Air Force Featured Stories

AF Battle Lab supports cross-service airspace, fires management field experiment

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

The 805th Combat Training Squadron, also known as the Shadow Operations Center - Nellis, Nellis Air Force Base, recently hosted Field Experiment 1, or FX-1, to increase efficiency in airspace management and joint fires integrations between U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Tactical Command and Control, or TAC C2, units through automation of information flow between multiple disparate systems.


Using the Airspace Total Awareness for Rapid Tactical Execution, or ASTARTE, software, air and surface fires were tasked and deconflicted faster, directly leading to increased effectiveness within the joint operations area.  The Army Joint Air Ground Integration Cell and Control Reporting Center personnel served as the TAC C2 agencies sharing control of airspace that consisted of Nevada Test and Training Range, or NTTR, China Lake and Utah Test and Training Range.

The FX-1 included currently fielded C2 systems within the Air Force and Army inventory: Battlespace Command and Control Center, or BC3, Air and Missile Defense Workstation, Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Distribution System, Joint All Domain Operations Control System, Theater Battle Management Control System, and Tactical Airspace Integration System. Additionally, the ShOC-N was able to receive the live NTTR Link-16 feed via a joint range extension and combine it with Modern Air Combat Environment, or MACE, constructive entities to provide ASTARTE and fielded C2 systems with a live over constructive scenario using the Red Flag 23-2 exercise air picture and MACE-produced land-based division fires elements and red enemy land and air entities.

The ASTARTE prototype is under development by Raytheon Missiles and Defense, managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. The ASTARTE system consists of software microservices and algorithmic functions that can ingest an Airspace Control Order, Air Tasking Order, Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol-C and dynamic airspaces input by a Tactical Air Integration System operator with BC3 airspace integration. ASTARTE’s algorithms examine all these data points to project a holistic mission environment. During operations, when an airspace conflict is identified, ASTARTE provides recommended means to resolve it based on the commander’s priorities. ASTARTE provides courses of action for the operator to take to resolve the conflict. These courses of actions are rank ordered and enable the operator to see the cause of the conflict and potential actions to resolve it.

Planning and coordination for this experiment began with the Army Mission Command Battle Lab, or MCBL, sending personnel to the ShOC-N to coordinate equipment integration and experimentation objectives. Army and Air Force personnel worked together to identify experimentation objectives to demonstrate joint airspace management capabilities and to identify future system integration tasks.

As the experiment got closer, ShOC leadership garnered 728th Battle Management Control Squadron personnel to man the CRC and utilize BC3 and ASTARTE next to each other for compare, contrast and integration purposes.

Critical Air Force development objectives were identified during the event, including increased Air Force air battle management participation in ASTARTE development sprint cycles, improved integration with BC3 to enable Hi-Density Airspace Control Zone, or HIDACZ, and other high-density air domain management operations, and further Link-16 integration to pull fuel, weapons status, and current mission information from the Precise Position Location Information that many air assets are capable of producing.

ShOC-N personnel are already working with DARPA and MCBL teams defining requirements for Field Experiment 2 to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure is in place to support further experimentation.

“We are at an exciting point in the life of a DARPA program,” said Dr. Mary Schurgot, DARPA ASTARTE program manager. “We have progressed from initial program concept to having prototype software reasoning over live data feeds providing a much-needed capability. Our recent engagement at ShOC-N provided invaluable feedback on system functionality and performance. We’re looking forward to continued collaboration with operational partners during future experiments.”