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Multi-domain command and control is coming

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AFNS) -- In his remarks during this year’s Air Force Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber Conference in National Harber, Maryland, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein explained the importance of Multi-Domain Command and Control in executing the nation’s next fight.

In this fight, Goldfein said, the Air Force must master MDC2 to empower commanders to dominate the air, space, and cyber domains.

Leading the MDC2 effort is Air Force Brig. Gen. Chance Saltzman, director of operations, Headquarters Air Force. Saltzman oversaw the MDC2 Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team, which includes a cross-section of command and control space, cyber and air operator experts.

“As we quickly learned, multi-domain command and control got very complicated, very fast,” Saltzman said. “But, at its core, we determined that commanders must employ the right operational concepts for multi-domain operations. They must leverage advanced technologies to increase their lethality, accuracy, and decision speed, and their units must be manned with properly trained experts in multi-domain command and control.”

Three lines of effort make up the framework for MDC2: operational concepts, advanced technologies, and training and education.

Command and Control Operational Concepts

Operational concepts inform the way the Air Force fights, and they include everything from tactics, techniques and procedures, to command relationships, authorities and doctrine.

A team from the Air Education and Training Command is leading the effort to refine and update current operational concepts while also exploring new concepts for multi-domain operations. To help inform their efforts, a sequence of MDC2 table-top assessments, coined The Doolittle Series, is scheduled to take place in the coming months.

“These wargames will help us to identify the right C2 structures that will allow us to effectively prosecute multi-domain operations,” Saltzman said.

MDC2 objectives will also be folded into current exercises, wargames and training events with the intent to improve commanders’ abilities to effectively use their resources in all domains.

Advanced Technologies

“Does it connect? Can it share?” When describing his guide, Goldfein asks these questions when describing his guidelines for how the Air Force should adapt new technology. The CSAF’s vision acknowledges that success will require great improvements in the current network and data architecture. Aircraft, spacecraft and cyber nodes must all be able to seamlessly share and connect data in a way that increases a commander’s ability to command and control the fight while complicating an enemy’s ability to defend himself. Teams at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, are working to make this level of interconnectivity a reality.

Successful efforts at Hanscom, Nellis and other locations will be adopted and integrated into Air Force operations.

“This is going to be an ongoing process where we continue to learn, and the goal is that we’re able to learn as fast as possible,” Saltzman said.

MDC2 Training and Education

A key finding of the MDC2 ECCT was the institutional knowledge required to effectively operate MDC2 often has a short lifespan. Exposure to C2 often comes randomly to Airmen’s careers through deployments or other temporary assignments. The result, the team found, was that C2 was often played as a “pick-up game” where Airmen gather C2 skills and then return to their primary career fields.

“As it is now, we’re very platform-specific,” the director said. “I was a space operator; I was trained to operate satellites for 12-to-15 years of my career. Same with flyers – you have to have that tactical depth of knowledge in our weapon systems so we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy training our operators to do that.”

To address this, the Air Force will incorporate multi-domain operations into its military education and training courses. It will also create a new operational level command and control career field. AETC is leading the charge on this effort, which will take officers at their eight-to-12 year point and train them for the new MDC2 expert career field – operational warfare specialists.

“Building our capability for multi-domain operations, whether you’re talking training and education, adapting advanced technologies, or creating new operational concepts, it’s a big animal, but we intend to eat it one bite at a time,” Saltzman said.