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Digitally aided close air support: a joint perspective.

"Digital communications supporting joint close air support (JCAS) have demonstrated increased effectiveness and the ability to reduce human error. All of the services have made significant investments in digital communications capabilities, but lack the integration and coordination for an effective, joint, digitally aided JCAS solution."

-Joint Fires Today, July 2008

The digitally aided close air support (DACAS) change control board (CCB CCB Calcium channel blocker, see there ) is making strides toward coordinated implementation of a single standard to ensure interoperability and simplify execution and training.

That was the opening paragraph of the last article on the status of DACAS. Since then there has been tremendous progress in shaping the capabilities of today with those of tomorrow. Where once there was no coordination, today program offices for aviation platforms and ground kits are willingly coordinating with each other to ensure that their planned software implementations do not adversely affect their interoperability with other systems. The DACAS Change Control Board (CCB) has become the body that assists the services with this focused effort.

The road to establishing the DACAS CCB has been long. The requirement for a body to help coordinate the military's efforts became apparent during the Joint Battle Management Command and Control (JBMC2) JCAS Joint Mission Thread (JMT) events, which produced three pivotal products. The first was the Desk Top Analysis (DTA), the second was a prioritized list of capabilities endorsed by the JCAS Executive Steering Committee (ESC), and the third was the recommendation that a joint systems engineer position be established to coordinate the military's DACAS efforts.

The United States Joint Forces Command United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) is one of ten Unified Combatant Commands of the United States military. Unlike the six commands with responsibility for war plans and operations in specified portions of the world, USJFCOM is a functional command that provides  (USJFCOM) J89-produced DTA greatly expanded on the capability matrix developed by the Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team (JFIIT) at the request of the JCAS ESC. The DTA, a detailed examination of messaging capabilities, uncovered significant issues in the various Joint digital message formats, and implementations of these messages, that were preventing DACAS from becoming a warfighter reality. From the DTA, it was determined a near-term common message standard must be established to improve interoperability. Because of its maturity, formal configuration management, coverage of data elements identified by current close air support (CAS) doctrine, and the extensive number of existing and planned variable message format (VMF) platforms, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council Part of the United States Department of Defense acquisition process, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) reviews programs designated as JROC interest and supports the acquisition review process in accordance with law (10 U.S.C. 181).  (JROC) endorsed VMF over combat net radio (CNR) as the near-term message of choice for conducting immediate CAS.

The second product was the prioritized capability requirements derived from the JBMC2 Event 1 survey effort by JFIIT, where both aircrew and joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from the U. S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and United States Special Operations Command The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or USSOC) is the Unified Combatant Command charged with overseeing the various Special Operations Commands (SOC or SOCOM) of each branch of the U.S. military. The command is part of the U.S.  (USSOCOM) were asked to rank 11 capabilities and 88 data elements. The survey data presented to the JCAS ESC resulted in their endorsing the top four information exchange requirements:

a. 9-line brief/target coordinates

b. Designated Ground Target (DGT)/Sensor Point of Interest (SPI) to JTAC and Forward Air Controller (Airborne) (FAC FAC - Functional Array Calculator. An APL-like language, but purely functional and lazy. It allows infinite arrays.

["FAC: A Functional APL Language", H.-C. Tu and A.J. Perlis, IEEE Trans Soft Eng 3(1):36-45 (Jan 1986)].

c. Blue force tracks to all CAS participants

d. Target area imagery marked with targets or DGTs.

The third outcome from JBMC2 data analysis bore the position of a single entity highlighting requirements and coordinating the implementation of those requirements across the joint force. Further, this recommendation caused USJFCOM J8/9 to develop the DACAS coordinated implementation (CI) action plan.

Coordination Implementation is an established process and forum for enhancing service-wide efforts to coordinate technical advancements in DACAS that advance DoD interoperability and results in a capability that provides the most timely and effective DACAS possible to ground troops. The CI action plan proposed minimal new infrastructure in an effort to provide enhanced capabilities to the warfighter in a fiscally responsible manner. The three groups that comprise the needed infrastructure are the DACAS CCB, the engineering change process group (ECPG), and the engineering change implementation group (ECIG).

