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Airmen on the battlefield: warfighting integration in support of special operations forces.

Editorial Abstract: Air Force Airmen on the battlefield and special operations forces in particular need all the connectivity, access, and sophisticated information sharing that we can create. This endeavor will not only enable their success, but also close the seams in the kill chain and help the Air Force achieve netcentric warfare. The deputy chief of staff for Warfighting Integration provides readers the "inside scoop" as he leads the joint and combined integration of the Air Force's manned, unmanned, and space systems for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.


The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.

--Patrick Henry

SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES (SOF) perform their missions across the spectrum of military operations, and Air Force Airmen "flex" the airpower and space power muscle of those forces. They possess capabilities integral to the success of the joint force commander and act as a force multiplier that complements all joint-force operations. (1) To assist them in this critical work, we in Warfighting Integration (Headquarters USAF/ XI) are improving the joint and combined integration of the Air Force's manned, unmanned, and space systems for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). We provide the leadership, direction, policy, and resources to capitalize on the technologies, concepts of operations, and organizational changes necessary to achieve horizontal integration and interoperability. The eventual result will take the form of a fully integrated digital system that delivers a seamless, survivable, instant capability to execute the joint force commander's desired effects. We call this future method of operating "networkcentric warfare" (NCW). Robust connectivity, and great applications will make that happen, and the entire joint force and our Air Force will benefit from this future. This article explains how SOF units and our joint and coalition warfighting partners will profit from the applications and programs currently in the works at Headquarters USAF/XI.

The Big Picture

What will NCW look like? Imagine a battle-space where every platform automatically sends all its critical data, machine-to-machine, through a network of ground-, air-, and space-based relays, protected by multilayer security, to the appropriate command centers where planners, analysts, and commanders see real-time depictions of the status of those units. The information does not come to the commanders raw but with intelligence fused and machine-processed to create decision-quality options for the decision makers. This "human in the loop" ensures that analysis takes place and turns information into actionable intelligence. Information and data are not useful until someone thinks about them, especially in combat where missing data is the norm. We need clear thinking. We certainly want speed of transmission, but we also want to transmit quality information. Once that process is complete, commanders make their decisions, and the results are again sent--machine-to-machine--to the affected units, which read and execute their orders and then generate more feedback to the command centers, thus driving further data sharing and awareness-based decisions. That is NCW--and that is where we are going.

The Command and Control (C2) Constellation--our components of the Department of Defense's (DOD) Global Information Grid--represents one of the Air Force's key contributions to warfighting operations. The constellation includes a family of ground-, air-, and space-based C4ISR systems that share horizontally and vertically integrated information through machine-to-machine conversations enabled by a network of sensors, command centers, and shooters. Both an operational construct and an architectural framework, it guides our development of people, processes, and technology toward NCW. Important elements of this constellation include the air and space operations center (AOC) and the Distributed Common Ground System. Fundamental programs within the AOC, such as the Theater Battle Management Core System, already serve as the joint standard for the planning and execution of air operations. We continue to migrate these systems to a more modern, web-enabled architecture. The Air Force provides information transport and computing-layer components of the overall Global Information Grid through the ConstellationNet, creating a communications network in all three mediums--air, space, and terrestrial--that facilitates the rapid, flee flow of information to our warfighters.

As stated at the outset, NCW is our ultimate aim. To meet this goal, we use our continually updated C4ISR Flight Plan as a playbook. Airmen realize that we are not going to fight alone, so the Air Force works diligently with our coalition and joint service partners to integrate our capabilities and contribute to decisive coalition combat capability throughout the battlespace.

Toward that end, we must have decision superiority. After determining our objectives, we look at the effects we want to achieve on the battlefield to obtain those objectives. We need to know more about the situation and acquire that knowledge quicker than the enemy does. We do so by means of superior predictive battlespace awareness (PBA)--"battlespace forensic science"--which transforms intelligence and data into probable enemy vulnerabilities, illuminates courses of action, and compresses the decision time. We use PBA to create capable effects-based operations (EBO) to efficiently and effectively bring about the commander's desired outcomes, whether through kinetic attack, information operations, or delivery, of humanitarian supplies. To ensure the proper result with little or no unintended collateral effects, we need greater precision with speed. The more we reduce our reaction times, the better. That is why our leadership says that we must move toward "one time of flight" of the weapon.

