Maturing Information Warfare
Evolving from the global terror mission, amid operations in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, the U.S. Air Force and its 16th Air Force are working to mature the state of the service’s information warfare.
The 4-year-old Numbered Air Force (NAF) is now standing up a new organization, the Information Warfare Operations Center (IWOC), to support the better synchronizing of cyber, information, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare effects and support, reports Maj. Gen. Thomas Hensley, deputy commander, 16th Air Force.
“We are trying to develop a repeatable, sustainable process, where we can support our air components with information warfare,” Gen. Hensley said, speaking November 15 at the AFCEA Alamo Chapter’s annual ACE conference in San Antonio.
The IWOC will operate and defend the Air Force Information Network (AFIN) and command and control (C2) forces, and provide global force situational awareness. The center will also provide mature operational-level C2 and provide coordination for information warfare effects as well as outcomes.
Part of that synchronization and operationalization of IW is ‘what did we do?’ What were the operations, activities and investments that we executed? What was the intended target? Did we achieve the effects that we're looking for, and what were the lessons learned? And then you take those lessons learned and look for the things, operations, activities or investments that we want to do on a global scale.
The center is looking to synchronize with the air components and wings, offer global perspectives and generate insights for those warfighters.
“[It is about] how we synchronize and operationalize information warfare to support those air components with their planning,” Gen. Hensley stated. “How do we generate insights and help them come up with outcomes so that they can engage their respective combatant commands within their different theaters. We want to be able to synchronize and operationalize the IW with all of the air components, and it's going to be focused on China, China, China.”
In short, the ‘products’ that the IWOC intends to deliver are insights and outcomes. The IWOC will perform or coordinate the processes of sense, analyze, synchronize and operationalize for information warfare, on a daily basis for access and opportunity, on a weekly basis for global situational awareness and long-term to inform, the deputy commander said.
“Part of that synchronization and operationalization of IW is ‘what did we do,’” the general explained. “What were the operations, activities and investments that we executed? What was the intended target? Did we achieve the effects that we're looking for, and what were the lessons learned? And then you take those lessons learned and look for the things, operations, activities or investments that we want to do on a global scale. What are the target audiences? What are the effects that we want to achieve? And how do we want to achieve those with kinetic, non-kinetic, information gains, all synchronized together.”
The IWOC’s goal is to first “crawl” by December, in a first effort with Pacific Air Forces and Chinese activities in the U.S. Northern Command and Southern Command area of responsibility. “By late summer, early fall, we definitely want to be running,” Gen. Hensley said.
From industry, the 16th Air Force is looking for unique assessment capabilities for the IWOC’s efforts.
“There’s a bunch of publicly available information, commercially available information and open-source intelligence and how do we scrape, pull and aggregate all of the relevant information that we're looking for the actions that we did and the reactions of the adversaries, and the counter actions that may or may not occur,” he noted. “And then how do we synthesize that with the classified information that we have all the way up to very exquisite intelligence at the G7 Level? How do we pull all that together so that we can say we were effective or we weren’t effective.”
Such a possible tool or software capability would help the IWOC determine levels of effectiveness and understand future needs. “That is one of the areas where we are looking for assistance,” Gen. Hensley explained. “And then not just with assessing, but taking those lessons learned and applying it to future operations, activities and investments.”
Maturing information warfare on the operational level is necessary for the near-peer fight and will help the Air Force move from the conventional thinking that it is only a service that conducts physical attacks, such as bombing, from airborne assets against kinetic targets, with weapon systems in times of war.
“In the things that we are doing in the information domain, it is non-kinetic effects, against cognitive targets, and not just in conflict but also in competition….and are we organizationally prepared, do we have the processes, do we have the key abilities if we had to go to war with China. Time is of the essence."
U.S. foreign disclosure officers are amongst the hardest working folks helping to turn data and information into intel that can get to our Allie’s and partners, says Ret. Maj. Gen. Daniel Simpson, former deputy A2/6 @usairforce #AlamoACE2023 @AlamoAFCEA @AFCEA pic.twitter.com/ysFPkucwWX— Kimberly Underwood (@Kunderwood_SGNL) November 15, 2023