In the next 90 days, the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) in consultation with Air Force Chief Architect Preston Dunlap is to draft an acquisition strategy for the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).
Randall Walden, the director of the Air Force RCO, is responsible for a number of fielding efforts for cutting edge systems, such as the Northrop Grumman [NOC] B-21 Raider next generation stealth bomber and the Boeing [BA] X-37B space plane.
Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper signed a memorandum on Nov. 23 designating the RCO as the integrating program executive office (PEO) for ABMS.
“The ABMS PEO will accomplish a comprehensive business review conducted by the Air Force Audit Agency detailing all efforts, contracts, and resources currently attributed to the ABMS program,” per the memo. “This audit will inform the ABMS Acquisition Strategy which will be completed no later than 90 days from now. The ABMS PEO will draft overarching ABMS architectures and standards for Chief Architect approval. The ABMS PEO will have approval authority for all lower-level standards not at the system-level.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s report on the fiscal 2021 defense appropriations bill asks the Air Force to submit an acquisition strategy early next year for ABMS (Defense Daily, Nov. 12).
While the Air Force fiscal 2021 budget requested $302.3 million for ABMS, Senate appropriators recommended about $208.8 million–$93.5 million less than the request, but an increase of nearly $51 million from the fiscal 2020 appropriated amount.
“While the committee continues to support the Air Force’s new approach to command and control, the committee notes that the ABMS requirements and acquisition strategy remain unclear,” the SAC report says.
The committee’s report directs the Air Force acquistion chief to submit an ABMS acquisition strategy with the president’s fiscal 2022 budget request. In addition, the Air Force comptroller “is directed to certify that the fiscal year 2022 President’s budget fully funds said acquisition strategy.”
“Further, with the submission of the fiscal year 2022 budget request, the committee directs the secretary of the Air Force to submit a report summarizing all related programs in communications, battle management command and control, and sensors that fall within the ABMS umbrella across the Future Years Defense Program,” per the SAC report. “The report should reference program element funding lines and clearly link all activities with funding lines in the fiscal year 2022 budget justification documents. It should also clearly articulate all phase one efforts, including initial operational capability timelines, the status of related legacy activities, and linkages to classified activities.”
The Air Force, U.S. Northern Command, and U.S. Space Command held the second test “onramp” of ABMS on Aug. 31-Sept. 3.
The test featured 70 industry teams, 65 government teams from all six military services, 35 military platforms, 30 geographic locations and four national test ranges, in an effort to employ cloud computing and artificial intelligence/machine learning to defeat threats to U.S. space systems and counter cruise missile attacks against the U.S. (Defense Daily, Aug. 25).
“The journey to Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) arguably began in June 2018 when the Air Force could not recapitalize its [Northrop Grumman] E-8C Joint Surveillance Target and Attack Radar System (JSTARS) for increasingly-challenging contested environments,” Roper wrote in his Nov. 23 memo on ABMS. “This Boeing 707-derivative aircraft plays a critical battlefield role, tracking enemy targets and relaying real-time information to Army and Marine Corps ground forces. But against peer adversaries, a large aircraft with a large emitter is simply a flying bullseye. Without stealth or maneuverability, JSTARS-equivalent aircraft represent single points of failure for ground maneuver warfare. Consequently, contested environments mandated a distributed-but-integrated system: using myriad platforms; sensors in multiple domains; and networking, cloud, and AI to compose a single picture of the battlefield without single points of failure—a true internet of military things (‘IoT.mil’).”
“By spring of 2019, the rechristened Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) had no one central platform to replace JSTARS,” Roper wrote. “Rather, it organized around connectivity and machine-to-machine data exchanges across the Joint Force. We have worked earnestly for a year and half to demonstrate data-centric warfighting constructs including, but far exceeding, the JSTARS mission. Early ABMS phases evangelized the need for a foundational IoT.mil—and why it is achievable—given the department’s long struggle with software-enabled capabilities.”
Dunlap will continue to lead the ABMS onramps, which are to roll out new capabilities every four months.
“One ‘big bang’ delivery, where everything should work like smartphones connected to the internet, was doomed to certain failure!” Roper wrote in his Nov. 23 memo. “Developing, demonstrating, and deploying ‘thin slices’ of capability rapidly—that stack into greater capabilities iteratively—was the novel, adaptability-driven acquisition approach we have kept since.”
The two onramp demonstrations have included the destruction of a cruise missile ‘surrogate’ with a hypervelocity weapon, “the first-time integration of the F-22 and F-35” fighters by Lockheed Martin [LMT], and the first integration of SpaceX commercial communication satellites with the Lockheed Martin AC-130 gunship, Roper said.