Lockheed Martin plans to conduct its fourth multi-domain command and control experiment at its Center for Innovation in Suffolk, Va., shown here, in August. Lockheed Martin photo.
Lockheed Martin has set up a small air operations center at its Center for Innovation in Suffolk, Va., where the company is running multi-domain command and control experiments in partnership with the US Air Force and joint partners, company officials told Air Force Magazine at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium last week.
The first experiment was conducted in late 2016 and was followed by two more experiments last year, all of which were primarily focused on combat plans, the section of the combined air operations center that builds air tasking orders. The fourth experiment, which is slated to take place in August, will move beyond the planning process into combat operations, or the execution of the ATO.
Bryan Gates, Lockheed’s multi-domain command and control business development lead, said the fourth experiment looks to break air, space, and cyber planners out of their traditional stovepipes and have them work together “to see if we can decrease the time it takes to formulate a plan and then execute a plan.”
USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has designated multi-domain command and control, or MDC2, one of his top three focus areas, tapping Brig. Gen. Chance Saltzman to lead the initiative in 2016. Saltzman
organized an enterprise capability collaboration team, which spent most of last year studying how to best fuse all the information coming into the service to better enable leaders to make decisions quicker before opponents get an opportunity to react.
Saltzman briefed Goldfein late last year on the team’s findings, which focused on three main lines of effort: improved training, enabling technology, and force presentation.
Bryan Gates, Lockheed Martin's multi-domain command and control business development lead, works with a participant during a recent experiment.
Lockheed Martin photo.
The Lockheed experiment is not part of Saltzman’s effort, though the company has provided input to his team, said Scott Grunwald, head of battle management command and control strategy and business development with Lockheed’s Skunk Works. The company is not under contract for these experiments and is funding them itself, but officials say they heard Goldfein’s message loud and clear—multi-domain command and control will be key to any future battles.
“We have to do this. The United States’ adversaries are getting faster than we are currently getting,” said Grunwald, who added, “It’s all going to come down to open mission architecture and machine learning, machine interfaces.” If you allow the machines to quickly calculate different courses of action, the commander can then decide how to proceed and how much risk he or she is willing to assume.
“That’s where we want to be, as opposed to taking hours and hours and hours, for lack of a better term, fat fingering in information into the computer,” said Grunwald.
Lockheed’s AOC is built on an open mission architecture with plug and play technology designed to help planners formulate a plan and then quickly adjust when the environment changes.
Gates said Lockheed is using ATO management systems, which will replace the theater battle management control system, a cyberattack network simulator, and another program that’s currently in use at the National Space Defense Center. It’s also working with the Air Force Research Laboratory, which plans to introduce new cyber technology into the fourth experiment.
“They [AFRL] are helping us get after the cyber problem,” said Gates. “They are very interested in what we’re doing because it gives them an opportunity to test out things they’ve developed,” though he said he couldn’t elaborate on what the technology actually does.
Previous exercises typically have included blue and white cells, each with about 20 players, and an ISR cell with about 10 players, said Gates. In addition to employees from across all of Lockheed’s divisions, members of USAF’s 505th Command and Control Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla.; Air Combat Command; the 624th Operations Center; and the National Space Defense Center have participated. The Navy’s Fleet Forces Command and the US Army Training and Doctrine Command previously observed.
Gates said the company plans to bring in additional joint and coalition partners for future exercises.
The Air Force previously announced it is building a shadow operations center that will focus on rapidly building, prototyping, testing, and fielding software capability. That center is still in the design phase, with plans to begin conducting experiments “late next summer,” Saltzman said in November 2017.
Gates said he believes what Lockheed does will “inform” the Air Force’s shadow ops center, noting USAF is watching what the company is doing and asking plenty of questions.
“As we do the concept development pieces, we feed the information to the Air Force, the Navy, and the Army. It helps them figure out how they are going to do their force presentation and allows us to work on different tool sets and integrate different tool sets that our customers are using now and things we’re working to deliver to the customer in the near term,” said Gates.
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