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Revised USAF Doctrine publication: Air Force Doctrine Document 2-1.7, Airspace Control in the Combat Zone.

On one plasma screen, the Air Picture displayed hundreds of multicolored icons streaming across the digital map toward Baghdad--strike aircraft and their supporting tankers, electronic warfare jammers, and the Special Ops Combat Search and Rescue forces. "Showtime, Buzz."

--Gen Tommy Franks to Gen T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley "A-day," 21 March 2003

AIRSPACE IS THE most fluid portion of the battlespace. According to Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-1.7, Airspace Control in the Combat Zone, 13 July 2005, US Airmen must share operations within that space with "civil users, nongovernmental organizations, coalition military forces, and host nation users" (p. [ii]). Those operations must be conducted not only safely (for the previously mentioned agencies as well as our own forces operating within, above, and below the airspace) but also effectively. This document outlines principles that enable "combat effectiveness, while promoting the safe, efficient, and flexible use of airspace with a minimum of restraint placed upon airspace users" (p. [ii]).

AFDD 2-1.7 substantially revises the previous version (9 May 2001). Its "Summary of Revisions" notes that
 this version updates key airspace control doctrine concepts to
 include a discussion of airspace control during varying
 levels of conflict/ contingency; discusses other possible
 nongovernmental users of the airspace during conflict and en
 route air traffic control/airspace/airfield management during
 contingencies and conflicts ...; adds a discussion of conventional
 air-launched cruise missiles and Army tactical missile systems and
 their requirements for airspace coordinating measures ...; updates
 the discussion of the theater air control system, including
 deletions of the terms airborne battlefield command and control
 center and control and reporting element; adds a discussion on
 the airborne command element, the air mobility liaison officer,
 the expeditionary operations center and the regional air movement
 control center (RAMCC); updates the discussion of the airborne
 warning and control system and data links used for airspace
 control ...; adds a discussion of en route airspace management
 ...; adds a new appendix that discusses RAMCC operations and
 employment ...; [and] updates definitions, terminology,
 historical references, and readings throughout. (p. [i])

However, AFDD 2-1.7 fails to address the intricacies of commanding and controlling missions that cross multiple theaters or operations, such as mobility and global-strike missions that sometimes originate outside the combat theater area of operations (e.g., in the continental United States) as well as those that take place within the combat theater and in some cases either return to their original theater or terminate in completely different theaters. Although airspace control is a very complex subject, this doctrine document provides in-depth explanations of many facets of airspace control that lie beyond the doctrinal level, approaching a textbook mentality more suitable for instructions on Air Force tactics, techniques, and procedures. Additionally, it details airspace control operations in a very businesslike fashion, forgoing historical vignettes that would offer the reader an occasional diversion.

Nevertheless, practitioners of airspace design and control should read AFDD 2-1.7. The same holds true for any airman, soldier, sailor, or marine destined for duty in an air operations center or theater air control center.

Lt Col Alexander M. Wathen, USAF, Retired
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Title Annotation:notice to airmen
Author:Wathen, Alexander M.
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2007
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