Robust Connectivity

So what's the first practical step? Global connectivity. We must bring the Global Information Grid down to the tactical edge, fusing our intelligence information to produce real-time situational awareness, thereby enabling effective C2. Making this happen is a major focus area for those of us at Headquarters USAF/XI. We can break this task down into two major groups: (1) robust and reliable connectivity (networks) and (2) smart applications running across them. We must develop both of these groups to reach our desired NCW end state, and both will require roughly equal levels of funding.

Networks (air, space, and terrestrial) form the connected delivery system for the applications we want to use in supporting our Airmen on the battlefield. Five key subgroups capture what we are doing in connectivity. First, as I mentioned earlier, we published and continue to update the C4ISR Flight Plan, which captures the overall view of where we are now and where we are going. Second, we are focused on improving the ground-based command centers for the air, land, and maritime component commanders, the future battle control center, and the air support operations center. Third, beyond-line-of-sight range-extension efforts will increase connectivity between the networks and mobile nodes. A number of roll-on or bolt-on range-extension efforts are under way, as well as the future multisensor command and control aircraft (MC2A). Availability of worldwide beyond-line-of-sight communications for the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is also critical in support of warfighters' ISR requirements. Headquarters USAF/XI developed a plan to migrate Global Hawk to the Extended Tether Program, which will provide flexibility, bandwidth, and coverage to meet current and emerging beyond-line-of-sight communications requirements. The fourth key subgroup encompasses our big and medium-sized Internet protocol (IP) networks in the battlespace, with quadruple redundant communications channels and common data links, which support the Tactical Targeting Network Technology, Wideband Network Waveform, and Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) programs. Finally, superbly trained joint-interface control officers will have responsibility for the tactics, techniques, and procedures of using and maximizing the potential of these networks. To help them improve the joint force commander's battlespace awareness until we reach full interoperability, the Joint Datalink Information Combat Execution program has begun to develop, test, evaluate, and institutionalize joint and service tactics, techniques, and procedures that provide critical mission information across multi-platform tactical data links for air and ground.

Great Applications

We can group our top-notch applications, the other key element to NCW, into four functional areas: situational awareness, PBA, EBO, and combat operations support. Some specific applications that expand our situational awareness include the common tactical and operational picture programs, Family of Interoperable Operational Pictures, Blue Force Tracker, Global Concept of Operations Synchronization, Integrated Air Ground Imaging, and improved weather information imported to the common pictures. PBA relies on the fusing of a mix of short- and long-dwell intelligence inputs through a mixture of planning, information, and integration programs. EBO is a planning-and-execution construct whereby we deliver the right effect (kinetic or nonkinetic) at the right place at the right time--and verify that it worked. ISR Warrior and the Army's close air support (CAS)/situational awareness concept contribute to the control and coordination piece of EBO, while other programs--especially Network-Centric Collaborative Targeting--contribute to the targeting piece. The Data Link Automated Reporting System will assist the final assessment piece of EBO by enhancing battle damage assessment, facilitating the transfer of the pilot's assessment to the combined air operations center (CAOC). Combat operations support delivers combat power to the theater of operations and sustains it there despite myriad challenges. The Operational Support Modernization Program (OSMP) will enhance these vital support operations while enabling Air Force forces.

The Data Link Automated Reporting System is particularly useful to the Air Force's effort to support SOF units and line-Army forces in the field. This machine-to-machine system uses Link 16 as its conduit to receive, process, and transmit real-time information from air-component aircraft in flight regarding fuel, weapons, and maintenance status, as well as pilots' assessment of the effect of their weapons on any struck target. This information is automatically routed to the CAOC, where planners can assess the status of available aircraft and make instantaneous decisions to reroll aircraft to another target to support CAS, time-sensitive targets, air-refueling needs, or other immediate requests. The system also feeds to maintenance, facilitating the regeneration of aircraft for future sorties. Successfully tested at the Joint Expeditionary, Force Experiment 2004, this system integrated with the Theater Battle Management Core System, drastically reducing the overall time to find, fix, track, target, engage, and make assessments for warfighting decision makers.