The DACAS CCB interprets joint requirements and develops recommendations that promote interoperability using a DACAS system-of-systems (SoS) approach. The board develops and approves the content of SoS engineering change proposals (ECPs) so that the services can deliver tested increments of DACAS capability as required by the JROC and its joint fire support (JFS) ESC, within the established acquisition cycle of each participating program office.

The Joint DACAS CCB membership includes the participating system program managers and is responsible for ECP approval. DACAS CCB contributing members (Services and USSOCOM acquisition communities) will align resources to meet requirements derived from approved DACAS CCB changes. This means, when it comes to DACAS, the services, including USSOCOM, will work together to adopt or procure similar systems, technologies, capabilities, and methodologies to ensure 'interoperability' between service-specific weapon systems and platforms that will enable successful employment of DACAS across the services, per approved DACAS CCB recommendations.

ECPG membership includes representation from system program managers (SPMs), JFIIT, the Joint Systems Integration Center (JSIC), the Joint Interoperability Test Command The Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) is a United States military organization that tests technology that pertains to multiple branches of the armed services and government. There is a facility in Fort Huachuca, Arizona and in Indian Head, Maryland.  (JITC), and Service Test Organizations (STOs) and is responsible for maintaining the engineering change management procedure.


ECIG membership includes representation from SPMs, JFIIT, JSIC, JITC, and STOs. The ECIG is responsible for coordinating implementation of the engineering changes detailed in the ECPs.

The approach used by the DACAS CCB to affect improvements to DACAS is a group of approved ECPs referred to as 'block upgrades.' The Block 1 upgrade began in September 2008, and will continue until certification and fielding is complete. The Block 1 upgrade focuses specifically on steps 11-15 of the CAS process (terminal control phase) as outlined by Joint Publication 3-09.3, Close Air Support, 8 July 2009, and consists of four ECPs:

a. ECP No. 1--The Baseline DACAS Messaging and Radio Frequency (RF) Network

b. ECP No. 2--The DGT/SPI

c. ECP No. 3--Marked Still Imagery

d. ECP No. 4--Exchange Network Parameters (XNP).

The aforementioned ECPs, which comprise Block 1, address three of the ESCs' top four information exchange requirements (9-line brief/target coordinates, DGTs/SPI to JTAC and FAC(A), target area imagery marked with targets or DGTs). With the exception of ECP No. 4, ECP numbers 1-3 do not add new capabilities, but rather provide a standard method of implementing the capabilities that, to varying extents, are already present in the participating systems. This may not sound revolutionary, but these modifications provide the critical foundation upon which further enhancements can be built. Previously, each program could implement VMF over CNR according to its own interpretation of the three military standards (MIL-STD-188-220, MIL-STD-2045-47001, and MIL-STD-6017), forming the basis of the protocol stack. This led to numerous valid, but noninteroperable implementations of variable message format (VMF) over combat net radios (CNR). Now with a common implementation, basic CAS messages will function regardless of the ground control kit used or the type/model/series of the aircraft overhead.

ECP Number 4 brings with it a new capability of automatically creating and managing a network over CNR with limited user interaction. Akin to the Wi-Fi connectivity in your laptop, where you are never bothered with timing parameters, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, or any of the other myriad of settings that enable the network to function, the implementation of XNP brings a similar ease to tactical networks. Using the Wi-Fi model, your equipment will inform you that a network is available and enable you to join it automatically or with a simple push of a button.

All four ECPs in Block 1 are approved and awaiting implementation in the participating platforms. The current Block 1 participants are listed below:

a. Tactical Air Control Party A subordinate operational component of a tactical air control system designed to provide air liaison to land forces and for the control of aircraft. Also called TACP.  Close Air Support System (TACP CASS CASS Cardiology, cardiovascular surgery A randomized, open label, multicenter trial that compared the outcomes of CABG vs. medical therapy on M&M in Pts with coronary artery disease after an MI. See Angina, CABG, Silent ischemia. ), Air Force

b. Target Location, Designation, and Hand-off System (TLDHS), Marine Corps

c. Battlefield Air Operations (BAO bao (pä·ö),
n preciousness, one of the five virtues in Chinese medicine, for which po is responsible. See also po.

