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 12 months, utilizing 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 might pave the best way for subject commanders to have extra choices for controlling a battlespace because the Air Drive retires its present fleet of getting older command-and-control (C2) platforms.

“Our work gives some extra options or resiliency” because the E-7 Wedgetail comes on-line to interchange the E-3 AWACS, Maj. Paden Allen advised Air & House Forces Journal. “You may 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 Check and Analysis Squadron, Allen oversaw the experiment at Nellis, which happened in late February throughout Black Flag 23-1, an operational check train for brand spanking new capabilities and ways. 

C2 refers to a commander’s skill to maneuver forces to perform goals. Battle administration is a tactical subcategory of C2 during which battle managers give particular instructions to particular warfighters, a bit like a stage supervisor coordinating a theater manufacturing, Allen stated.

The Air Drive depends on a number of platforms each within the air and on the bottom to type a theater air management system. These embrace ground-based Management and Reporting Facilities (CRC) and Air Assist 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 A lot of the expertise utilized in these platforms comes from the Nineteen Seventies or Nineteen Eighties and is outdated or cumbersome, Allen defined, which makes shifting ground-based parts just like the CRC round a dynamic battle zone a time-intensive prospect.

“Our time frames are about one to 3 days to get every part packed,” stated Workers Sgt. Hannah Fisk, a weapons director with the 422nd TES. “And that’s not even the setup as soon as we get to the placement we should be at.”

These very long time frames damage the Air Drive’s skill to maneuver rapidly, Fisk stated, and mobility is a central tenet of the department’s technique to disperse operations to complicate adversaries’ focusing on. The excellent news is that there’s loads of trendy expertise accessible that the Air Drive can use to carry out C2 with out the majority of older gear, Allen defined.

“We took off-the-shelf gear, issues that the federal government both already has or might simply go get immediately, pieced all of it collectively and with a little bit of laptop science—bam, we had been doing greater than we might beforehand and it’s a lot lighter, leaner, and sooner,” he stated. 

United States Air Drive and Military service members disassemble the Command and Management Aspect 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 gear needed for C2 took up simply two bounce seats in a C-17 or the trunk of an SUV, leaving loads of house for the jet to haul troops and cargo if the mission requires it, Allen stated.

Integrating that gear onto the C-17 required coordination with a Joint Communication Assist aspect 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 fingers had been full previous to takeoff as I had to make sure all of the plane’s radio and navigation methods had 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 had been working so the testing might run easily.”

Throughout 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 Cell Tactical C2 car, an SUV outfitted with radios and computer systems. Allen oversaw a floor crew of Pararescuemen and Tactical Air Management Celebration Airmen working to get better 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 might nonetheless do her job regardless of working with only a laptop computer and radios, however there have been a couple of bumps alongside the best way, comparable to a sometimes-spotty web connection. These issues are a part of what makes workout routines like Black Flag vital, Allen stated.

“It was a type of conditions the place you ask any individual ‘How sturdy do you assume the web goes to be? And so they’d say ‘Effectively, I don’t know, we haven’t actually tried it,’” he stated. “Simply in the middle of a pair days we captured a whole lot of data 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 Check 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 best way to a Black Flag 22-1 mission on the Nevada Check and Coaching Vary at Nellis Air Drive Base, Nevada, Might 12, 2022. U.S. Air Drive photograph by Senior Airman Zachary Rufus.

Via the check, 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 methods to fly in sure methods to make sure higher connectivity for battle administration. Allen stated typical AWACS flight crews and battle managers know methods to coordinate these two missions as a result of they’ve educated that means, 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 automobile and speaking with the driving force when you’re doing it,” he stated. “When a C-17 or a C-130 was created, this was not one thing that they’d in thoughts essentially, so there was a whole lot of very fast studying that needed to occur between Hannah and the remainder of the mission crew and the C-17 crew.”

On the upkeep facet, Vargas stated 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 stated. “Seeing these new capabilities firsthand, I felt rather more linked to the mission. Seeing the air battle managers work jogged my memory to maintain being accepting of those modifications and upgrades to the C-17.”

Allen stated 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, in the course of the Vietnam Struggle, 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 may be a whole lot of constructing upon the shoulders of people that fought in World Struggle II and Vietnam, however now that now we have new applied sciences, new capabilities, and a whole lot of very sensible Airmen who can combine this stuff rapidly, we’re seeing a whole lot of this speedy innovation to convey extra capabilities to bear and inform commanders,” Allen stated. 

The way forward for command-and-control could look far completely different than the Chilly Struggle-era AWACs and JSTARs, the main stated.

“You may take your telephone on an airplane, on a ship, in a automobile, that’s actually what we’re speaking about right here with the expertise we are attempting to solidify,” he stated. “You are taking your mobile phone anyplace on the earth, and we’d such as you to take C2 anyplace on the earth, anyway you wish to get there.”