Information Flow

Assuming that robust connectivity and great applications are essential to a fully integrated digital system, there is more to the information-flow challenge. All information in a network flows through a seven-layer "IP stack" (fig. 1). While the Air Force continues to upgrade its ground-based connectivity, we place more of our emphasis on the large, growing fixed and mobile air-to-ground network connectivity that expeditionary NCW relies upon (those Airmen on the battlefield again). The information flow begins when the user inputs data through the user interface--normally a keyboard, mouse, and monitor combination--or when a sensor receives and transmits data. From there the information flows down through the various control and application functions to the transport encoding layer, where it is translated by the transmission control protocol/user datagram protocol layer and fed into a transmission line to the next destination. This translation to IP coding is the critical interoperability hurdle since IP provides the flexible standard usable by all other programs and applications. Information transmission can occur through one of two mediums--cables on the ground-based network or satellite and/or radio transmission for the airborne network. At the destination, the reverse process takes place, turning the encoded information into readable data. Following our flight plan will ensure the use of IP coding by all future systems to make certain that joint and coalition forces can speak to each other.


The Ground Constellation

Having established the importance of IP coding, we can now address the work ahead in the transmission mediums of the C4ISR Flight Plan. An examination of the Ground ConstellationNet reveals the progress we have made in creating our self-healing, serf-forming Global Information Grid (fig. 2). About 50 percent of the Nonsecure Internet Protocol Routing Network, 30 percent of the Secret Internet Protocol Routing Network, and 15 percent of the network-operations/defense infrastructure are developed and linked. If we follow the C4ISR Flight Plan, we will complete the installation of communications infrastructure in fiscal year (FY) 2020. For convenience we centralized the machine-to-machine operational-control and intrusion-detection functions at the major commands and the Air Force's Network Operations and Support Center. Eventually this network will be fully redundant, with no single points of failure and the ability to self-form our networks as well as self-heal after attack or intrusion. These robust nets increase survivability, availability, and access for all users, guaranteeing seamless connectivity in any environment and at any distance, fixed or mobile. Fully converged voice, video, and data will pass through an IP-based ConstellationNet supporting multilevel security across all domains, allowing coalition partners to access all available information. Every platform, AOC, and remote and mobile user will have access through these "smart" nets.


The Airborne Constellation

Although a robust ground IP network already exists, there is no airborne IP network--another major focus area for our Flight Plan. The first challenge we face is that many of our platforms are not connected via data link of any kind. In the air, we currently rely on a limited Link 16 line-of-sight information-transmission capability, along with stovepiped radio systems and some satellite communications. Near-term efforts (over the next six years) will focus on moving more platforms into the Link 16 network and improving its connectivity to other systems. Within a theater, we do have a collection of line-of-sight data links that facilitate information exchange, but the network is not resilient. We have only limited ability to add new players in this closed community and have access only via time-consuming gateways. In addition, beyond-line-of-sight communications are limited in bandwidth and, except for very few lines, are "voice only" (instead of data) and not protected. Finally, we can send traffic via IP to airborne forces but just to key VIP and national platforms. However, by FY 2020 we plan to expand the Link 16 network and then evolve it through a series of enhanced linkages to form a robust, airborne IP network.

The first major step in that transition involves the introduction of JTRS radios and deployment of the Naw's multifunction information distribution system (MIDS) JTRS on airborne Air Force platforms in FY 2008-9 that will allow the formation of airborne networks. We also expect to see the creation of new waveforms coming online. The Airborne Network Waveform, keystone of the JTRS radio, will connect much of our fleet to allow the beginning of a self-healing, self-forming network, it will improve aircraft information-sharing capabilities from "voice only" or "data link only" capability to a network-centric line-of-sight IP connectivity. The Multi-Platform/ Common Data Link will provide very high bandwidth or "big pipes" (274 megabits per second) for connecting C2 nodes with ISR platforms. The IP-based protocols will automatically find and connect with any network within their radio-frequency range. Adding the airborne platforms to the IP community allows rapid access to more sources of information as needed.

The integration of the JTRS is a huge undertaking, in terms of both cost and effort. The joint program will cost DOD approximately $6.5 billion just for development and acquisition, and that represents only about 30 percent of the total outlay. The Air Force has fully funded its radio acquisition, thus far allocating nearly $1 billion to integrate the radios into fighter, bomber, and ISR aircraft. This effort will continue, eventually including all SOF and mobility aircraft, with cost and integration stretching well beyond the current budget plan.

