Air Force, Deputy
Chief of Staff for Warfighting Integration
From his base at U.S. Air Force Headquarters in Washington Lt. Gen. Tom Hobbins, Air Force deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration, is charged with formulating and executing policy and strategy that will move the Air Force toward a seamless integration of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities that will ensure not only air and space but also information dominance of any battlespace on Earth. In his post, Hobbins reports to the Secretary of the Air Force and the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff for four field operating agencies: the Air Force C2ISR Center in Langley, Va., the Air Force Communications Agency in Scott Air Force Base, Ill., the Air Force Frequency Management Agency (FMA) in Washington and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation (AMS) in Orlando, Fla.
Q. What does warfighting integration mean from an Air Force standpoint?
A. We’re all about closing the seams that exist in the C4ISR community.
The C2ISR Center is responsible primarily for air and space operations center development. A lot of their innovation is directed at ensuring we can communicate faster and better.
The Modeling and Simulation Center is primarily responsible for the policy and development of modeling and simulation and how it is used in the future. We used that center to develop distributed missions ops, where we have several hundred people in different cockpits around the U.S. plugged into a central virtual hub, where they can train virtually using simulation. FMA is responsible for the full spectrum use we make of our communications environment - frequency control, spectrum, etc.
AFCS, the old Air Force Communications Command, is my standardization and evaluation for fielding communications and information equipment, such as CITS (combat information transport system). For example, how we can lay fiber and bandwidth around all our bases, then use the future Global Information Grid (GIG) to transfer information at up to 10 gigabytes per second (GB/s) around the world? That’s very important to the overall construct of the C2 constellation and its air/space/terrestrial components.
One of the things we are especially proud of is, for the first time, we have a C4ISR Flight Plan, which is our ability to demonstrate, from an operational and systems view, how we will plug systems together to become a self-forming, self-healing GIG.
Q. What enabling technologies are playing the most significant roles in achieving Joint Vision 2020?
A. GIG and the connection of fiber to not only U.S. bases but also to overseas bases. You will see machinery - an architecture - come along that will protect our networks by detecting faults. For example, if Pacific Command detected a fault at a base in Masala, that machine would isolate the fault, identify the problem and fix it before there was any human involvement. That’s where we’re going; we’re not there yet.
In the airborne network, JTRS (joint tactical radio system) is the transformation technology we are dealing with - a software-compliant radio system with 31 waveforms rather than just one and a wideband network waveform.
In space, the transformation technology is the AEHF/EHF satellites being launched in a series between 2007-09 to improve our MILSTAR capabilities from small megabit rates to 400 times (what we now have) and the Transformational Satellite that will use lasercom to move information at a speed of about 6 gigabytes per second between satellites.
Q. Has there been an acceleration or spiraling out of these critical technologies in the wake of 9/11 and lessons learned from OEF/OIF?
A. Some of those lessons learned revolve around issues such as fratricide, which has always been a part of war, due to such contributing factors as loss of situational awareness and insufficient communication in our datalinks. We’re taking steps to reduce those occurrences. Our C4ISR Flight Plan groups critical enablers to network centric warfare into four categories:
• Global net connectivity
• Network-enabled platforms and weapons
• Fused intelligence
• Real-time C2/situational awareness
These entail such advances as combat ID, Mode 5 IFF (identification friend or foe), noncooperative target recognition, Blue Force tracking (a datalink and family of interoperable pictures), joint Blue Force situational awareness initiatives all will help us prevent those problems. With the deployment of Link 16 across the fleet of weapons systems, we will have many more weapons systems using a machine-to-machine interface, a datalink, that will help us prevent errors, improve combat ID and improve situational awareness, as well as improve communications.
We are looking at equipment that will allow a ground tactical air control party to see exactly what the aircraft crews are seeing. So instead of having long talk-ons to what the target looks like, you can share an actual video image with a laptop computer on the ground. That helps us get away from collateral damage, identify blue forces, know where the brigade and below battle command elements are, distribute joint tactical information and so on.
Q. Are those being accelerated to the field as they evolve in a spiral development effort?
A. Absolutely. Our Chief of Staff has given us the funding to put these new developments into the field. For instance, we have bought and fielded the ability to communicate beyond-line-of-sight from Saudi Arabia to an aircraft-carried pod over the middle of Afghanistan, going through a satellite.
We used our C4ISR flight plan to advocate where we needed to spend money and where the critical enablers are. Global network connectivity, network-enabled platforms and weapons, fused intelligence, real-time C2, and situational awareness all are grouped with critical enablers.
Another critical enabler is to get the air/space operations centers, which are coalition and joint, right from the start, fielded with the right capabilities. We try to field and vet all C4ISR enhancements through the Transformation Center at Langley, making sure it is stable before we field it, then take it to the warrior to use.
This is a growing field and we hope, by September 2005, to field five “Falconers” - full-up air/space operations centers with a field-training unit and a help desk.