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`Persistent' intelligence feeds benefit air combat planners.

Air combat planners, in the foreseeable future, can expect to use sophisticated software tools that will help compress the so-called "kill chain,"-the time it takes it to find, identify and destroy a target, said Air Force officials.

Some of these technologies were tested this summer, during a series of experiments designed to execute new air-combat planning concepts embraced by U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper.

Among Jumper's initiatives is the notion of a "global strike task force" of fighter and bomber aircraft that would he able to take off on short notice and attack an enemy's critical infrastructure-thus clearing the way fur U.S. ground forces. This task force, to be successful, would require unprecedented levels of battlefield intelligence.

A continual flow of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data around the dock is a fundamental prerequisite in the global strike task force, said Lt. Gen. William T. Hobbins, commander of the 12th Air Force. He served as the joint force air and space component commander during the Air Force war-fighting experiment conducted this summer, known as JEFX 2002.

In a simulation-based portion of the experiment, a global strike task force made up of F-22 fighters and B-2 bombers relied on "persistent 24-7 ISR to kick down the door in a scenario where we don't have access, to enable follow-on forces," Hobbins told reporters during a news conference.

The JEFX command air operations center, or CAOC, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., became the test bed fur several new technologies that Hobbins said will help "transform" the way air operations are planned and implemented. The goal, he said, is to "send information as rapidly as we can from the CAOC to the war fighter in the air, so we can prosecute targets before we lose the opportunity."

Among the more useful technologies tried at JEFX were software programs that help collect and combine data from multiple stove-piped systems, Hobbins said. "We are using software in ways we never did before, to facilitate machine-to-machine talk."

Hobbins was particularly enthusiastic about the experimental MC2A-X (multi-sensor command and control aircraft), known as Paul Revere. This system is viewed as a "critical enabler" fur the global strike task force, its role envisioned as an information hub that can help direct sensors and weapons.

The Paul Revere is a Boeing 707 equipped with communications links and workstations that receive sensor information feeds from the AWACS air-traffic control aircraft, the Joint STARS ground surveillance radar aircraft, the River Joint signals intelligence aircraft and the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center.

A crew of 22 aboard the Paul Revere sorted the information and figured out how to make the best use of the data in directing the activities of sensors and strike aircraft. In a conflict, the Joint Task Force commander would determine the "time critical targets" that need to be prosecuted tight away. The crews aboard the MC2A would use the data available to help pinpoint those targets within minutes.

If the Air Force decides to build an operational MC2A, its host platform will be a 767 jet. The plan is to field the MC2A aircraft as part of a constellation that also would include unmanned aerial vehicles, space-based radar, space-based infrared sensors and ground stations.

During JEFX, the Paul Revere flew over the Nelis training ranges, in order to "gain as much information as we can about how we can use this aircraft in the future," said Hobbins. The aircraft is connected with the CAOC in real time, which facilitates the exchange of data.

Despite his utter endorsement of the MC2A-X, Hobbins acknowledged that the project has a long way to go in its technical development. "We are trying to walk before we run with this concept," he said. "We need to figure out the manning, the type of information we want...determine what information we have to prosecute.

Air Tasking Orders

To expedite the process of executing the air campaign, the Air Force tested at JEFX the so-called Master Air Attack Planning (Maap) tool-kit, a piece of software that retrieves and displays the information needed to build the air attack plan.

Battle planners currently spend up to 12 hours figuring out which weapon platforms will be matched up against what target, as prescribed in the campaign blueprint, called the ATO (the air tasking order issued by the theater commander). The air strike plan usually is charted 48 to 72 hours before the fighters and bombers rake off on their missions.

"Intelligence folks currently plot the information on wall charts, with a grease pencil and add Post-it notes with target information," explained Air Force Lt. Col. Douglas Combs, program manager for the Maap toolkit.

During a recent exercise, said Combs, it took three people eight hours to plot the information on a wall chart.

