Coming Together in the Combat Cloud

Information fusion and dissemination is critical to effective combat operations, but it’s still a challenge to ensure the other services and international partners also are working together in this realm, said participants of the combat cloud panel at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., last week. When Air Combat Command boss Gen. Michael Hostage flew his first fighter sortie, it was in a Block 5 F-16. His last was in a Block 3.1 F-22. The ability of an F-22 to fuse information in ways fourth generation aircraft can’t do is a huge capability for the Raptor fleet, and it will be for the F-35 fleet as well. The defining challenge for the combat air forces in years to come will be finding ways to share the information gathered on those platforms with fourth generation aircraft and other assets, he noted. That will require a great deal of integration and collaboration, said Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle, who is slated to take over ACC from Hostage in two months. For “cloud” C2 to work effectively, it must be integrated with high-end allies like Japan or Australia, Carlisle noted, but also other services. The Navy has done good work with its Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air concept, and USAF has been innovative with data “gateways” and Fully Integrated Data Links. But, the two services are “not on the same page, at least not yet” on how their efforts are going to be coordinated, Carlisle noted. Any success in this domain will hinge on the ability for the two services to come to some kind of agreement or understanding, he said.