Special warfare gets a level up

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erin Baxter
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs

After a 1,500-feet leap of faith to the ground, a Tactical Air Control Party Airman is responsible for directing airstrikes at the right time and place. 

The three-day flight event was the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron's mid-year progress check for the unit’s innovations on self-healing mesh networking, long-haul digital communications, and how to tie them both together in a dismounted, tactical fashion.

“We ran through a scenario involving our unit’s tactical footprint and capabilities for an Agile Combat Employment style mission,” said Tech Sgt. Joshua McKeever, a 25th ASOS TACP Airmen.

McKeever explained, first 20 Joint Terminal Attack Controllers set up their long-haul communicators to reach back to higher headquarters. Next, they established a self-healing mesh network for automatic positioning data as well as text metadata between each other and prepared to execute airstrikes. Finally, they worked together to ‘shoot, move, and communicate’ to withdraw from the target area.

The 25th ASOS’s innovations are an approach to bottom-up refinement and represent the end-users from the edge of the battlefield that will be connected to the JADC2 structures of the future – with the leading contender being Advanced Battle Management System.

“While ABMS is defined as the ‘data architecture that will connect all sensors to the right shooters’ there has been quite a lot of attention given to the sensors, and not as much to the shooters,” said Capt. Austin Hairfield, 25th ASOS flight commander. “Our main objective for this line of effort at the 25th ASOS is to ensure the shooters are represented in these discussions, are familiar with the ‘pipelines’ currently being built in cyberspace for how to pull the applicable data from the different domain sensors, and are prepared to be a conduit to feed the machine algorithms at higher command levels while on the battlefield from being a human extension of the mesh network.”

“Digital capabilities such as peer-to-peer mesh networks and communications allow us not only to see a near-real-time bird’s eye view of the battlefield but also allows us to access more domain capabilities to achieve the joint force commander’s intent, including using many non-kinetic effects previously not even imagined at the tactical edge,” added Staff Sgt. Paul Rebultan, 25th ASOS TACP Airman.      

Airmen in TACP are a part of the Air Force’s premier ground force that specializes in air, ground, space and cyber integration in hostile, denied or politically-sensitive environments to achieve all-domain dominance, also known as Air Force Special Warfare.

“Since TACP capabilities are segmented into strike, integration, and command and control, a JADC2 future affects every aspect of our job,” said Hairfield. “EvolutionONE is an example of TACP leading the way within the AFSPECWAR community. The ONE denotes the TACP Weapon System’s deference to the ABMS architecture and how the community is leaning forward and building out these data pathways in conjunction with the Air Force at large-which will be shown at the second ABMS DoD-wide event in early September.”