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609th AOC provides resilient airpower through distributed operations

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS) -- The 609th Air Operations Center, Detachment 1, at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, supports real-world command and control operations everyday with those at U.S. Air Force Central Command at Al Udeid Air Base. Through the innovation of AFCENT Airmen, both locations refine the command and control architecture across distributed geographic locations to increase the resiliency and survivability of airpower.

An example of technological innovation is Jigsaw, the tanker planning tool that has saved millions of dollars in fuel and untold personnel hours, refining how Airmen plan and execute aerial refueling missions.

“Jigsaw does one exquisite planning function for managing the largest air tanker fleet in the world,” said Col. Paul Maykish, 609th AOC commander. “We want everything else to have a tool too. We’re getting enough of these tools to help us go mobile.”

With more types of planning applications on the way, AOC operations are growing ever-more flexible.

“We can pick up and move to another location and operate,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Leonard, 609th AOC deputy commander. “That’s a change and we do that by fully thinking through the problem. Rather than just thinking about whether we have the technology at another location, we consider process and personnel complexities too. In many ways the technological component is one of the easier problems to solve because it’s easily defined.”

Even with mobile tools, human and process complexities arise. With approximately 40 different Air Force specialty codes – the service’s identifier for specific jobs – within the AOC, and Airmen working an average of 1,500 daily tasks across more than 300 distinct command and control functions, human factors are always central to success.

“Replicating all those skills across people, places, times, spaces; it forces us to think hard every day in that area,” said Leonard.

Distributing operations is not just about replication. It is also a chance to refine processes.
“The evolution of distributed operations is closely tied to the DevOps model,” said Maykish, referring to the software business practice used to speedily deliver applications to customers while constantly improving existing versions.

AFCENT Airmen used this model to experiment with distributing specific processes critical within the AOC.

“One major thing we achieved through this type of experimentation locally and at Shaw (AFB) was cradle-to-grave accomplishment of the daily Master Air Attack Plan,” Maykish said. “That was a big question. Can we actually distribute the detailed master air attack planning? That’s 10,000 variables a day. Where people are taking off from, when they’re taking off, what bombs are loaded, what targets they’re hitting, how long are they out there, who they will communicate with, where they are meeting their tanker, how much fuel their tanker is carrying, where their tanker is delivering that gas, what are the contingencies, what are the adaptations for weather, etc. This is ‘MAAP’ing.’ It is really complicated and we distributed this function.”

AFCENT continues experimenting with distributed operations, refining how to execute command and control of operations to provide airpower at the right time and place across the CENTCOM AOR from multiple locations

“This is about deterrence,” said Maykish. “We are leveraging these capabilities to out-match those seeking to challenge our interests in the region. And with distributed ops, we have another tool to deter aggression, maintain security, defend our networks and ensure access to common domains across our AOR. There’s no way to stop the American command and control of airpower. It will always exist and be ready. No matter where we are; no matter what the target is.”

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