"With the Maap Toolkit, we pull the information out of the databases from TBMCS and plot that on a map and make them interactive with the target information, in a span of about 30 seconds," Combs said at a Pentagon briefing on JEFX.

The TBMCS is the theater battle management command and control system that the Air Force introduced two years ago and is now standard equipment at CAOCs. It combines hundreds of applications that were merged into one infrastructure, and contains most of the information that the CAOC needs to conduct air operations.

With the Maap tool-kit, said Combs, "we can reduce the ATO production cell from 19 to five people." The software electronically pumps the information that typically is handled manually into a TBMCS application called theater air planner. Not every TBMCS database is compatible with the Maap tool-kit yet, but Combs said that at least 80 percent are interoperable.

During JEFX, the Maap tool-kit was tested in various exercises. The goal was to figure out how it could be employed to help expedite the planning process in the air operations center.

The system is easy to use, said Combs. "It's all drag and drop." Planners can grab airplane icons on the computer screen, for example, and drag them into a target location. A pop-up planning window allows them to specify weapon choices for each airplane.

With today's technology, it takes between six and eight hours to map out the strike platforms on the battle zone. Another two to four hours are needed to create a Powerpoint presentation that is used to brief the Joint Force Air Commander and get approval to execute the battle plan. "With Maap tool-kit, I can do an export [of the planning charts] directly into the briefing," said Combs.

The tool-kit has not yet been approved for live operations. Combs predicted that several Air Force units could begin using the system next spring.

Sensor Monitoring

Air Force officials at JEFX also experimented with a new Web-based software system that consolidates numerous sources of battlefield intelligence. This ISR (intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance) manager blends the data received from sensors such as the U-2 spy aircraft, the Global Hawk and Predator drones, the Joint STARS, Rivet Joint, AWACS, the Navy's EP-3 electronic warfare airplane and national sensors.

Today, each ISR platform has its own independent processing and control systems. The time it takes to correlate the intelligence information delays the decision timelines, said Morris Johnston, a Raytheon Co. engineer who helped design the technology.

The Web-based ISR manager creates a picture of the theater battle space that combines data such as sensor location, collection plans, targets and tip-off information from intelligence sensors.

Authorized users with the proper security clearance, for example, can access the Web site and see the position of the sensors. Commanders even can re-task the sensors remotely, Johnston said. Without the ISR manager, he said, a remote capability would require high-bandwidth, dedicated communications pipes, as well as specialized tools.

The Raytheon system was being tested at Nellis Air Force Base for JEFX. During the experiment, "we would bring that data into a common data base, along with input from intelligence networks and tactical signals-intelligence data," he said. "At Nellis, we have the capability to retarget U-2 sensors in flight."

An operator from any corner of the world hypothetically could request that a sensor be redirected. A commander ultimately would have to endorse the request. "Not every operator would be approved to re-task, but would just be able to monitor sensors," Johnston said.

The JEFX, meanwhile, saw the successful employment of the joint en-route mission planning and rehearsal system (JEMPRS).

The JEMPRS essentially is a pallet loaded with communications systems and computers that can roll on and off aircraft, so commanders can plan and direct combat missions while in flight.

The joint task force commander of the Millennium Challenge multi-service war-fighting experiment, Army Lt. Gen. B.B. Bell, used JEMPRS aboard a C-17 cargo plan to conduct a live rehearsal and numerous meetings, virtually, as he flew from Norfolk, Va., to the USS Coronado, off the coast of San Diego. The picture of the battlefield that JEMPRS creates can be shared with other commanders.

The head of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Tommy Franks, used the system aboard a C-17 during Operation Enduring Freedom.

"While airborne, all the components (air, land, sea) were connected to the C-17," said Hobbins. He noted, additionally, that the Air Force and the Navy were able to fine-tune joint war-fighting techniques at Millennium Challenge and JEFX by combining their individual air war blueprints into a single campaign planning document. Hobbins said that the coordination worked smoothly. "We de-conflicted the air space and coordinated the movement of surface ships."
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Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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