bumps alongside the way in which. One of many challenges was that the web connection which she relied on to remain involved with Allen would typically drop out. These issues are a part of what makes workout routines like Black Flag necessary, Allen mentioned.

“It was a kind of conditions the place you ask anyone ‘how sturdy do you suppose the web goes to be? They usually’d say ‘properly I don’t know, we haven’t actually tried it,’” he mentioned. “Simply in the middle of a pair days we captured plenty of info that goes to Air Mobility Command, Air Fight Command in addition to TRANSCOM, so subsequent time we are able to do it even higher and be that rather more succesful.”

command and control
Maj. Paden Allen, 422 Take a look at and Analysis Squadron Tactical C2 Division commander (left) and Grasp Sgt. Jose Mejia, 422 TES Joint Terminal Assault Controler division part chief, present command and management capabilities on the way in which to a Black Flag 22-1 mission on the Nevada Take a look at and Coaching Vary at Nellis Air Drive Base, Nevada, Could 12, 2022. U.S. Air Drive photograph by Senior Airman Zachary Rufus.

Each Fisk and the C-17 crews realized from one another find out how to carry out C2 aboard a brand new plane. Fisk realized extra about how a C-17 crew works by having to share a radio with them, and the C-17 crew realized from Fisk find out how to fly in sure methods to make sure higher connectivity for battle administration. Allen mentioned standard AWACS flight crews and battle managers know find out how to coordinate these two missions as a result of they’ve educated that method, however a transport crew like that of a C-17 doesn’t essentially have the identical expertise.

“It’s form of like doing one thing in a automotive and speaking with the motive force when you’re doing it,” he mentioned. “When a C-17 or a C-130 was created, this was not one thing that that they had in thoughts essentially, so there was plenty of very fast studying that needed to occur between Hannah and the remainder of the mission workforce and the C-17 crew.”

On the upkeep facet, Vargas mentioned the expertise broadened his perspective on the Air Drive mission.

“I’m tasked to solely work on communication, navigation, digital warfare, and mission methods,” he mentioned. “Seeing these new capabilities firsthand, I felt way more linked to the mission. Seeing the air battle managers work jogged my memory to maintain being accepting of those adjustments and upgrades to the C-17.”

Allen mentioned this was the primary time he was conscious of a C-17 getting used as a C2 platform, although the Air Drive has a historical past of utilizing the C-130 within the C2 position. For instance, throughout the Vietnam Warfare, the department used C-130s as Airborne Battle Command and Management Facilities platforms, and EC-130Es carried that mission set into the early 2000s. With the rise of Agile Fight Employment, a few of these previous capabilities have been rediscovered.

“There’s plenty of constructing upon the shoulders of people that fought in World Warfare II and Vietnam, however now that we’ve new applied sciences, new capabilities and plenty of very sensible Airmen who can combine these items rapidly, we’re seeing plenty of this fast innovation to convey extra capabilities to bear and inform commanders,” Allen mentioned. 

The way forward for command-and-control could look far completely different than the Chilly Warfare-era AWACs and JSTARs, the key mentioned. Within the meantime, you possibly can count on to see C2 Airmen pop up in additional unconventional locations.

“You’ll be able to take your telephone on an airplane, on a ship, in a automotive, that’s actually what we’re speaking about right here with the expertise we are attempting to solidify,” he mentioned. “You are taking your cellular phone anyplace on this planet, and we’d such as you to take C2 anyplace on this planet, anyway you wish to get there.”

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