During this period, we also see significant increases in the number of deployed sensors and platforms, with corresponding demands for bandwidth and access. We envision the proliferation of IP-using platforms and advanced applications expanding from Link 16 to a true airborne network. Rather than relying on broadcast, we will be able to address information to the particular platforms that need it. In addition, airborne platforms will act as routers and dynamically choose the best path to send information. To reach the FY 2013 vision, additional funding beyond the current budget plan must occur. More aircraft will gain a beyond-line-of-sight IP capability using Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals to access the new, advanced relay satellites. During this same period, we begin deployment of a spaceborne IP dynamic-routing capability, with the first transformational satellite that will supply initial satellite IP capability, to this network. This satellite is also the key to assured service because it provides high-capacity antijam protection to a large group of users through laser communications.

During FY 2013-20, the filly integrated, self-healing, self-forming airborne network, tied seamlessly to space and ground, will become a reality. As the deployment of future ISR systems takes place, we will complete the evolution of air and space architectures. Completion of the transformational-satellite constellation will give us an order-of-magnitude increase in our space-based communications capability. Dynamic routing of the transformational satellite and improved processing will cure latency--the slow transmission of information due to poor processing rates, small pipes, or insufficient pipe size. The Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals will proliferate on additional large aircraft, allowing us to vastly extend our airborne network to all reaches of the globe. At that point, warfighters can operate beyond line of sight and maximize the exploitation of shared awareness.

We have worked on providing our Air Force with sensor information to and from the forward troops, including special forces. Video from airborne nodes, whether UAVs or fighters with an accurate targeting pod, is key to ensuring the ground force's situational awareness over the hill or around the block. Gen John P. Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, recently initiated a program to enhance our ongoing improvements to the support of ground forces. He wants to connect sensors to our Airmen, just as the Marines did in Operation Iraqi Freedom with their Litening advanced-targeting pods; get the signal from all our potential tactical "time-sensitive-target/kill-loop" sensors to our Airmen in the battlefield; and integrate freehand "John Madden"--like features into the targeting process. (2) Called Integrated Air Ground Imaging, this program boasts three components: (1) an electronic knee board that receives and displays formatted and freehand John Madden CAS graphics and text through the aircraft's UHF radio; (2) an advanced targeting pod with video transmitter to send the tactical air control party the same video observed by the pilot; and (3) a Rover III multichannel video receiver to gather video from the targeting pod and other sources. We have a plan to fund the purchase of 550 Rover Ills, already demonstrated at the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment, and outfit every vehicle in a tactical air control party with one. The electronic knee board and the cockpit-mounted version (PACMAN) are funded for acquisition throughout the next five years. These interim capabilities will assist our Airmen on the battlefield until the JTRS radios are fielded. These three components (knee board/PACMAN, advanced targeting pod, and Rover III) synergistically provide a shorter "kill loop," especially for time-sensitive targeting since the shooter can see and highlight exactly what the ground force or special-operations unit intends to have destroyed. (3)

Critical Path to Net-Centric Warfare

A wide variety of programs contribute to NCW and the future capability of the Air Force and the joint warfighter (fig. 3). Although we are absolutely sure we do not have this completely right, at this time we are following four critical paths to NCW: IP-based routing, shared data access, assured service, and essential technologies. IP-based routing enables self-forming, self-healing networks, while shared dam access improves C2 and situational awareness across platforms. We gain assured service through robust connectivity, better security, and jamming protection. Essential technologies form the underpinnings of many of these net-centric programs.


Global network connectivity depends upon all platforms and applications communicating via an IP network, as previously explained. IP version six, the "next generation" protocol to replace the current 20-year-old version four, fixes a number of problems in its predecessor. First, version four has only 4.2 x [10.sup.9] addresses worldwide, while version six will bring the Air Force 33 million sites with 4 x [10.sup.31] addresses to use--enough for every Airman, aircraft, vehicle, and weapon in our service to have its own address many times over. (4) It will also add key improvements such as assigning relative-priority levels to bandwidth use so that Airmen cruising the Web have lower priority than combat units in the field or a commander making an important call. Also, it features built-in, multilevel-security compatibility; furthermore, the networks will be capable of auto-configuration so that any IP address has complete mobility. (5)

The transformational satellite as well as the multimission payload will expand the IP network, as previously discussed. Teleport telecommunications collection and distribution points augment warfighter communications by providing interoperability between multiple military and commercial satellite systems. They offer deployed ground-mobile forces military-telephone line switching, video teleconferencing, secure and nonsecure network connectivity, information-assurance tools, and C4I support with worldwide reach-back capabilities to the Defense Information Systems Network. (6) The Global Information Grid Bandwidth Expansion initiative will establish an optical network with high-speed IP services to approximately 100 facilities in the United States, the Pacific, and Europe, operating at 10 gigabits per second and supporting voice, data, video, and transport services. (7) A combat-support and global field-opening program known as the Combat Information Transport System, which provides on-the-fly flexibility for execution planning, will accommodate multiple, independent levels of security. Both this and bandwidth expansion contribute to information assurance for our forces.

