About 10 percent of the U.S. Air National Guard’s 108,000 personnel are in the cyber field, as the ANG develops offensive and defensive cyber operations at the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield, Ohio, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, the director of the ANG, said on May 30.
“It’s not only the [new] equipment piece, but it’s also the missions piece and even giving up some of the legacy missions like old C-130s and going into cyber to enable air superiority–brand new for the United States Air Force, and how we’re gonna deliver combat effects out of the 179th to counter Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and any other rogue nations, ” Loh told a Center for a New American Security forum.
Last July, the 179th retired its last of eight C-130Hs.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown visited the 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield-Lahm Air National Guard Base on Apr. 2.
The Air Force said that it picked the 179th to be the first ANG cyberspace wing last Aug. 25 “and has been in the process of converting the wing, infrastructure and mission since.”
“Mansfield has a unique opportunity. What you are doing here hasn’t been done. You can write the playbook for others to follow,” Brown said in an Air Force statement on his Apr. 2 visit to the 179th.
Out of 108,000 ANG personnel, 11,000 are involved in the cyber mission, Loh said on May 30.
“We do everything from offensive cyber operations to defensive cyber operations to cyber protection teams; engineering and installations [ENI]; combat communications–people that deploy out and set up remote sites/remote SCIFs [sensitive compartmented information facilities] anywhere in the world,” he said. “A lot of that– ENI and combat comm capabilities–reside in the Guard. They’re also first movers. When you think about Agile Combat Employment, they’re going to be one of the first that go out and set up these remote sites and allow us to deliver airpower under Agile Combat Employment scenarios.”
The Pentagon appears to be increasing the focus on cyber operations. The U.S. Army, for example, said last year that it is planning to start a new program office this year to manage the service’s offensive cyber and space capabilities (Defense Daily, Sept. 1, 2022).