AF supports joint exercise to modernize tactical C2 capabilities

  • Published
  • By 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs
  • 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron

The 505th Command and Control Wing supported the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center’s assessment of forward edge battle management command and control capabilities to advance the Department of Defense’s Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, concept during exercise Project Convergence 22, from Oct. 3 – Nov. 9.

Project Convergence is an Army Futures Command-led combined joint force, or CJF, an experiment designed to develop offensive and defensive capabilities to defeat peer adversaries in large-scale combat operations. 

PC22 was conducted at several locations across the western United States, including U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, March Air Reserve Base and Fort Irwin, California.

PC22 afforded the CJF unique opportunities to integrate JADC2-enabling technologies designed to deliver information advantage to warfighters at rapid speeds and improve their ability to sense, make sense, and act across all domains of the operational environment.

“Speed, range, and convergence will give us the advantage we need as the characters of war change,” said the U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville at the PC22’s demonstration day for scenario B at Fort Irwin, California, Nov. 9. “Before we talked about interoperability and how will we interoperate but now we want to be integrated from force to force at the speed of relevance at the time. That’s what will give us the capabilities that we need.”

During PC22, members of the 505th CCW’s 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron focused on assessing two Tactical Operations Center – Light, or TOC-L, prototypes. The TOC-L system is intended to be a highly mobile tactical-edge battle management node, enabling operations across all domains, anywhere on the battlefield. 

“PC22 offered both a challenging environment and robust architecture to integrate emerging CJF all domain capabilities that are not readily available during traditional DOD training exercises,” said Ryan Harshman, 605th TES test director, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “Experiments like Project Convergence allow military decision-makers the opportunity to understand the state of technology, identify policy roadblocks, and inform future acquisitions resource decisions to advance JADC2 concepts truly.”

The small footprint, crew size, and combination of both modern and emerging capabilities make the TOC-L concept unique from existing Air Force and joint C2 systems. 

“Current ground-based C2 systems are too big and require a lot of time and logistics to move,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Carl Plonk, 605th TES operational test air battle manager, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “We are modernizing our tactical C2 capability; a small and mobile system will inherently be more survivable in combat, allowing for informed decision-making at the right place and time on the battlefield.”

Three years of research and innovation have culminated in several potential solutions for the TOC-L. TOC-L prototypes leverage modern technologies and an open architecture framework to support distributed data storage and a robust range of datalink and communications capabilities, allowing for more accessible connections and integration with sister services and multi-national partners.

Throughout the experiment, the TOC-L systems tracked simulated threats as well as live aircraft and conducted a host of C2 mission threads, including coordination with tactical air control party, or TACP, members; joint integrated air and missile defense with the U.S. Army’s Patriot Missile System; and the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Weapon System. TOC-L teams also worked laterally with the U.S. Marine Corps’ Multi-Function Air Operations Center to provide layered tactical C2 across the expansive battlefield. In addition, 605th TES members followed each mission closely to observe and document the capabilities showcased in PC22.

“PC22 offered the 605th TES an opportunity to assess the operational utility of current TOC-L prototypes and continue to support the development of system capabilities for future testing,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Leslie Woll, 605th TES commander, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The TOC-L systems’ capabilities address various requirements for the future of tactical C2, such as datalinks, radios, radar feeds, and the ability to ingest air, land, maritime, space, and cyber resources from the battlefield. The 605th TES provides OT subject matter experts in these fields to monitor the progress of the TOC-L closely, and various other Air Force emerging concepts and systems.

“Early involvement of operational test in experiments like PC22 are critical to rapidly field new systems,” according to U.S. Air Force Col. Adam Shelton, 505th Test and Training Group commander, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “Even before a program of record is identified, getting hands-on with the systems enables the test community to shorten the industrial processes of old and drive integrated warfighting solutions for the larger joint and coalition communities today.”