Five critical programs augment network-enabled platforms and weapons. Earlier we mentioned the introduction of the JTRS and MIDS, the big pipes of the Multiplatform Common Data Link, and the intersatellite communications capability of the Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals that will allow the formation of airborne networks. Waveforms similar to Tactical Targeting Network Technology will provide flexible, low-latency, high-capacity, tactical-data-link capability to support emerging networked targeting applications. The latter are designed to keep fleeting targets at risk by exploiting distributed sensor platforms to rapidly and precisely locate tactical targets for real-time fire-control processes. (8) Ground multiband terminals will expand and reinforce the network.

The sharing and fusion of intelligence information from multiple sources are bedrocks of net-centric operations. The Distributed Common Ground System will bring the various types of intelligence (measurement and signature, imagery, and signals) together simultaneously, allow users to leverage Air Force Special Operations Command's currently uncollected and unexploited information and push the common picture to all users, including SOF units. Network-Centric Collaborative Targeting is an airborne-threat geolocation application that uses machine-to-machine sensor collaboration of C2ISR assets to quickly provide accurate, time-sensitive-target combat identification. This essential technology will couple well with the Advanced Tactical Targeting Technology program, a series of networked threat-warning receivers designed to supply rapid (within 10 seconds of the first intercept) geolocation of a target within 50 meters. These networked, multipath boxes will replace the current generation of radar-warning receivers. (9) Together, these fusion programs will improve our ability to know the enemy and enhance the speed and precision of our decision superiority.

Once we have our intelligence, we need to fold it into our situational awareness and leverage it to make real-time decisions. We will have help from the MC2A--the next-generation airborne ISR platform--which will integrate ground surveillance and targeting capability within the multisensor C2 Constellation and have full interoperability with other ISR aircraft and unmanned systems. It will augment and eventually replace the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System and Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, filling the void left by the cancellation of the airborne battlefield command and control center aircraft. All of this situational awareness will be focused for the joint force air component commander in the CAOC by systems upgraded through the Family of Interoperable Operational Pictures to allow rapid and accurate decision making.

Mobile node connectivity represents our last tactical mile. We must share, distribute, and horizontally integrate time-sensitive targets--to one and all simultaneously. Integrating the finders, deciders, connectors, and shooters via interconnected IP-based networks in space, in the air, and on the surface offers a challenge. But we have a plan, we are executing it, and we are experimenting to make further innovations and confirm our concepts.

Pulling It All Together

The Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2004 successfully demonstrated a wide selection of connectivity and application programs--with full integration and participation of three coalition partners (fig. 4). This event, the fifth in a series of highly focused experiments occurring twice a year, explored and empirically validated emerging concepts and capabilities. Warfighters, planners, system architects and engineers, industry representatives, ground and naval forces and their simulations, as well as assessors joined together in a live-fly, live-play, distributed, and collaborative warfighting environment. The experiment successfully modeled a future C2 system based on capabilities listed in the space and C4ISR concepts of operations. We explored battle-management C2, EBO, and PBA through the future capabilities of the C9 Constellation. On the ground network, we connected 11 joint and coalition bases. For the first time ever, we established an airborne IP network using Tactical Targeting Network Technology and common data links, connecting it back through quadruple redundant communications on our MC2A risk-reduction aircraft called Paul Revere. The Connexion satellite link expanded the wideband network for the CAOC and the beyond-line-of-sight systems. We hooked our IP world up to the legacy systems on Link 16, the tactical air control party modernization program, and a number of other targeting and ISR fusion programs to enable the first net-centric targeting solution. We executed the first robust IP forwarding of information through our upgraded AOCs and simulated MC2A platform. The experiment also demonstrated air and ground situational awareness and Blue Force Tracking, including the Army's CAS/situational awareness concept. SOF operations were integrated through a near-real-time synchronization of the common operational pictures from the CAOC to SOF C2 nodes. Lastly and most importantly, we executed EBO by showing both simulated and ground live tracks through the Cursor on Target (COT) program, thus enhancing Blue Force Tracking and situational awareness.


