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Air Force ISR Changes After Afghanistan

May 1, 2014
BY Rita Boland

The U.S. Air Force is emerging from almost 13 years of conflict in the Middle East with a different perspective on its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Lessons learned from those battlefields are leading to new directions that will entail abandoning traditional approaches and methods.

Recent operations have demonstrated the importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to coalition partners. As the missions wind down, officials in charge of such activities are focusing on a reset, determining what adjustments to make to keep the capabilities relevant moving forward. The Air Force has no plans to stop providing services across the military, though what that means with a smaller force in different environments remains to be seen.

Throughout the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, capabilities from various sensors became available at continually lower echelons even as support remained intact to the highest levels within the United States. Officials in the ISR community have learned to better integrate platforms, sensors, the network and the enterprise. The advent of the Joint Information Environment encompasses part of that effort, as the military creates a single, secure information-sharing environment across its branches.

Maj. Gen. Jack Shanahan, USAF, commander, Air Force ISR Agency, says the war in Afghanistan will be remembered as an ISR war as much as anything else. Incredible ISR capabilities were fielded to Iraq and Afghanistan during the past 12 to 13 years, but not all of them will transfer to the military of the future. Others will be revamped for a different fight. Some capabilities coming out of Afghanistan, for example, will be as important in new locations, but for different reasons, Gen. Shanahan states.

Modernizing Nuclear Bomber Command and Control

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Air Force officials are working to replace by 2019 aging command and control terminals that are part of the U.S. Air Force’s nuclear bomber mission. The new terminals will communicate with advanced satellite constellations and also will add capabilities not in current systems.

The Global Aircrew Strategic Network Terminal (Global ASNT—pronounced global assent) is a ground-based, three-increment program that provides persistent, survivable and redundant command and control (C2) communications to the U.S. Air Force strategic bomber fleet. The terminals also provide a C2 capability for the tankers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft supporting the nuclear bomber mission. It is a part of the Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN) that passes messages from national command authorities—the president and senior leaders—to nuclear forces. 

The program will provide 45 fixed communication terminals for sites such as wing command posts, along with 45 transportable terminals to support dispersed operations. The first increment of the program will provide advanced extremely high frequency (AEHF) communications compatible with the new AEHF satellite constellation and will replace legacy Military Strategic Tactical Relay (MILSTAR)-compatible terminals. The AEHF constellation will be the military’s primary satellite system for highly protected communications following the launch of the fourth and final satellite in 2017.

The new AEHF terminals are required because of projected end-of-life issues with the MILSTAR satellite constellation and looming obsolescence of the currently fielded terminals. “It replaces unsustainable legacy systems. Some of the systems it replaces are getting toward the end of their life cycle, and they’re difficult to maintain,” says Lt. Col. Kenneth Decker, USAF, Global ASNT program manager. “It’s like when your car gets to the point where it costs too much to maintain it.”

Joint 
Information Environment 
Logs Successes, 
Faces Snags

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The Defense Department drive toward its Joint Information Environment is picking up speed as it progresses toward its goal of assimilating military networks across the warfighting realm. Individual services are developing solutions, some of which are targeted for their own requirements, that are being applied to the overarching goal of linking the entire defense environment.

Early successes in Europe have advanced Joint Information Environment (JIE) efforts elsewhere, including the continental United States. Some activities have been accelerated as a result of lessons learned, and they have been implemented ahead of schedule in regions not slated to receive them for months or even years.

However, significant hurdles remain, and not all participants are equally supportive of the effort. Overcoming major cultural challenges may be the most difficult task facing JIE implementation. And, the omnipresent budget constraints facing the entire Defense Department may extend into the JIE, even though it is not officially a program of record.

Senior Defense Department leaders do not hesitate to emphasize the importance of the JIE to future military operations. David DeVries, deputy Defense Department chief information officer (CIO) for information enterprise, describes the JIE as a unifying effort to do “the largest wholesale information technology modernization in the history of the department.”

Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., USAF, director, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), avows, “The next type of enterprise that our Defense Department will be postured to utilize in the next conflict—be it kinetic or nonkinetic—the JIE will be an integral part of that environment.”

U.S. Navy Fielding Weather-Predicting Sea Drones

April 10, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

U.S. Navy scientists are fielding unmanned underwater drones which, when used with mathematical models, satellites and good old-fashioned brainpower, can better analyze the globe’s oceans and forecast. Ideally, the technology will predict what the world’s waterways will look like as much as 90 days into the future.

U.S. Navy to Unveil 'Game-Changing' Lethal Railgun

April 9, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. Navy will soon demonstrate a new electromagnetic railgun launcher, which can launch a 23-pound projectile at speeds topping Mach 7.

 

Navy Equips MH-60s With New 'Smart' Launcher

April 7, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. Navy is outfitting a squadron of MH-60 Seahawk helicopters with a new modernized digital rocket launcher—a less expensive and more precise alternative to the Hellfire missiles now used, a Navy official says.

Lightening the Workload for Cyber Command

April 3, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. military is moving to the Joint Information Environment (JIE) in part because the current architecture is too complex to be easily defended, Teri Takai, Defense Department chief information officer, said at the April 2 Security Through Innovation Summit, Washington, D.C.

Army Leads the Way in Defense Department Network Modernization

April 2, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

The U.S. Army is modernizing its computer networks to improve interoperability with the other services in today’s joint and coalition warfighting environment. A key part of this effort is collaborating with the Defense Department to help stand up the Joint Information Environment, which will provide commanders with a secure space to collaborate and share classified information, top Army officials said.

Connecting Private Innovation and National Security

March 31, 2014
By Rita Boland

A new effort hopes to improve relationships between nontraditional performers and government agencies.

Cybersecurity Lies Take Longer than Cybersecurity Truth

March 24, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Attacks on a computer’s Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) do not receive a lot of attention, and protecting against them is often not a priority, but they are on the rise, say researchers at The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit research organization funded by the U.S. government. The MITRE team is developing tools to protect against BIOS attacks and is searching for organizations to help evaluate those tools.

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