The U.S. Air Force has completed its largest-ever communications specialty code transformation and one of its largest-ever personnel changes. Tens of thousands of enlisted airmen, as well as thousands of civilians, migrated from traditional communications job codes to new cyber job codes. The change creates the emphasis necessary for success in the cyberspace domain and will affect all Air Force operations.
Creating a culture of collaboration is a top priority for the lead communicator at the Air Combat Command. The objective may appear easy to achieve—simply a matter of issuing an order that everyone use technology to operate as one force—but in reality, several challenges stand in the way. As the ranks of next-generation U.S. airmen grow, the inclination to collaborate is swelling; however, many of the U.S. Air Force’s doctrines and processes are still stuck in the analog age.
The U.S. Air Forces Northern Distributed Mission Operations program hit a new milestone recently, with the successful completion of the first-ever individualized warfighter training event. In the past, the program, which supports homeland defense missions, could only accommodate large-scale team training efforts. With the new training capability, learning opportunities are open to more people, and with the improved infrastructure, daily events are a practical option.
An innovative communication capability born from an urgent operational need is generating a cascading effect on many sectors of the U.S. Air Force. This technology provides beyond-line-of-sight secret Internet protocol router network, text messaging and telephone access eight times faster than the legacy capability it replaces. It is changing the way the service’s 116th Computer Systems Squadron does business—including direct interaction with the aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force literally is restructuring its command and control on the fly to modernize its gear and adapt to new mission sets. This thrust entails replacing heavily used legacy equipment and building a new information architecture to serve the demands of dynamic modern warfare.
Cyberspace is the latest realm that the U.S. Defense Department is seeking to dominate in its efforts to protect national security and to project force. But this goal has not gone unchallenged as hackers from a variety of nations and criminal and terrorist organizations have tried to penetrate government networks to steal information or cause damage.
Protecting space-based assets is now the top priority for the U.S. Air Force Space Command, according to its commander. With the military’s reliance on network centricity well established, communications and situational awareness satellites have increased in significance to military operations—and to potential adversaries seeking to counter Western goals without confronting superior allied forces directly. And, the private sector is equally dependent on the many capabilities inherent in orbital platforms.
The next new aircraft to roll out of the U.S. Air Force hangar may be a powered sensor. Scientists at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, have developed radar arrays that can serve as aircraft skin and as structural components. Their research is opening up entirely new radar capabilities as well as materials advances.
The U.S. Air Force is taking a holistic approach to its information technology upgrades. In addition to networking information, the Air Force is networking its programs to improve interoperability and efficiency.
The U.S. Air Force is claiming the virtual high ground. The service recently stood up a task force to study and define exactly what cyberspace means in relation to military operations. This group, part of an ongoing effort to reap the maximum benefits in force transformation, is developing recommendations that will help reshape doctrine, tactics and mission areas for years to come.