BAO Basal Acid Output, see there
) Kit, Air Force Special Operations Command Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) was established 22 May, 1990,with headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla. AFSOC is a United States Air Force (USAF) major command and is the air component to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a unified command  (AFSOC) (USSOCOM)

d. Net-Enabled Weapons (NEW), Air Force

e. F/A-18, Navy/Marine Corps

f. H-1, Marine Corps

g. A-10, Air Force

h. AV-8, Marine Corps


j. B-52, Air Force

k. F-35, Joint

l. Pocket-sized Forward Entry Device (PFED), Army

m. Forward Observer System (FOS), Army

Current experience shows JTACs and aircrews generally do not take advantage of the capabilities DACAS brings to the fight. This low utilization rate is due to numerous reasons: lack of confidence in the systems, uncertainty whether the supporting aircraft is compatible with the JTAC's DACAS system, and unfamiliarity with DACAS Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP TTP (thymidine triphosphate): see thymine. ). A coordinated implementation of a single standard assures interoperability and capability, simplifies execution, and allows the joint force to develop more straightforward TTP. Without the multitude of protocols and their requisite TTP, operator training becomes simplified, leading to increased confidence in DACAS systems by JTACs, JFOs, and aircrew and ultimately, greater utilization. Only then will the joint force begin to leverage the capabilities that DACAS can bring to the fight.

In summary, the interoperability Achilles' heel of DACAS is being shored up through a deliberate and incremental process that lays the groundwork for long-term growth. It is noteworthy that similar collaborative processes could be applied to address other joint interoperability challenges facing our military. While there are still numerous hurdles to cross in the DACAS arena, we are moving in the right direction to increase the lethality of the joint force.


By U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jabari Reneau and Mr. Leonard Longhenry

U.S. Marine Corps Major Jabari J. Reneau is the operations branch chief for the Joint Deployable Analysis Team, Joint Staff J-8, located on Eglin AFB AFB
acid-fast bacillus

AFB Acid-fast bacillus, also 1. Aflatoxin B 2. Aorto-femoral bypass
, Fla. Reneau graduated from the United States Naval Academy United States Naval Academy, at Annapolis, Md.; for training young men and women to be officers of the U.S. navy or marine corps. George Bancroft, Secretary of the Navy, founded and opened (1845) it as the Naval School at Annapolis.  in 1996. He has served as both a Weapon Systems Officer and a pilot in the F/A-18D and is a certified forward air controller. Reneau has served in numerous leadership billets at the squadron level, including training officer and maintenance officer. His education consists of the following: 1996 - Bachelor of Science Noun 1. Bachelor of Science - a bachelor's degree in science

bachelor's degree, baccalaureate - an academic degree conferred on someone who has successfully completed undergraduate studies
 degree in Aerospace Engineering, United States Naval Academy;1997 - The Basic School, MCB Quantico, Va.; 2002 -Strike Fighter Weapons and Tactics Instructor (TOPGUN) course, NAS (1) See network access server.

(2) (Network Attached Storage) A specialized file server that connects to the network. A NAS device contains a slimmed-down operating system and a file system and processes only I/O requests by supporting the popular
 Fallon, Nev.; 2010 Master's Operational Art, Air Command and Staff College The Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) is located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama and is the United States Air Force's intermediate professional military education (PME) school. , Maxwell AFB, Ala.; 2011 - Joint Professional Military Education-II, JFSC, Norfolk, Va.

Mr. Leonard Longhenry served more than 23 years as a U.S. Marine Corps fire support NCO, artillery battalion liaison chief, regimental fire support coordinator, terminal attack controller, and air naval gunfire liaison company ANGLICO (Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company) refers to several small units of the United States Marine Corps who specialize in coordinating artillery, naval gunfire and Close Air Support for the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and allied foreign Armed Forces.  team leader, instructor, and evaluator. Presently, he is a senior analyst and joint Fires subject matter expert for the Joint Deployable Analysis Team part of the Joint Staff J8, located at Eglin Air Force Base Eglin Air Force Base is the home of the United States Air Force 96th Air Base Wing of the Air Force Materiel Command, and is also headquarters for more than 45 associate units. , Fla.
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Author:Corps, Marine; Reneau, Jabari; Longhenry, Leonard
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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