NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) —
The 805th Combat Training Squadron Shadow Operations Center – Nellis is the Air Force’s premier combat laboratory that supports the development, advancement, and maturation of key technologies and capabilities designed to compress the chain of destruction for joint and coalition combatants.
The ShOC-N accomplishes this mission using multi-domain, all-domain and cross-domain solutions covering all classification levels, working closely with key defence, industry and sister services such as the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Advanced Defense Research Projects Agency, Missile Defense Agency, and Defense Industrial Base.
In addition to welcoming government sponsors and industry partners on a daily basis, the ShOC-N helps guide and evolve Joint Staff doctrine and guidance for solutions and capabilities in all domains and cross-domains focusing on the definition and development of instruments for data, networks, software and command, control, communications, computers and intelligence specific to air components, or C4I, combat processes.
Working closely with its wide array of mission partners, the ShOC-N is a forward-thinking unit at the forefront of next-generation technologies for the USAF and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. With key placement and access to Nellis AFB’s unique mission, ShOC-N provides an essential venue to advance and refine key technologies and present them to US and coalition leaders in a tactically and operationally relevant setting – for see the technology operating in a combat environment with real-world operators at the helm instead of a clean lab with only scientists.
Normally, the ShOC-N leverages existing exercises to meet mission requirements. But sometimes, when no other suitable venue exists, the ShOC-N team organizes its own organic event to advance and refine technologies. A recent example occurred at the end of April. The ShOC-N hosted an organic distributed command and control event simulating Agile combat employment using the new technologies available at ShOC-N. The ShOC-N set up an austere location simulating an adverse threat environment for new technologies and their ability to function in a degraded environment.
“ShOC-N’s ability to operate in the shadows of theaters of operations or large-scale exercises allows us to experiment in the most realistic and operationally relevant way. Everything we do is embedded in the USAF War CenterBoosting Challenge Campaign Plan. All new technologies are checked against our ability to compete with China,” said Col Frederick Coleman, 505th Command and Control Wing commander at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
The air combat command C2 Futures Branch C2 Tactical Weapons Systems Division enjoyed the event to shape the requirements of battle management command and control functions, visualizing multiple mobile and rapidly deployable tactical air component C2 systems at work in an ACE environment.
“Major General (Mark) Slocum, ACC/A3 (Director of Operations), challenged the staff to quickly prototype and deploy a lightweight Tactical Operations Center, or TOC-L, capability,” said Major Carl Rossini, Chief of the C2 Futures branch. “(The) ShOC-N allowed us to meet this challenge by quickly bringing together the event, data, fighters, test organizations and acquisitions.”
Not only did this event take advantage of the unique capabilities of ShOC-N, but it also served as a risk reduction event for the Pacific Air Forces‘ Exercise Valiant Shield 2022, as well as ACC’s participation in the US Army Futures Command’s Project Convergence 2022 exercise.
Organizations that partnered with ShOC-N for TOC-L experimentation included the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense Research and Engineering’s 5G Support Team, the Missile Defense Agency, ACC personnel representatives, Air Force Joint Test Program Office, 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron, 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Solypsis , Global C2 Integration Technologies, Lower Echelon Analytics Platform – Tactical and Novetta Systems.
In addition to the involvement and success of external mission partners, ShOC-N employed its team of organic data scientists to develop methodologies to measure data latency from various systems, data files and logs. . Their analysis proved fruitful and demonstrated the current and future usefulness of data scientists, as well as the need to advance and automate instrumentation.
“Collecting and storing massive amounts of data without a plan is worthless. Turning volumes of data into actionable quality information is where we show value, and I’m proud of our data science team,” said Lt. Col. David Spitler, 805th CTS/ShOC-N Commander.
Instrumentation is a core attribute of the Combat Lab still under development.
“The analyzes presented by our data science team and the cyber LTAC team sparked the imagination of what is possible. However, it also showed how much more investment is needed to truly instrument the combat lab,” said Col. Aaron Gibney, commander of the 505th Combat Training Group at Nellis AFB, “We need to be able to define what we’re measuring and then measure it in an automated, objective, and quantitative way.”
When data is collected, classified, labeled, properly tagged, and stored with ontologies, instrumented data provides the basis for objective evaluation of technical performance in the experimental laboratory environment. The instrumentation is intended to enable objective methods for A|B comparisons, measuring combat process compression, data latencies, and prototype efficiency against currently fielded hardware and software. Along with instrumentation, the ShOC-N will provide objective reviews to inform senior leadership decisions for further prototyping and/or transitioning to testing to rapidly deliver capabilities to the warfighter.
The Distributed Command and Control event demonstrated how essential the ShOC-N is as the USAF develops and matures advanced technologies to compress the kill chain and streamline the decision-making process for warfighters. The ShOC-N was able to showcase key technologies in an ACE environment and will continue to advance its warfighter support mission.
“The fighter ethos is alive and strong in the ShOC-N,” Coleman said.