Air Force Proceeds with Spectrum Warfare Wing
The service’s first pursuit of such a wing is an answer to adversarial threats across the spectrum.
The U.S. Air Force is on track to provisionally stand up its first and only Spectrum Warfare Wing (SWW)— known as the 350th SWW—this spring. The organization will be responsible for electronic warfare and so-called electromagnetic spectrum missionware. The 350th SWW’s role will run the gamut of providing such capabilities along the development, hosting, integration, testing and distribution phases, reported Lt. Gen. Chris Weggeman, USAF, deputy commander, Air Combat Command (ACC).
Gen. Weggeman was a keynote speaker at the AFCEA International Alamo chapter’s annual ACE conference, held November 17-19 virtually due to the pandemic.
The ACC, led by Gen. Mark Kelly, USAF, is adding the 350th SWW to address rising concerns of adversarial pursuit of spectrum warfare. China, in particular, is seeking full-spectrum warfare dominance, including capabilities to create key failures in vital information network nodes.
“The 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing is a system that enables fielded forces to continually contest on-demand attack adversary C4I functional structures controlling their key processes,” Gen. Weggeman explained. “Their mission is to execute the U.S. version of Chinese nodal warfare.”
The new wing also will provide electronic warfare battle management support “via an agile software pipeline to Air Force platforms operating in all domains,” the general added.
Since taking on the service’s cyber mission from the Air Force Space Command about a year and a half ago and merging the service’s integration of cyber, electronic warfare and intelligence responsibilities, the ACC is successfully morphing into the Air Force’s “lead command for cyberspace superiority,” the deputy commander emphasized. Staff at the ACC headquarters continue to work to create the optimal organizational structure and personel posture to effectively support the service’s cyber and information warfare portfolio missions, he shared.
The 16th Air Force, located at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and the service’s newest Numbered Air Force, or NAF, is the result of a merger of the 24th and the 25th Air Forces and the 557th Weather Wing that created a centralized information warfare arm for the service. The ACC, which is responsible for organizing, training and equipping the mission areas under its purview, is finishing its build out of the year-old NAF.
“In terms of 16th Air Force organization, the 6th-16th Air Force operation center is up and running and we have finalized the manpower positions for 16th Air Force to achieve full operational capability (FOC),” Gen. Weggeman noted. “This is a Herculean lift considering we created 16th Air Force in October of 2019, and we will have it organized and manned to FOC levels a mere 13 months later.”
Led by Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, USAF, the 16th Air Force also serves as the U.S. Space Command’s cyber representation, which makes a total of five U.S. combatant commands the NAF has in its “impressive cyber operations portfolio,” which already includes the U.S. European, Strategic, Transportation and Northern Commands, Gen. Weggeman stated.
Additionally, the ACC’s new Information Warfare (IW) Training Facility is maturing. Located in the old mining town of Playas, New Mexico, the tactical training center will be where airmen train and hone their cyber, electronic warfare and electromagnetic spectrum capabilities in a full-scale, live-fly, live-fire environment. ACC leaders are in the process of planning the facility’s inaugural IW Flag event, and are still ironing out the objectives and specific activities for the spring 2021 experiment, the deputy commander said.
“Our efforts will focus on the integration of multifunctional and multidomain IW forces and capabilities to achieve desired IW effects within a real-world tactical scheme of maneuver within the Playas range complex, and to inform the capabilities and capacity needed to effectively observe, monitor, evaluate and debrief what transpires, much like our classic air domain ‘flag’ exercises,” the general told SIGNAL in a follow-up email.
Meanwhile, the ACC’s cloud-enabled zero trust architecture (ZTA) pilot that involves enterprise services is progressing, the deputy commander emphasized. Working with the U.S. Cyber Command and the Defense Department chief information officer, the ACC is pursuing a software-defined perimeter through a software-as-a-service environment. The goal is to demonstrate a zero-trust solution that will work in multicloud, multivendor environments, as well as on-premise and legacy platforms.
“It will leverage a state-of-the-art software-defined perimeter, a cloud native access point and platform one services, and exquisite identity credential and access management capabilities all the way down to bring-your-own device endpoints,” Gen. Weggeman explained. “We just concluded a grueling cyber red team and pen-testing event executed by the cyber warriors within the Department of Operational Test and Evaluation. And we had outstanding results overall, so there is big, big promise here.”
Finally, the command continues to improve and expand training for the service’s mission defense teams, or MDTs, a full force component—with the U.S. Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force Reserve—that helps to cyber guard the service’s major weapon systems. The MDTs work closely with weapons operators and intelligence leaders to form a specialized cybersecurity platform. The ACC provides the MDTs with their trained cyber operators, tools and capabilities and sends the MDTs to squadrons, groups and wings that employ weapon systems.
The ACC is planning for 650 more graduates from its MDT schoolhouses—some led by Reserve units at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and by the Guard in Savannah, Georgia—in fiscal year 2021. “And we have added specialized training focusing on defensive ICS and SCADA [industrial control systems and supervisory control and data acquisition] systems, radio frequency and electromagnetic spectrum capabilities as well as improving critical foundational intelligence support to the Mission Defense Teams, Gen. Weggeman stated.