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Industry event provides tech companies insight into AF Battle Lab development needs

  • Published
  • By 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs
  • 805th Combat Training Squadron

The 505th Command and Control Wing’s 805th Combat Training Squadron, also known as the Shadow Operations Center-Nellis, hosted a classified Industry Day Dec. 9 at Nellis Air Force Base. The ShOC-N is the U.S. Air Force's premier Battle Lab supporting the experimentation, prototyping, integration, and testing of key technologies and capabilities designed to compress the kill chain and advance command and control capabilities for joint and coalition warfighters. 

The purpose of the industry event was to highlight the role the ShOC-N plays in experimenting with, developing, and delivering advanced C2 systems to the warfighter.  ShOC-N’s ability to provide a low barrier to entry, access to data, and an opportunity for feedback from operators makes it a very appealing venue for government and industry partners to experiment and integrate.

ShOC-N’s Industry Day included more than 120 traditional and non-traditional industry experts.  Attendees were briefed by wing and squadron leadership about the national imperative for advanced C2 capabilities. 

"Industry has advantages with their product lines and their ability to scale; our leadership sees that value and wants to find ways to partner with industry,” said Lt. Col. John “Sox” Ohlund, 805th CTS commander. "When industry partners, acquisition professionals, developmental and testing engineers, and subject matter experts are all iterating face-to-face on a new product, it's amazing to see how quickly improvements are realized!"

During the event, industry partners gained an understanding of how the Air Force functions, current C2 challenges, future C2 requirements and geo-political problem sets. This shared understanding sparked discussion about how industry and government can collaborate to advance C2 capabilities by connecting to multi-domain systems of various classifications and, through ShOC-N hosted events, access warfighters for feedback in the Battle Lab.

During his opening remarks, Col. Frederick Coleman, 505th CCW commander, discussed ShOC-N's value proposition as the nexus of systems development and integration. "The systems we need exist today, but they are being developed in stovepipes.  We need our industry and government partners to come together under one roof, on one network, to figure out how to link these advanced tools in a meaningful way that allows us to execute C2 rapidly and simultaneously across security classifications and levels of war.” 

Coleman also discussed the need for advanced intelligence and machine learning.  “We need to automate everything that starts and ends with data,” said Coleman, “and if it can’t be automated, we need to be able to distribute it.”

Subject matter experts conducted question-and-answer sessions throughout the event. Through the Q&As, participants learned more about agile combat employment, data and software integration, processes ready for automation, artificial intelligence, distributed C2, battle management, multi-level security policies, government sponsorship and more.

"We wanted to connect with smaller, innovative tech companies advancing innovative solutions as well as large, well-known businesses at our industry event. The companies will be better equipped to provide solutions and participate in experiments now that they know our requirements," said Ohlund.

Throughout the day, presenters overviewed existing capabilities within the laboratory, discussed upcoming opportunities, and introduced ShOC-N's roadmap for new capabilities.  The ShOC-N continues searching for industry partners with technology that can be used as-is or modified to meet mission needs and innovative constructs that will connect C2 systems in the future.

To help industry partners better align resources to meet the needs of the Air Force Battle Lab's mission, the ShOC-N shared requirements during the event; these included technology (hardware and software), new capabilities, studies and analysis, modeling and simulation, and other dynamic capabilities that could have an impact on future missions.  
"Some [C2] processes could be automated to reduce the workload on human operators and start to have software take that load off their plates; we haven't seen that at the ShOC yet," said Lt. Col. Shawn Finney, 805th CTS director of operations. "We'd like to know what we're missing, what gaps a company has a solution for us." 

  Participants also learned about mechanisms to partner with the Battle Lab, including the potential to assist in refining the lab's instrumentation roadmap and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, or CRADA, efforts. 

"Listening to our industry partners and understanding their approaches and technological abilities provides insight and allows the Battle Lab to tap into the best the commercial industry has to offer," said Finney. 

The next opportunity for C2-focused industry partners to learn more about the ShOC-N and collaboration opportunities will be at the ShOC-N's next Industry Day, tentatively scheduled for June 2023 at Nellis AFB; event details will be posted on Sam.gov, the 505th CCW's website and LinkedIn page. 

“We (the Air Force) can’t build this stuff ourselves; we need our industry partners,” said Coleman, “so we will continue to find ways to collaborate and integrate, because deep down we all have the same goal: to win.”