SCOTT AFB, Ill. --- For the first time, Air Mobility Command Airmen conducted a commercial beyond line of sight (BLOS) communication and tactical data link experiment to update a mixed formation en-route to a simulated threat area during the U.S. Air Force Weapons School Joint Forcible Entry training scenario held outside of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on June 6, 2020.
After departing from various locations, 16 AMC C-17 Globemaster III’s from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Joint Base Charleston and 19 C-130J Hercules’ from Little Rock Air Force Base, Dyess AFB and Altus AFB joined in formation to execute the training.
This experiment was in support of Air Force and AMC efforts to command, control and connect the Joint Force in future conflicts. AMC is conducting training and experiments to better integrate with plans to develop the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), the long-term plan to connect the Joint warfighter through a networked, secure, rapid, artificial intelligence enabled system. ABMS is the Air Force’s initiative in a larger, Joint concept of commanding, controlling, and connecting forces and operations called Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).
“Where there’s a tanker, there’s a fighter, and nothing moves without a gray tail or a Civil Reserve Air Fleet asset,” said Gen. Maryanne Miller, Commander of Air Mobility Command. “So we have to be connected into the network, so we can be that link, that sensor, and that JADC2 node.”
Robust JADC2 allows the commander to direct operations to “move at the speed of war” as described in the AMC Vision. AMC and the Air Force are employing new concepts and technology to network friendly forces, accelerate operations, and overwhelm adversaries with simultaneous challenges from every domain.
The training included an AMC-led tactical data link experiment intended to increase aircrew situational awareness of the threat environment before and during the mission. New computers aboard two C-17s enabled high-speed data transfer via commercial satellites to the entire formation. The commercial satellite link and new computers enabled BLOS, to build aircrew situational awareness hours before they reached the simulated threat environment.
“Right now, the C-17 offers very limited imagery of the battle air space pilots enter,” said Maj. Tyler Boyd, 62nd Operations Support Squadron director of wing tactics. “DRC gives them a live picture and connection to what’s going on so they can see where everybody else is, including threats and friendlies, and have better situational awareness overall.”
The commercial satellite link and new computers dramatically increase connection speeds and refresh speeds, providing much more up-to-date information about the threat environment. Also, the network bandwidth will allow multiple users to connect, whereas the current capability becomes dramatically slower as users join the network.
“The experiment was a success, although in the strictest sense, we didn’t do any sensing, translating or managing of effects during the experiment,” said Lt. Col. Bradley Rueter, AMC Capability Development branch chief. “What we did do, was experiment with ways of sharing the data and understanding to test out a few hypotheses specific to MAF [Mobility Air Forces] employment in contested environments, where the adversary is trying to deny us access through a myriad of options.”
Rueter added that the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics has a plan in place to have the ABMS on-ramp every four months to continue the experiment. Additionally, AMC has a plan to use every opportunity presented to continue experimenting with the ABMS.
“AMC is an active participant in the ABMS on-ramps, and is also conducting independent, closely-related experiments and training like last weekend’s to build capability so we can more meaningfully participate in future on-ramps and demonstrate AMC’s role in future conflicts and in connecting the Joint Force,” Rueter said.