Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, spoke with media members during the 2020 Air Force Association Virtual Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 14, 2020.
The annual AFA conference brings together military professionals and industry partners to discuss the current state of the Air Force, how the service is developing leaders, and how it plans to accelerate innovation to defend the American way of life.
During the event, Kelly discussed ACC priorities, including Advanced Battle Management System, the new F-15EX, and virtual training.
“Our Airmen are not the ones holding us up,” Kelly said about the progress on AMBS. “Every day when they go home, they are immediately connected. We are not waiting on them, they are waiting on us, as we go forward with those machine-enabled insights built into an all-domain common operating picture fed from a Cloud of authoritative data.”
That cloud of data is from an all-domain picture that was just recently tested for a second time as part of ABMS Onramp #2, a United States Northern Command exercise. Operators used ABMS to detect and defeat efforts to disrupt U.S. operations in space in addition to countering attacks against the homeland, including shooting down a cruise missile “surrogate” with a hypervelocity weapon. ABMS allows a joint force to use cutting-edge methods and technologies to rapidly collect, analyze and share information to make decisions in real time.
According to Kelly, two key take aways from the ABMS test are decision superiority and artificial intelligence.
“The overall speed and connectivity, which really comes down to decision superiority,” Kelly said. “The other one would be AI, in terms of target identification. We have so much intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and a finite number of Airmen at any time.”
According to Kelly, the Air Force would greatly benefit to be able to complete the processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) process with the help of machines.
The F-15EX will join that process when it rolls off the line combat ready, Kelly continued. This new fighter will be equipped with a modern architecture, allowing for the latest technologies to be updated to it, much like installing an app on a smartphone.
“It will have a digital backbone and open mission system and a big payload,” Kelly said. “It really is a next generation Eagle with the brains to assess and decide the speed to cover a big area [the aircraft will] do some really strong work for us.”
This next generation of aircraft being developed will process more data and provide stronger capabilities against peer-adversaries, but still requires trained aviators.
Real-world training time and space is limited. Larger scale aircraft exercises of the past need to continue to integrate virtual training opportunities.
“The threat is expanding faster than our terrestrial ranges can accommodate, and the amount of electromagnetic challenge that we have in a peer-fight well exceeds the ability of our ranges,” said Kelly. “We have to take our highest-end training in to the simulators, where I can take an aviator and truly stress his or her cognitive abilities, sensors or weapons, and communications systems.”