354th AEW, 644th CBCS secure C2 capabilities at Iwakuni

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Zade Vadnais
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

At home station, secure, reliable communication capabilities provide leaders an accurate understanding of any given situation and enable them to make well-informed decisions. But what happens when the decisions need to be made in the field?

Thousands of miles from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, the 354th Air Expeditionary Wing teamed up with the 644th Combat Communications Squadron to provide secure communication as well as command and control capabilities during an agile combat employment training event at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, earlier this month.

“The Flexible Communication Package we brought is designed to provide all the communications and C2 support you would expect at home station to an AEW in an austere environment,” said Capt. James Ferguson, 644th CBCS special missions flight commander currently embedded with the 354th AEW. “FCPs are designed to provide Secure and Nonclassified Internet Protocol Router Network support for anywhere from 200 to 3,000 users, but there are options for expansion if necessary.”

The FCP is also able to support the F-35A’s Autonomous Logistics Information System, which traditionally relies upon base infrastructure to securely transmit relevant operations, maintenance and technical data to decision makers. By connecting ALIS to the FCP via a Lightning Modular Extendable Rigid Wall Shelter during ACE operations, the system can be stood up at a hub location and used to push and pull data from spoke sites and its central data center, regardless of the hub location’s austerity.

“That’s our job,” said Ferguson of the 644th CBCS. “To go out the door and set up comms in austere locations. A traditional Communications Squadron, or ‘tactical comm’ doesn’t really have the resources or experience necessary to do that because they’re supporting a base full-time, but rather than call us up, commanders are now wanting to take their organic capabilities through their organic tactical comm and be able to blow out and fight tonight.”

To this end, Ferguson said the 644th CBCS has acted as a “big brother” to the 354th AEW’s tactical comm during this training event by passing on tactics, techniques and procedures and sharing equipment with them in order to make them more effective during ACE operations. Although his team has a wealth of ACE experience to share, he was quick to point out the relationship is symbiotic.

“Little brother can help out big brother too,” he said with a smile.

Having already mastered command and control of the air, the U.S. Air Force is advancing its operations across the cyber and space domains. Dynamic command and control, such as the capabilities provided by the 644th CBCS, allows decision makers to outpace adversaries by leveraging real-time information about threats, force status and the security environment.

“The goal is to get to a point where tactical comm can provide a lot of the same support the CBCS can,” explained 2nd Lt. J Bujarski, 354th AEW officer in charge of radio frequency transmissions. “Particularly we want to see just how much we can get through the Comm Flyaway Kit, which is essentially a much smaller version of the FCP that typically supports about eight users. We’re getting more invested in new capabilities like EdgeConnect, a force multiplier that takes multiple forms of communication and bundles it all together to improve our CFK almost to the point of what the 644th CBCS is able to provide. Better communication systems lead to more informed decision-making.”

Decision superiority in 21st century warfare is all about speed - moving data from machine to machine; agility - adapting in a rapidly changing environment; and resilience - the ability to withstand a complex attack. Air Battle Management Systems such as the CFP, the CFK and EdgeConnect create decision superiority by delivering relevant information capabilities to warfighters and operators at all echelons, regardless of location.