Air Force wants to keep most IT staffs stateside

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va.—The Air Force last week kicked off Expeditionary Force
Experiment ’98 with the unveiling of a $1 million command and control operations
center.


The rear operations support center, run by the Air and Space Command and Control Agency
at Langley, is part of the service’s new distributed C2 concept. Packed with more
than 150 computers and with a staff of 250, the ROSC is the electronic nerve center from
which a joint commander can plan and direct an air campaign.


The Air Force will be able to deploy fewer personnel and resources to support
forward-deployed forces overseas than it has in the past, service officials said. Instead,
the forces will reach back to U.S. command centers such as the ROSC for support,
intelligence and target lists.


“As we become an expeditionary aerospace force, we need a new way to provide
command and control to forward-deployed forces,” said Lt. Gen. Lansford Trapp,
commander of the 12th Air Force and the joint forces air component commander (JFACC) for
EFX ’98. The concept will put fewer personnel and less equipment in harm’s way,
Trapp said.


During Operation Desert Storm, it took 10 to 15 days and enough C2 equipment to fill 25
C-17 air lifters to create a support system for nearly 2,000 people, Trapp said. Using
electronic links to the ROSC, the same operation would take perhaps a day or so for two
C-17 loads to support 125 deployed personnel, he said.


EFX ’98 resembles an experiment more than a military exercise because it focuses
on evaluating new C2 technologies rather than on training Air Force personnel, Lansford
said. The service will evaluate more than 35 new C2 concepts and technologies during the
11-day experiment, which began last week.


“Many of the systems and processes that you see here are actually going to be
fielded,” Trapp said.


The simulated war game for EFX ’98 takes place in the Middle East around 2003.
When enemy forces attack an allied nation in the region, the Air Force deploys an air
expeditionary force. The service will test the systems for connectivity and effectiveness.


The Air Force last month announced plans to create 10 permanent expeditionary forces by
2000—at least two of which will be on call at any time—capable of hitting
targets anywhere on Earth within 24 hours.


The purpose of EFX ’98 is to prove that C2 systems linked to a global network can
move data efficiently enough for one of the new forces to rapidly halt an invading enemy
force. High-bandwidth communications links connected an expeditionary force from Mountain
Home Air Force Base, Idaho, with the ROSC at Langley and a forward air operations center
at Duke Field, Fla.


“We make a pretty big assumption that we’ll have unlimited bandwidth and
perfect connectivity,” Trapp said. “So far, only a day-and-a-half into the
experiment, we’ve been pretty successful in creating a robust network.”


The ROSC is connected to Langley Air Force Base’s fiber-optic, asynchronous
transfer mode LAN with data throughput rates ranging from OC-3 to OC-12. Most of the
center’s systems are 167-MHz Sun Microsystems Sparcstation 20s and Ultra systems with
256M of RAM and 4G hard drives. About 30 PCs run Microsoft Windows NT 4.0.


EFX ’98, which began Sept. 14 and runs through Sept. 26, is the first in a series
of annual experiments to evaluate new operational concepts and technologies designed to
improve the service’s C2 capabilities. The experiment combines actual aircraft with
computer-generated modeling and simulation.


As part of the live-fly portion of EFX ’98, B-1 bombers from the 366th Composite
Wing dropped bombs on targets at test ranges near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The 82nd
Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., dropped 1,400 paratroopers on Duke Field. On
Sept. 16, Trapp flew from the center at Langley aboard the Speckled Trout, a modified
C-135 aircraft, to assume his duties as JFACC in the forward-deployed air operations
center at Duke Field.


The primary function of the ROSC during a contingency or battle is to produce air
tasking orders, electronic documents that detail every aircraft sortie and its targets in
a 24-hour period. The service transmits ATOs electronically via satellite communications
links from the ROSC to the forward air operations center.


The Theater Battle Management Core System is serving as the backbone C2 system for EFX
’98.    

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