The 805th Combat Training Squadron’s Shadow Operations Center – Nellis, or ShOC-N, is the U.S. Air Force’s premier battle lab supporting the development, advancement, and maturation of key technologies and capabilities designed to compress the kill-chain for joint and coalition warfighters.
The ShOC-N accomplishes this mission by utilizing multi-domain, all-domain, and cross-domain solutions spanning all classification levels, working closely with key defense, industry, and sister services such as the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Missile Defense Agency, and the Defense Industrial Base.
In addition to hosting government sponsors and industry partners daily, the ShOC-N is helping to steer and evolve Joint Staff doctrine and guidance for all-domain and cross-domain solutions and capabilities by focusing on defining and developing instrumentation for data, networks, software, and air component-specific command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence, or C4I, warfighting processes.
Working closely with their wide range of mission partners, the ShOC-N is a vanguard unit on the frontlines of next-generation technologies for the USAF and Joint Staff. With key placement and access to Nellis AFB’s unique mission, the ShOC-N is providing a critical venue to advance and refined key technologies and showcase them to U.S. and coalition leadership in a tactically and operationally relevant setting – to see the technology working in a warfighter environment with real-world operators at the helm vice a clean lab with scientists only.
Normally, ShOC-N leverages existing exercises to meet mission requirements. But sometimes, when no other appropriate venue exists, the ShOC-N team will host its own organic event to advance and refine technologies. A recent example occurred at the end of April. The ShOC-N hosted an organic Distributed Command and Control Event simulating Agile Combat Employment utilizing new technologies available at the ShOC-N. The ShOC-N set up an austere location simulating a pacing adversary threat environment for the new technologies and their ability to operate in a degraded setting.
“ShOC-N’s ability to operate in the shadows of operational theaters or large-scale exercises allows us to experiment in the most realistic, operationally relevant ways. Everything we do is nested within the USAF Warfare Center’s Pacing Challenge Campaign Plan. All new technology is vetted against our ability to compete with China,” said Col. Frederick Coleman, 505th Command and Control Wing commander, Hurlburt Field, Florida.
The Air Combat Command C2 Futures Branch’s Tactical C2 Weapon Systems Division leveraged the event to shape Battle Management Command and Control functions requirements, viewing several mobile and rapidly deployable tactical air component C2 systems at work in an ACE environment.
“Major General Slocum, ACC/A3 [director of operations], challenged the staff to rapidly prototype and field a Tactical Operations Center – Light, or TOC-L, capability,” said Maj. Carl Rossini, C2 Futures Branch chief. “[The] ShOC-N enabled us to meet that challenge by quickly bringing together the event, data, warfighters, test organizations, and acquisitions.”
Not only did this event leverage unique ShOC-N capabilities, but it also served as a risk reduction event for the Pacific Air Forces’ Valiant Shield 2022 exercise, along with ACC’s participation in the U.S. Army Futures Command’s Project Convergence 2022 exercise.
Organizations that partnered with the ShOC-N for the TOC-L experimentation included the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Research and Engineering 5G support team, the Missile Defense Agency, representatives of the ACC staff, the Air Force Joint Test Program Office, the 605th Test and Evaluations Squadron, the 422nd Test and Evaluations Squadron, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Solypsis, Global C2 Integration Technologies, Lower Echelon Analytics Platform – Tactical, or LTAC, and Novetta Systems.
In addition to external mission partner involvement and success, the ShOC-N employed their organic data scientist team to develop methodologies to measure data latency from various systems, data files, and logs. Their analysis proved successful and demonstrated data scientists’ current and future utility, along with the need to advance and automate instrumentation.
“Collecting and storing mass amounts of data without a plan is of no value. Turning volumes of data into decision quality information is where we show value, and I’m proud of our data science team,” said Lt. Col. David Spitler, 805th CTS/ShOC-N commander.
Instrumentation is a core attribute of the battle lab still under development.
“The analytics shown by our data science team and the LTAC cyber team sparked the imagination of what is possible. However, it also showed how much more investment is needed to truly instrument the battle lab,” said Col. Aaron Gibney, 505th Combat Training Group commander, Nellis AFB, Nevada. “We need to be able to define what we’re measuring and then measure it in an automated, objective, quantitative way.”
When data is collected, classified, labeled, properly tagged, and stored with ontologies, the instrumented data provides the basis for objective evaluation of technical performance in the experimental lab environment. Instrumentation is intended to enable objective methods for A|B comparisons, measuring compression of warfighting processes, data latencies, and the efficacies of prototypes against currently fielded hardware and software. With instrumentation, the ShOC-N will provide objective reviews to inform senior leader decisions for the continued prototyping and/or transition to test to deliver capabilities to the warfighter rapidly.
The Distributed Command and Control Event showed how critical the ShOC-N is as the USAF develops and matures advanced technologies to compress the kill-chain and streamline the decision-making process for warfighters. The ShOC-N was able to showcase key technologies in an ACE environment and will continue advancing its mission to support the warfighter.
“The warfighter ethos is alive and strong in the ShOC-N,” said Coleman.
The 805th CTS reports to the 505th CTG, Nellis AFB, Nevada, and the 505th Command and Control Wing, headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Florida.