Moody AEROnet enhances partner nations’ airpower

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Courtney Sebastianelli
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Gaining air superiority requires cutting-edge technologies. Since January, a team from the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base has been working with four partner nations to integrate combat data networks into each country’s uniquely developed air-to-ground tactics, techniques and procedures.

To support national strategic priorities by building partnerships and coalition interoperability, Air Combat Command Airmen from Moody worked closely with military members from Colombia, Nigeria, Thailand, and Tunisia to demonstrate the capabilities of Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network software and to determine how the network can enhance partner nations’ capabilities.

“The most important part of this learning is that we're synchronizing,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gerald Ferdinand, 23rd Wing experiment director. “We're synchronizing the way the United States operates with Tunisia, with Colombia, with Nigeria, with Thailand. We’re significantly increasing interoperability which advances U.S. strategic objectives.”

The cost-effective, commercially encrypted combat system allows aircraft the ability to map their own locations as well as real-time enemy movement updates. Furthermore, networking with AERONet allows the U.S. Air Force to integrate its forces with partner nations.

According to Ferdinand, communication from a secure combat system makes it easier to work toward developing techniques and procedures for countering violent extremist organizations.

“AERONet is a low-cost, exportable datalink solution for countries that don’t have access to U.S. systems,” Ferdinand said. “The goal for AERONet is to experiment on an operational use of this technology on the military side and to validate that it is something that could be used with partner nations in real-world operations.”

To effectively master the three nodes of AERONet, each country sent pilots, support personnel and forward air controllers to learn the software in command and control, airborne systems and dismounted use communications.

Integrating the C2 operations node is essential for mission success and mastering AERONet from C2 is considered the heart of the mission, said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Harris, 81st FS experiment mobile data manager.

“The mission commander and his team monitor the mission from the C2 node,” Harris said. “This is where you would have intel personnel stationed during a mission to get critical updates to the battle situation. These updates are then uploaded to a server where our analysts can access them for review.”

Within command and control, the operations node allows users the ability to track friendly forces on tablets or laptops connected through software in a cloud system. Simultaneously, usage of radio and computer systems allows for voice chat and full-motion video communication with flights.

Each partner nation sent two pilots to operate AERONet from the rear seat of the AT-6E Wolverine. Learning the secure combat system has allowed the pilots to track enemy movements while also maintaining communication with C2 and partner nation forces.

The ability to communicate and relay voice and video information is vital to mission success.

“In our country, we have just the radios and we communicate to just one peer,” said Colombian air force pilot Lt. Valencia Calarca. “Here, however, you have the whole conversation with everyone. One of the big issues in the battlefield, if you don’t have communication you’re not going to employ any firepower, because you don’t know where the enemy is. This is a game changer for the air forces that don’t have communication systems.”