CoT, which uses a common, neutral computer-language format to translate only key items for machine-to-machine metadata tagging, is important to special forces. It brings together more than a dozen types of "time-sensitive tactical data" from imagery to real-time Blue Force Tracking, target solutions for weapons, strike or platform cross-cueing orders, ISR-collection or air-support requests, weather data, and signals intelligence or sensor information--all from a variety of sources. The program's hierarchical structure enables these different data types (words, pictures, programs, data, and numbers) and integrates the entire enterprise. For example, a SOF unit identifies a target with a CoT-enabled application like the Digital Precision Strike Suite. The unit sends target and SOF team positions in CoT format to the Special Operations Liaison Element, which approves the target for review in the Automated Deep Operations Coordination System. The CAOC leadership releases the target in this system, and CoT forwards the target information to the appropriate systems/links for execution. We can use the same architecture for this system, which works well, to create and disseminate ISR requests or drop and landing-zone information in the same machine-to-machine fashion. At the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2004, CoT connected more than 40 systems. It doesn't try to do everything--just the most important--and its backward-compatible language and scalable format give us net-centric value at a reasonable cost.

The economic integration of time-sensitive data is important, but we are also trying to "lighten the load" of our troops. The Battlefield Airman program addresses the needs of four types of Air Force personnel who operate on the ground: (1) the tactical air control party, which works with ground forces to direct close air support; (2) combat weathermen who do ground-based collection to relay information to airborne units; (3) pararescue jumpers who fly on HH-60s to assist in bringing downed or wounded troops to safety; and (4) the combat control team, which provides combat air-traffic-control services and tactical support to special forces. This program focuses on the hardware side, reducing the weight and volume of equipment needed by these Airmen in the field. It has already succeeded in cutting their typical 150-pound payload by 40 pounds.

Another interesting program, Air Force Special Operations Command's SOF Signals Training and Rehearsal System, provides SOF aircrews with a realistic, simulated combat environment for distributed mission operations, including mission planning, training, testing, rehearsal, and experimentation. The program integrates live, virtual, and constructive simulations with national intelligence capabilities to provide a seamless, simulated, but lifelike SOF combat environment. It injects real-world or simulated intelligence, Blue Force Tracking, and orders of battle on live and/or simulated aircraft, including C4ISR/electronic-warfare broadcast systems. The training benefits are obvious, allowing SOF warfighters to train and rehearse just as they would fight in a real combat situation. The successful operational assessment occurred in June 2004 as part of US Special Operations Command's Combined Joint Task Force Exercise. Documentation and transition of the SOF Signals Training and Rehearsal System hardware/software to Air Force Special Operations Command are occurring now.

Also developing now, the Rapid Attack Information Dissemination Execution Relay (RAIDER) allows enhanced tactical information-dissemination capabilities. It began deployment to the combatant commands starting with US Forces Korea in April 2004. A further development of a system proven in Operation Iraqi Freedom, RAIDER provides digital connectivity from the battle-management decision level to the cockpit for all fielded data links. It enables machine-to-machine precision engagements (Automated Deep Operations Coordination System[right arrow]RAIDER[right arrow]aircraft). C2 elements can receive real-time, digital battle damage assessment or nontraditional ISR results (strike-aircraft film and sensor data). During Foal Eagle 2004, RAIDER enabled target acquisition to bombs-on-target in 21-45 minutes rather than previous two-hour time frames.

Finally, our Operational Support Modernization Plan, mentioned earlier, is transforming our support processes--operational success requires a foundation of integrated support. The OSMP aims to make support rapid and predictive. It replaces fragmented functional processes with enterprise-wide ones focused on the warfighter to produce ready units, people, materiel, installations, and situationally aware commanders who can mobilize, move, sustain, recover, and support the joint force. Improvements in these "business" practices, in turn, will improve operations tempo.

