USAF, Navy, Army to Exercise All-Domain C2

SANTA MONICA, Calif.—The Air Force’s vision of joint, all-domain command and control will come together in an exercise this month where several fifth-generation USAF and Navy fighters will talk to a destroyer, as Army systems feed data to a small tent on the Florida panhandle.

The exercise, scheduled for the week of Dec. 16, is the culmination of months of planning to see how the Air Force can develop technologies, tactics, and training for multidomain operations, Preston Dunlap, the service’s chief architect overseeing a new battle management network, said Dec. 6 at the West Coast Aerospace Forum in Santa Monica, Calif. The forum is sponsored by AFA’s Mitchell Institute, RAND Corp., MITRE Corp., and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

While the service has taken a piecemeal approach to developing multidomain operations, the Florida event will be its first major exercise of the idea. The plan is to hold one exercise every four months to shape the JADC2 vision, Dunlap said.

A combatant command will oversee each exercise, instead of a USAF major command, to ensure joint partners are involved, he said. US Northern Command came up with this month’s scenario: a cruise missile threat to the homeland.

During this event, the Air Force will test new methods for F-22s and F-35s to share information. The jets, the service’s most advanced fighters, cannot share data, so pilots can only communicate via radio.

But the evaluation will go far beyond just communications between the two USAF fighters. Navy F-35s and the destroyer at sea will also communicate with the Army’s Sentinel radar and a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System to provide a fuller picture of the threat. Command and control for the exercise will take place in a tent, Dunlap said, as opposed to a large operations center.

The goal is to pull information together from sources at different levels of classification, and distill the data in a way that can be effective when shared on tablets and mobile phones, Dunlap said.

The December event will likely outline much more work that JADC2 needs to evolve. Another exercise is planned for March, though the hosting COCOM hasn’t been announced.