WASHINGTON — The warren of networks, logistics and shared information American and allied forces rely on as they funnel resources into Ukraine to help the country beat back a Russian invasion is providing valuable insights for one of the U.S. Air Force’s most pressing modernization efforts.
Demand for connectivity in a dense, bustling European theater and the solutions applied day to day are feeding into the development of the service’s Advanced Battle Management System and will “continue the momentum forward,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Chad Raduege, chief information officer at European Command, said during a June 15 C4ISRNET webcast.
“I think what we’re seeing as we go through this Ukrainian crisis, and we see all the coordination that is required, we are realizing there are some advanced capabilities that are allowing us to see and have more visibility and better connectivity with our allies and partners,” said Raduege, who also serves as EUCOM’s command, control, communications, computers and cyber director.
The Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS, is the Air Force’s latest push to create a next-generation command and control system. It is also the service’s contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, the Department of Defense’s vision for seamless and lightning-quick communication regardless of domain or national affiliation.
ABMS, much like JADC2, has a ways to go in terms of maturation. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in 2021 expressed skepticism about the project and called for a tighter focus; he has since described its buildout as an imperative.
Lawmakers in fiscal year 2022 proposed spending $269 million directly on ABMS, some $65 million more than the Air Force initially sought. The boost, military officials said at the time, suggests growing support for the effort.
Raduege on Wednesday said more-clearly defined goals would be helpful to the development of JADC2 in the near term, but might be ineffective or counterproductive in the long-term.
“Once we get one connection that happens, once we get a fusion from one platform, there will be this growing, insatiable appetite to have more and more connectivity and more and more sensors. I don’t know that actually getting to an end point is really feasible,” he said. “JADC2 is more nebulous. It will be evolving for the rest of my career and the rest of all our careers as we continue to want more and more.”
Key to the realization of JADC2 is the creation and upkeep of a modern mission-partner environment, in which data from an array of militaries can be accessed and acted upon, according to a Pentagon strategy published in March.
Juggling an increasing number of information sources and rapidly making sense of it all can be difficult, Raduege said, but the crisis in Ukraine provides critical, real-world feedback. In shuttling weapons and humanitarian aid into Eastern Europe, the U.S. is working intimately with international forces it would likely fight alongside on a future battlefield.
“If I were to summarize a lesson learned, it would be we can’t have enough coalition connectivity fast enough,” he said. “And so we are working rapidly to enable. Sometimes that’s simple interoperability and ones and zeros. That’s the easy part.”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.