August 5, 2006 (by 1st Lt. Jon Quinlan) - The 325th Air Control Squadron and 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force base, Florida, are making significant advances integrating F-22 Raptor fighter tactics with command and control operations, enhancing the capabilities of both.
Lt. Col James Hecker, the 27th Fighter Squadron commander, delivers the first operational F/A-22 Raptor #03-4042 to its permanent home at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 12, 2005. [USAF photo by TSgt Ben Bloker]
One of the new advances is the ability to send free text messages from command and control platforms to the Raptor's pilot using high-speed digital data-link technology, called Link-16.
"Integrating command and control with the F-22 enhances our air dominance capability as an Air Force," said Lt. Col. Ted Davis, 325th ACS commander. "The benefit of integration comes from the fact that we are creating a synergy of force that is a quantum leap above what any one particular air platform might be able to do on its own."
An F-22 pilot can leave his home base, locate, cue in on and destroy all of his targets, receive the locations of all possible threats, receive landing instructions and come home safely without being seen or heard. This capability is possible through the use of communication links that allow air battle managers to send text messages to the pilot without using the radio.
Building a three-dimensional picture of targets and threats for F-22 pilots is the job of air battle managers who fly in command and control platforms such as the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System and E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or who operate from ground based control and reporting centers.
Advances in communication and targeting are enhancing both the F-22's stealth capabilities, and the accuracy of the information provided by command and control, making the F-22 even more lethal, according to pilots.
"(Text messaging) minimizes the amount of time on the radio," said Maj. Clayton Bartels, 43rd FS
F-22 instructor pilot. "Once you get the information, you have it, and then all you have to do inside your jet is get that information to the weapon."
Integration advances at Tyndall led to the first successful drop of a joint direct attack munition by an operational F-22 at the Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., range in December.
Tyndall is the first base in the Air Force to develop command and control and F-22 integration tactics, and is using the new capabilities to train all new F-22 pilot and air battle manager students. The ABM student syllabus is beginning to see more and more missions with the F-22 every day.
"The mission capabilities we are executing daily with C2
and the F-22s here at Tyndall are paying dividends out in the (Combat Air Forces) right now," Colonel Davis said. "Everything we do here is a direct reflection on what's done out in the CAF as we graduate our students. We train to those missions that the CAF is doing using C2 and F-22 integration, and our graduates in both systems carry those skills out with them to their next assignment."
F-22 pilot training is also enhanced through command and control integration allowing F-22 student pilots to train as they fight.
"It significantly improves our training to be able to work with a controller anytime, particularly important when you are doing dynamic targeting because its all about shortening the kill chain and if you never practice with an actual command and control entity you are really missing a big piece of the puzzle," Major Bartels said.
Current command and control and F-22 integration is just the start as pilots and air battle managers realize that the advantages of the data link environment can be incorporated in all new Air Force platforms.
"I think (command and control integration) won't just be used with the F-22 and currently fielded strike platforms, but rather it will continue with the F-35 Lightning II
," said Maj. Chris Hoskins, 325th ACS assistant director of operations, who led the integration efforts for the ACS.
"The sky is the limit," he said. "The same tactics we have developed here in the last six months will continue to be refined to the point that the F-22 and the F-35 are complete data-link contributors to the single integrated air picture."