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Bamboo Eagle 24-1: TACP, 14 ASOS teams implement forward-based, mobile C2

  • Published
  • By Capt. Christian Little
  • 93 AGOW

Tactical Air Control Party members and their teams from the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron traveled to the forward edge of exercise Bamboo Eagle 24-1 to operate from San Clemente Island and Travis Air Force Base, Ca., Jan. 25 – Feb. 2, 2024.

Throughout the exercise, the 14th ASOS conducted forward-based command and control with Agile Control & Integration Teams and developed methods to employ mobile C2 from non-conventional platforms.

- AGILE CONTROL & INTEGRATION TEAM (ACIT) -

ACITs are ground-based C2 elements functioning on behalf of the air component commander, comprised of TACP and may combine with other C2 elements as a united team that relies on rapid deployment capabilities to create localized and dispersed nodes that provide limited command of airspace pockets and positive and procedural control for integration of joint fires across multiple domains in support of the air scheme of maneuver.

During the exercise, the 14th ASOS positioned an ACIT at San Clemente Island to perform forward C2 and provide the connective tissue between traditional C2 and strike assets.

“Future fights against near-peer adversaries will come at great risk to legacy C2 platforms,” said Col. Langdon Root, 93d Air Ground Operations Wing Deputy Commander. “Bamboo Eagle gives us an opportunity to show how the TACP community can combine our existing command, control and communications capabilities with our Air Force Special Warfare training to fill existing C2 and F2T2 [find, fix, track, target] gaps to help pair dynamic targets to joint long-range shooters.”

The 14th ASOS C2 elements utilized existing battle management and communications hardware in new ways and locations to enhance the effectiveness and range of the exercise C2 infrastructure.

“We’re seeing what benefit there is to having ACIT crews and distributed C2 with long-range capabilities closer to the fight,” said Maj. Derek Gillespie, 14th ASOS ACIT lead. “From that forward location, we are able to provide radio and link relay to distribute a picture to strike assets as they ingress into an area of operations which will eventually affect further force alignment as we move forces forward.”

The exercise provided an opportunity for C2 forces to demonstrate and prove the advantages of these new operating locations and tactics.

“Having a forward postured TACP C2 element in the scenario allowed us to create a more combat representative environment for Bamboo Eagle 24-1, not just advanced training to the C2 enterprise, but to the entire joint and coalition force. The 14th ASOS showcased TACP C2 capabilities in a unique way, and the advantage of using TACP operators as a forward node is clear,” said Maj. Carl Plonk, 505th Command and Control Wing C2 Integration chief, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “We were able to relay critical information faster, which enabled accelerated decision making up the echelon. Brand new tactics that were literally developed two weeks prior, during the CAF WEPTAC [Combat Air Forces Weapons and Tactics Conference], were tested and validated during Bamboo Eagle.”

The 14th ASOS and their TACP elements have focused on a transition to establish dispersed, forward-based C2 nodes capable of maneuvering to different locations and able to quickly receive and implement commander’s intent.

“What ACIT provides in the JADC2 [Joint All-Domain Command and Control] market is a more forward, distributed C2 node that has the capability to affect a fight during a specific VUL [vulnerability period] or mission set with the ability to ingest orders the same day, produce effects by following those orders, then cut offline and move locations,” Gillespie said.

ACITs being located closer to the forward edge increases their ability to establish communications and relay battlespace and targeting information and imagery with strike assets performing combat missions.

“What you’ll see as they distribute ACIT teams is the ability to extend communications range and link pictures for traditional Air Operations Center command and control to paint a picture for long-range standoff targeting and attacks from our strike assets,” Gillespie said.

The 14th ASOS identified a need for further distributing C2 capabilities on the battlefield and have been working toward capabilities to enhance U.S. Air Force operations with an eye toward future contested operations.

“The highly-contested environment will be unforgiving and brutal,” Root said. “We need our best and brightest tacticians identifying new problems, and then working to solve those problems with new tactics, techniques, procedures, and equipment that solves those problems.”

- MOBILE C2 FROM NON-CONVENTIONAL PLATFORMS -

TACP and air battle management personnel joined forces to experiment what capabilities could be provided from a mobile C2 node emplaced in a cargo aircraft.

The objective was to develop non-traditional C2 capability options that are transferrable to most existing ground, air and naval platforms.

“This will give a deployed commander the option to be modular and scalable, so that we can tailor this capability to any environment,” said Capt. Andi Cribari, 14th ASOS Air Battle Manager and TACP C2 Flight Commander. “It’s a very light package, we can fit almost everything we need to operate into one pelican case and create a C2 node that can be set up anywhere in a few minutes.”

The objective was not to replicate every function of traditional, robust C2 entities, but to operate with a minimal amount of equipment to provide only the most necessary capabilities.

This C2 element contributed to the exercise’s fail forward C2 construct, a concept of pushing C2 responsibilities to forward operating locations as communications and connectivity were strained and pushed to their limits. By rolling responsibilities forward, the C2 architecture maintained its effectiveness while decreasing the need for centralization of execution.

“We’re providing options to the Air Component Commander and different data pathways to pass targeting information,” said Maj. Jesse Swanson, 14th ASOS Mission Command team lead. “We’re providing fail forward C2 options when other platforms need it. The enemy has a vote on the battlefield, so we do whatever we can to reinforce and augment our C2 systems.”

Cribari stressed the importance of assets being mobile rather than maneuverable, describing how these mobile C2 nodes can be carried by a single person and set up within a few minutes rather than a few hours.

“It gives us a lot more flexibility on the battlefield,” Cribari said. “This will provide us another layer of C2 that we can flex to.”

This implementation demonstrated new ways to use existing equipment, and Cribari encouraged all C2 professionals to find innovative ways to use their equipment.

“It’s really up to C2 experts right now to understand what equipment we currently have and be creative with new ways to use our equipment to create the capabilities we want in the future,” Cribari said. “We need to learn new methods of employment and think creatively to continue to solve problems.”

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