505th CCW hosts multi-domain C2 joint exercise

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

The 505th Command and Control Wing hosted subject matter experts from around the world during a ground-breaking exercise here July 17 - 21, focused on developing the concept of multi-domain command and control.

Field grade officers from a variety of career fields, including a number of officers from partner nations, pooled their years of specialized experience together, destroying poorly developed concepts while solidifying the foundation of ideas that worked well throughout the duration of the exercise.

Multi-domain C2 is one of Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein’s top three priorities, along with revitalizing squadrons and strengthening joint leaders and teams. While this exercise was not the first-ever multi-domain C2 exercise, it was the first of its size and importance, with the results being reported directly back to the appointed officials leading the effort.

“Multi-domain C2 is a fairly complex undertaking,” said Brig. Gen. Chance Saltzman, chief of current operations for Headquarters Air Force. “There are so many nuances with it, so many avenues you can take and concepts that can be developed, so we built a framework [in this exercise] that allows for the right kind of discussions to take place.”

These conversations allowed the hand-picked group of subject matter experts to take the concept and apply reality to it, bringing up issues and enhancements that will ultimately lead to a better concept for how to progress multi-domain C2, he said.

Multi-domain command and control

The Air Force has dominated the air domain for decades, and the current grip it has on the space and cyberspace domains is nearly unparalleled, but America’s adversaries have been investing heavily into countering the inherent advantages this dominance grants.

“They’re expanding all of their capabilities to deny us those strategic advantages we’ve enjoyed in the past,” said Saltzman. “We can’t just sit back and let them do that; we have to counter that punch. [Gen. Goldfein] believes that using a multi-domain approach, and the ability to command and control it at a high ops-tempo so that the enemy can’t respond, is the way we will continue to maintain those strategic advantages.”

Future warfare requires the ability to do several complex tasks very quickly: taking in massive amounts of data, processing it into usable information for warfighting forces, and then using the resulting information. This ultimately delivers an overwhelming force onto the battlefield through any means necessary - air, space or cyberspace - guaranteeing the success of American military forces.

Honing the edge

The Air Force needs to meet a certain standard as a part of the federal government, making sure taxpayer money isn’t wasted. The continual change and development of the modern world requires an ever-increasing level of interoperability among Air Force components, branches of the military, and even international forces.

“One of the lessons learned [from this exercise] was that multi-domain war-gaming requires a very broad range of expertise from all across Air Force, joint and coalition skill sets,” said Col. Jeffrey Burdett, commander of the 505th Training Group. “Generally, those with the requisite experience in C2 are very busy conducting current operations around the globe, [and] the Air Force needs a mechanism for tracking operational-level C2 experience.”

The actions executed during the exercise validated several key attributes of operational-level C2 for future operations, helping shape how future multi-domain war games will play out, and developing new sets of boundaries for MDC2 for the near future, said Burdett.

The concentrated gathering of veteran C2 Airmen reinforced one of the Air Force’s leading advantages: its complete stranglehold of command and control in war zones over the last several decades.

“[We] are currently very good at command and control, and there's no doubt in my mind we will get even better,” said Burdett. “Innovative Airmen, open architecture systems, new models for rapid development and fielding of IT systems, and focused leadership support to all these activities leads me to believe we'll give the chief of staff the options he's looking for.”

Allied control

An integral aspect of successful multi-domain C2 is the cooperation with and implementation of updated procedures and policies alongside allied nations, keeping the coalition fight up to date with the most advanced enemies.

“We have been committed from day one … to producing a flight plan that enables us to work with our partner nations around the world,” said Burdett. “In the same way the Air Force’s mission sets have become more interdependent, we are also dependent on the capabilities of our allies around the world.”

Living proof of this interdependence were the multitude of international members who participated in the exercise with their American counterparts, along with the British Royal Air Force officers who are embedded full-time into the command structure of the 505th TRG.

For further reading into the topic of multi-domain C2, please visit www.af.mil, or read the chief of staff’s paper on the topic here