|“The value of developing capabilities in a battle laboratory is immeasurable. ShOC-N is future-focused but maintains a connection to the warfighter to ensure they are experimenting and incubating useful capabilities at the speed of relevance.” Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, Gen. David Allvin August 28th, 2021, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada|
Every US Air Force fighter platform goes to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada to get the latest software, tactics, and air warfare training before it is deployed to the Combatant Commands around the world. At any given time Nellis Air Force Base represents the 4th largest Air Force in the world in terms of quantity of fighters and support aircraft on the flight line. Joining the US Air Force are the Air Forces of our allies and partners with a wide variety of fighter platforms. Bi-annual certification “top gun” exercises with pilots from across the Air Force take place here. In these exercises, known as RED FLAG, participants engage in Blue versus Red exercises with the red team operating and executing Chinese and Russian air tactics and the Blue team executing U.S. and allied responses. Nellis is the home to the F-22s, F-35s, F-16s, and F-15s that make up the majority of U.S. fighter platforms. The Shadow Operations Center-Nellis (ShOC-N) leverages each of the air platforms in air warfare exercises while also conducting a continual development of command &control procedures. These exercises take place in the air, space, and cyber domains, and often incorporate new tactics, software, and technology. For example, the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) is an evolving conceptual system, elements of which are present in the ShOC-N. Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), another evolving C2 concept, is executed through capabilities available in the ShOC. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) personnel working in the ShOC-N work to integrate various air-to-air sensors into MDA’s C2, C2BMC (Command, Control, Battle, Management, and Communications).
The importance of having a state-of-the-art command and control (C2) center cannot be overlooked when discussing comprehensive missile defense. A C2 center is the central hub for all tactical, operational, and strategic information sharing required for senior commanders to make decisions. Missile defense systems deployed across all the services include a great number of sensors, radars, satellites, and launchers. Having a command-and-control center that can ingest data from these various assets and generate thorough situational awareness and tactical understanding is key to the successful execution of air and missile defense both forward deployed and for homeland defense. Successful C2 centers include the Joint Air Defense Center (JADOC) in our Nation’s Capital which defends the airspace surrounding Washington D.C. Integrating data and information from ground and air-based defense systems and radars have helped keep the DC airspace safe from hostile aerial and cruise missile threats over the past two decades. MDA’s Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) system integrates Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) components worldwide to track any ballistic missile during any stage of flight and is capable of displaying information from various ground, space, and sea-based radars, and subsequently calculate projected impact times of ballistic missile threats.
Operated by the Air Force 805th Combat Training Squadron, ShOC-N is the primary resource for C2 experimentation and innovation. These experiments are used to help produce the next generation C2 system capable of incorporating any asset and be accessible by any warfighter from any military Service across any of the 5 domains (Air, Space, Cyber, Land, and Maritime). Two successful experiments have already been conducted using ShOC, with one experiment producing significant gains in connecting nodes from different Services stationed across the country to display the same common operating picture by tapping into ShOC-N. This is winning C2. As the United States seeks to build better C2 systems for future missile defense systems and architectures such as those currently in discussion for the defense of Guam, there are proven structures that can be leveraged and tested alongside new systems using facilities such as ShOC-N. With near-peer adversaries forcing the United States to rethink how future engagements will be fought in a joint, all domain conflict, the time for developing advanced, collaborative, and sophisticated C2 systems is now. C2 systems such as the ShOC-N which ingest real-time data from any asset accessible to the warfighter will put the United States in an unmatched position and make sure the U.S. warfighter consistently has the upper hand in decision making.