The Fifth Column Forum
Not logged in [Login - Register]
Go To Bottom

Printable Version  
Author: Subject: Air Force, Navy, Army Conduct First ‘Real World’ Test of Advanced Battle Management System

Posts: 25348
Registered: 13-8-2017
Location: Perth
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 28-12-2019 at 03:47 PM
Air Force, Navy, Army Conduct First ‘Real World’ Test of Advanced Battle Management System

(Source: US Air Force; issued Dec 23, 2019)

EGLIN AFB, Fla. --- In the first field test of a novel approach to warfighting, communicating and decision-making, the Air Force, Navy and Army used new methods and technology Dec. 16-18 for collecting, analyzing and sharing information in real time to identify and defeat a simulated cruise missile threat to the United States.

A three-day long exercise of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) tested technology being developed to enable the military’s developing concept called Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). When fully realized, senior leaders say JADC2 will be the backbone of operations and deterrence, allowing U.S. forces from all services as well as allies to orchestrate military operations across all domains, such as sea, land, air, space and cyber operations.

The technology under development via ABMS enables this concept by simultaneously receiving, fusing and acting upon a vast array of data and information from each of these domains – all in an instant. The Air Force expects to receive around $185 million this fiscal year for this effort, and intends to bolster these resources over the next five years, underscoring both its importance and potential.

“In order to develop the right capability that the operator needs at speed, we partner with Combatant Commanders every four months to ensure that what we are building addresses the array of challenges presented by the National Defense Strategy across the globe,” said Preston Dunlap, the Chief Architect of the Air Force who is kick-starting ABMS.

This initial exercise focused on defending the homeland.

"Peer competitors are rapidly advancing their capabilities, seeking to hold our homeland at risk,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command, which designed and managed this scenario.

“Working across all of the services and with industry toward solutions to complex problems ensures we meet defense challenges as well as maintain our strategic advantage in an increasingly competitive global environment," he said.

Yet while JADC2 has been embraced for three years as a critical tool by senior leaders, including Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, until recently it was an idea confined largely to PowerPoint slides and a slick animated demonstration of the concept.

But that changed this week when aircraft from the Air Force and Navy, a Navy destroyer, an Army air defense sensor and firing unit, a special operations unit, as well as commercial space and ground sensors came together to confront – and defeat – a simulated threat to the U.S. homeland.

Upon detection of a potential cruise missile threatening the United States, simulated by QF-16s, in quick succession using new software, communications equipment and a “mesh network,” the information was relayed to the USS Thomas Hudner, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer deployed in the Gulf of Mexico. The same information was passed to a pair of Air Force F-35s and another pair of F-22s. Also receiving the information were commanders at Eglin AFB, a pair of Navy F-35s, an Army unit equipped with a mobile missile launcher known as HIMARS and special forces on the ground.

Events culminated on Dec. 18 when senior leaders from across the Department of Defense arrived at the test’s command and control hub for an ABMS overview and abbreviated exercise. All at once in a well-secured room, they watched real-time data pour in, and out of, the command cell. They observed information from platforms and people flowing instantly and simultaneously across air, land, sea and space that provided shared situational updates as events occurred whether the information originated from jets, or passing satellites, or from sea and ground forces on the move. Then, the group transitioned to outdoor tents to continue the exercise in a rugged environment, where senior leaders could also inspect first-hand and learn about high-speed Air Force and industry equipment and software that enabled the week’s test.

“Today’s demo is our first-time demonstrating internet-of-things connectivity across the joint force,” Air Force acquisitions lead Dr. Will Roper said. “Cloud, mesh networking and software-defined systems were the stars of the show, all developed at commercial internet speeds.”

He also spoke to the necessity of industry partnership and leveraging their expertise.

“Our four-month ‘connect-a-thon’ cycle unlocks industry’s ability to iterate with testers, acquirer, and warfighters. For example, the insights from connecting the F-22 and F-35 for the first time will help our industry partners take the next leap,” Roper said.

The demonstration was the first of its kind in a series of exercises scheduled to occur roughly every four months. Each new exercise will build on the one before and include responses to problems and lessons learned.

Dunlap said the intent is to move much faster than before to conceive, build and test new technologies and strategies despite complexity or technical challenges.

“The goal is to move quickly and deliver quickly. We want to show it can be done and then we want to push ourselves to continually enhance and expand our capability in roughly four-month cycles partnering with Combatant Commanders and operators,” Dunlap said.

