Air Force Outlines Wish List for European ABMS Demo

The Air Force’s next massive force networking demonstration will focus on protecting troops in Europe from incoming missiles and other airborne threats, the service said in a recent notice.

The fourth Advanced Battle Management System exercise, slated for February 2021, will pull data from next-generation sensors into a common operating picture to detect and track surface-to-air threats against U.S. European Command forces, as well as fending off enemy cruise missiles, USAF said Nov. 10. Under the “agile combat employment” strategy, military participants will also practice deploying away from brick-and-mortar bases and setting up a makeshift camp where they can reconstitute forces and launch attacks.

Airmen will prove whether they can connect to “EdgeONE” cloud storage from their computers from places without the networks available at a formal base.

The EUCOM exercise follows three others held in the past year that tried new ways to connect joint forces in the U.S. and the Pacific. ABMS is the Air Force’s multibillion-dollar piece of a broader push to open new lines of communication between the armed forces and share data between their combat assets. When mature, the Pentagon hopes joint all-domain command and control will help troops act faster and more effectively.

Demonstration No. 4 will particularly test three sets of technologies, the Air Force said.

  • The service wants to use commercial high-frequency communications terminals that can send data across narrow bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to ground control sites or aircraft. 
  • The service is looking for “dynamic targeting through software, artificial intelligence, and machine-to-machine interfaces” to address targets faster using a larger range of combat options.
  • The Air Force seeks kinetic solutions like ammunition and non-kinetic effects like lasers to protect bases from small drone attacks. Unmanned aircraft threats have plagued U.S. troops in the Middle East for years, and the military is beginning to discuss fending them off in Europe as well.

The service is already exploring these concepts through other efforts, but is using ABMS to expand its industrial base. The project of nearly 100 companies includes a mix of startups and other non-traditional defense contractors and major defense corporations to try to foster innovation and drive down costs.

Breaking Defense previously reported the demonstration will also try to connect F-35 Joint Strike Fighters owned by foreign countries into the American battle network, and to break down the classification hurdles that stymie closer collaboration between the U.S. and its allies.