In much the same way as the kill chain was reengineered to remove steps that added no value, the OSMP will examine and reengineer critical support processes. Early reviews of some of these processes showed that certain ones (e.g., deployment) could be significantly improved. For example, a study found that to deploy a fighter squadron from the United States to Southwest Asia today, support teams would use several dozen manual processes and over 60 data sources, but the commander would have adequate visibility into only one-third of those processes. Projected current improvements would address some of the deficiencies by 2011 but not enough to meet the operational needs. However, some operational-support areas are strong. Another study that looked at repairing a C-17 in-theater involving Air Mobility Command's Agile Maintenance program found that the command's existing transformation programs were nearly complete (few manual processes and near-complete commander visibility) and would meet all requirements in 2011. The OSMP's initial reengineering work, just now under way, is targeting four critical support processes: deployment management, full-spectrum threat response, agile sustainment, and focused operational-support C2. More processes will follow. Enterprise Resource Planning software will come into play to introduce Air Force-wide processes and enable the capture of data once by authoritative sources and then make it available to all. The program aims to have commanders receive information through a common operational support picture fused with their operational picture. That's what the warfighter needs.

SOF units would benefit directly from the OSMP through the availability of decision-quality support information to the SOF decision maker: real-time status of personnel, equipment, and materiel. Visibility into the support systems would enable them to react faster to a deployed emergency maintenance or support requirement (e.g., aircraft parts and specialist assistance). Also, as with all unit moves, special forces would profit from the deployment-management capabilities of the OSMP, as well as acquisition/logistics improvements and embedded financial support.

Here There Be Dragons

The Air Force still has plenty of dragons to slay en route to full NCW and full support to Airmen on the battlefield. Stealth and net-centric operations don't easily go together, but we are tackling the technical challenges. Across all the network domains (air and ground, fixed and mobile) we are working toward standardization of quality of service. Because commercial quality of service does not directly transfer to military operations, we are sorting that out. Finally, our core radio programs need attention. What started as the merger of more than 30 voice waveforms is also incorporating the new IP waveforms to bring mobile IP to the tactical user. Of highest concern for us are the MIDS and JTRS--we need to sort the IP waveform for worst-case users.


In summary we are on the flight path to NCW. Robust connectivity and joint applications are the elements guiding our efforts for the joint force commander. But much work remains. We must install a standard IP protocol across all platforms in all the services, and we must design future programs and applications to work in that environment. We need to learn the lesson of commercial "bandwidth hog" applications and have our designers and programmers create systems on a tight "bandwidth diet" to reduce the usage of our new and larger pipes, keeping the information flow rate high. The services and other agencies need to work with a common grid/coordinate system to facilitate accurate location information. Latency and quality of service go hand in hand. A ground vehicle moving on a common operation picture with a two-minute update might be fine for a ground unit covering one-and-a-half miles in that time, but that's unusable for controlling an aircraft that traverses 20 miles in the same time. Sensor forwarding demands even more speed. Industry and the DOD must consider coalition and joint effects due to security, connectivity, and throughput on new systems. We want to work to assure security, but we must also enable access. Masking the source helps. It is also crucial to time-tag our events so users know the latency involved in the information they are receiving. Proven connectivity is necessary prior to a net-centric application's making the grade: no digital radio, no application. If we have only a little money available, we should spend it on the transport layer so we can gain commonality in our warfighter applications. Finally, we need to build on our Center for Domain Integration initiative and virtually plug our test centers together so we can field joint applications jointly. With this center, we can run the applications in a "hot" test environment, compare it to a "designated joint test standard" before we field them, and let industry fix the digital misfits. I have confidence in our future--we will be ready to support the joint force commander's priorities and objectives with the jointly developed C4ISR Flight Plan.



(1.) Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-7, Special Operations, 17 July 2001, v.

(2.) Just as football commentator John Madden uses his light pen to analyze plays, so would someone on the ground transmit an image, perhaps with a certain area marked with the light pen indicating locations of friends or enemies or strike run-in direction. The flyer could send back the same image with other markings on it. This technique is much more interactive than voice only.

(3.) Headquarters USAF/XO and XI, to the commanders of Air Combat Command and Air Force Materiel Command, joint letter, 6 August 2004.

(4.) Col David Kovach, commander, Air Force Communications Agency, communication with the author, 12 October 2004.

(5.) Ipv6 Information Page,

(6.) 2d Lt Matthew Bannantine, "Deployed Warfighters Require Three Rs for Success," Intercom: The Journal of the Air Force C4 Community, 2004, Intercom/2004/APR/040403.html.

(7.) Colin C. Haley, "Feds Announce Global Network Contract Winners,", 31 December 2003,

(8.) Stephen Waller, "Tactical Targeting Network Technology," Information Exploitation Office, n.d., http://dtsn.

(9.) "Research Brief: DARPA Advanced Tactical Targeting Technology (AT3) Program,", 2004, http://
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Author:Hobbins, William Thomas
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2005
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