An equally important goal is to demonstrate the real-world value of the hard-to-describe effort in tangible, understandable ways. JADC2, previously named multi-domain operations command and control, relies on ABMS to develop software and algorithms so that artificial intelligence and machine learning can compute and connect vast amounts of data from sensors and other sources at a speed and accuracy far beyond what is currently attainable. ABMS also includes hardware updates including radios, antenna, and more robust networks that enable unimpeded data flow to operators. Aside from tools and tech, JADC2 also demands a cultural change among service men and women that embraces and responds to multi-faceted battlespaces driven by information shared across the joint force.

The critical difference going forward is to create a failsafe system that gets – and shares - real time information across multiple spaces and platforms simultaneously. Achieving this will remove barriers that can keep information from personnel and units that need it. For example, once in place, the new command and control ability will allow F-16 and F-35 pilots to see the same information at the same time in the same way along with a submarine commander, a space officer controlling satellites and an Army Special Forces unit on the ground.

View user's profile View All Posts By User
Super Administrator
Thread Moved
28-2-2020 at 11:28 AM

Posts: 25348
Registered: 13-8-2017
Location: Perth
Member Is Offline

[*] posted on 14-5-2020 at 12:24 PM

Build ABMS From Bottom-up, For The Joint Force

Unless all five services adopt ABMS it will do little good for the Joint force, no matter how technologically advanced the system is. In building the system, the Air Force faces a basic choice between placing the weight of effort on the top, beginning at the strategic level and working down, or the inverse, beginning at the tactical level and building up. ABMS is more likely to be adopted if our service builds the system from the bottom-up.


on May 13, 2020 at 1:12 PM

ABMS construct

How important do members of the Air Force think the nascent Advanced Battle Management System will be to their service and to the entire US military? Three officers have take to our pages for second time to write about the best path forward for the system, this time in light of a sharply critical report by the Government Accountability Office. Let their words speak for them. Read on! The Editor.

The quest for a weapon system allowing the “rapid collection and distribution of information and intelligence regarding the movements of friendly and hostile” began with Report 118A, “Continental Air Menace: Anti-Aircraft Defence,” filed by the Royal Air Force in Great Britain nearly a century ago, May 1923.

The report was forged in the midst of a fierce debate over whether fighters or bombers would be the best means of countering German air attacks, It captured a recognition that weapon platforms alone were of little value unless they could share information with other platforms. In typical bureaucratic fashion, 118A recommended the formation of a subcommittee, one focused on studying how best to connect aircraft, defense artillery, and intelligence personnel. With that recommendation, the modern quest to unite warfighting domains had begun.

The latest effort in that quest, the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), took something of a body blow recently when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report criticizing how the Air Force was handling the early stages of the system’s development. The report critiqued the Air Force on two levels. On the first level, the GAO said that the Air Force should submit the documentation that typically accompanies big acquisitions programs, things like cost and schedule estimates (and the Air Force has said that it will). On a deeper level, the GAO indirectly suggested that ABMS’s architects’ do not have a clear path forward to bring it from where it is today—an ambitious and closely-guarded idea—to a system enjoying widespread Joint force adoption.

Unless all five services adopt ABMS it will do little good for the Joint force, no matter how technologically advanced the system is. In building the system, the Air Force faces a basic choice between placing the weight of effort on the top, beginning at the strategic level and working down, or the inverse, beginning at the tactical level and building up. ABMS is more likely to be adopted if our service builds the system from the bottom-up.

What “Build Bottom-up” Does, And Does Not, Mean

When we say “build bottom-up,” we mean that this process of iterative experimentation should occur at the tactical level. The end users of ABMS—Joint sensors and shooters—should be the ones cycling through the new techniques and technologies that will come to form ABMS. Speaking for our own community of Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Airmen, this would mean creating and funding innovation centers within existing TACP squadrons, units which are already collocated with the Army and focus on tactical command and control.

Building bottom-up does not mean that the Air Force should abandon centralized requirements, allowing free-for-all acquisitions in the hopes that the resulting medley of systems will somehow and someday be able to talk to each other. This has been the status quo approach and it has left the different services, and even different platforms within the same service, disconnected from each other.

Building bottom-up also does not mean that the DoD should ignore the importance of sound strategy or the skillful pairing of strategic ends with operational means. The justification for building bottom-up is based on the virtues of building from the tactical level, not on any importance inhering in that level during the planning or execution of military operations.

A Bottom-up Build Paves the Way for Widespread Adoption

The advantages of building bottom-up come from the checks and balances that such an approach would place on the scope and systematic complexity of future ABMS development. As with any good system of checks and balances, a bottom-up build anticipates counterproductive yet alluring impulses, and then relies on systemic solutions rather than any one person’s good judgment. Put in layman’s terms: a solid field test can kill the good-idea fairy before the fairy establishes hardened bunkers in the program’s budget and then blows it up with the cost overruns that are all too common in major defense programs.

