The Air Force is looking to industry for critical capabilities needed to establish future cyber and space multi-domain warfighting and information platforms, with potential plans to establish a cyber-focused rapid capabilities office, officials said Monday.

Officials at an Air Force Association conference panel on multi-domain operations pointed to the Unified Platform program for the Cyber Mission Forces, a potential cloud-based system for improving integration of sensor data and an enterprise space battle management system as top future command and control (C2) priorities.

Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, commander of Air Forces Cyber
Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, commander of Air Forces Cyber

“We’re going to be thinking through how do we take what industry’s doing, and best practices, and leveraging that quickly. To think that we are the lead in this area is misinformed,” Maj. Gen. (Sel) Kevin Kennedy, director of cyberspace strategy and policy for the office of information dominance, said during Monday’s panel.

Kennedy said the Air Force is focused on improving multi-domain C2 capabilities and taking better advantage of information collected across cyber and space assets, with the intention of following industry’s lead on current capabilities to best take advantage of critical data.

Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, commander of Air Forces Cyber, told Defense Daily Air Force officials are discussing potential plans to establish a cyber-focused rapid capabilities office (RCO) to speed up the process of deploying information tools for future multi-domain platforms.

“Regardless of what the name is, it’s about how do we continue to enable our cyber operators in the most fast, efficient and agile way of making sure they have the capabilities that they need,” said Skinner, who believes the office will operate in a similar manner to the current RCO and the recently stood up Space RCO.

The Air Force is leading the acquisition effort for Unified Platform, which would find Cyber Command’s first integrated warfighting platform, a program Skinner said is an important step forward to improving C2 and offensive operations in the domain.

“In any domain having a warfighting platform is important. And just as important is the joint nature of this. All of the services are bought into having Unified Platform. At the end of the day it’s about a disciplined, ready, lethal force and Unified Platform will help enable that,” Skinner told Defense Daily.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Northrop Grumman [NOC] are among the companies offering weapons system-like capabilities for Unified Platform. A downselect decision is expected before the end of the year (Defense Daily, September 4).

Brig. Gen. William Liquori, director of strategic requirements, architectures and analysis for Air Force Space Command, said officials are now also considering a capability similar to Unified Platform to better integrate space operations.

The potential enterprise space battle management command and control capability would leverage automation to increase speed of operation and allow airmen to better anticipate threats to Air Force assets in space.

“That system will allow us to respond and anticipate those threats in advance. It will be designed to provide status of forces’ readiness, also provide doctrinal-based employment courses of action and planning products with the ability for commanding and controlling space forces,” Liquori said. “Gone are the days when a satellite has a problem and we assume that it just was a satellite that got old or the harsh environment of space. We have to assume now that the possibility is that someone has done something intentionally to those satellites”

Brig. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, deputy director of global operations, said industry will need to offer solutions to best integrate information from across cyber and space, which he said may look like a cloud-based solution to manage data and help create a future common operating picture.

“If you take that every airmen is a sensor and every weapon system is a sensor, irrespective of the domain in which its operating, then all that data that comes from those sensors goes somewhere in the 2030 timeframe. And personally, I think it goes into some sort of a cloud-like architecture. I don’t know what that likes exactly. I don’t know where all that data lives, if it’s at rest or on a transport layer. But that data is somewhere,” Grynkewich said. “It’s absolutely critical that we get help thinking about this, as we think about the different applications we can put on top of that data layer so that we can build the right operational pictures.”