One of the GAO report’s principal concerns was that, without firm requirements, there is no way to know whether ABMS will meet the needs of actual warfighters. Their fear is that ABMS will need dramatic requirements changes as its components make the leap from prototype to the field, and that these requirements changes will lead to dramatic cost growth. A bottom-up build requiring tactical end-users to perform experiments in the first place, would provide a check on this type of requirements change. This brings us to the good-idea fairy’s converse—but still positive—outcome for the layman: some early testing can reveal those things which must be addressed in the system lest they be dismissed by hand-waving over the drawing board during discussion of more lofty outcomes. The baseline features that do not work are equally likely to run the cost train off its track; witness the F-35 and KC-46 for contemporary examples.

Another counterproductive impulse is the tendency towards secrecy, which was in fact the Air Force’s first defense against the GAO report, saying that the analysts did not have access to classified information needed to fairly adjudicate ABMS progress. While Air Force leaders likely have a point—GAO does not have the full story— the fact that ABMS is so locked up behind classification is part of the problem. The more inaccessible the system, the less attractive it will seem in comparison to legacy technology that is easier to access. An old push-to-talk radio at an operator’s fingertips will seem more appealing than a new C2 system locked behind multiple vault doors. Experimentation at the tactical level, where operators are less likely than senior Pentagon officials to have access to special programs, would make plain the trade-off between security and usability, forcing hard looks at what absolutely must be classified.

A final counter-productive impulse is the tendency towards service-centrism. The modus vivendi in Washington is to break programs apart so that services can have more control and in turn more budgetary influence. One way of checking this impulse is to move development away from the Pentagon and out to the tactical level, where the only imperative is to survive and defeat the enemy.

Widespread Adoption is the Whole Game

The importance of widespread adoption is baked into ABMS’s founding concept. The Air Force intends ABMS to be the technical backbone of Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), a new command and control philosophy emphasizing decision speed across all the domains—the Air Force in fact defines JADC2 as “the art and science of decision making… [in order to act] faster than an opponent.” Widespread adoption is fundamental because, as long as people (rather than machines) are responsible for choices about life and death, deciding fast will require the widespread diffusion of decision authority. The only way to make a lot of life-and-death choices fast is to have a lot of people making those choices. If only a few central decision makers can access ABMS, decisions will bottleneck and ABMS will fail JADC2.

More generally, a central finding from the empirical study of military innovation is that new military technologies do not by themselves change the balance of military power. It is instead the widespread adoption and integration of new military technologies that shifts the balance of power. It is only when “a round technological peg” fits into a round doctrinal and operational hole that militaries become more powerful. (Eds note: this is a core tenet of the Revolution in Military Affairs and its cousin, transformation.)

No matter the technological promise of ABMS, if the average tactical operator does not think it serves his goals, or he never sees it in the first place because the system has been placed behind a firewall of classification, the impact of ABMS on the military’s ability to coerce or defeat peer adversaries will be null.

Conclusion: The Lesson of Report 118A

Fifteen years after the Royal Air Force (RAF) filed Report 118A, the RAF began to integrate radar into its air defense operations. Radar would eventually become known as one of the most important peacetime innovations in military history, one that helped Great Britain temper the power of the German Luftwaffe in World War II.

A cursory reading of radar as a test case would suggest that it was the story of a new piece of technology that a few high-ranking individuals recognized as transformative and forced into use. This misses the point that radar would not have happened as fast, and may not have happened at all, had the RAF as a whole not been in a position to adopt it. Report 118A set in motion a chain of events that made the RAF—the entire force, at every level—eager and able to integrate anything that helped them better understand the location of friendlies and hostiles.

The lesson of 118A is that, if ABMS wishes to succeed, it needs to be built in a way that prepares the Joint force for its eventual adoption. With a balanced approach that includes “bottom-up” design and testing, we can ensure its success.

Paul Birch, an Air Force is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He is the commander of the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing, which contains the preponderance of forces responsible for providing the Army and Air Force with tactical-level command and control. He holds a PhD in Military Strategy from Air University. LinkedIn.

Ray Reeves, an Air Force captain, is a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) officer and Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) at the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Carson. He is a doctoral student in organizational leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University. .

Brad DeWees, an Air Force major, is a TACP and JTAC at the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Carson. He holds a PhD in decision science from Harvard University.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. government.
View user's profile View All Posts By User

  Go To Top

Powered by XMB 1.9.11
XMB Forum Software © 2001-2017 The XMB Group
[Queries: 16] [PHP: 64.1% - SQL: 35.9%]