In a groundbreaking collaboration, the 805th Combat Training Squadron’s Shadow Operations Center-Nellis (ShOC-N), also known as the US Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System Battle Lab, joined forces with the US Army’s Mission Command Battle Lab and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to advance the field of joint airspace management and joint fires capability at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. This partnership has led to a significant development in the Air Space Total Awareness for Rapid Tactical Execution (ASTARTE) system, a cutting-edge warfighting innovation project.

ShOC-N: Forging the Future of Command and Control

As the Air Force’s premier command and control battle lab, ShOC-N plays a pivotal role in the development, advancement, and maturation of key technologies and capabilities. Its primary objective is to streamline the kill chain for joint and coalition warfighters, making it a driving force behind ASTARTE’s development.

ShOC-N Building
(Image source: US Air Force)

ASTARTE, primarily a DARPA program with sponsorship from both the Army and Air Force, aims to revolutionize airspace operations and de-confliction in congested battlefields. At its core, ASTARTE automates the provision of real-time familiar operational pictures within and above an Army Division, reducing the time required for executing time-sensitive joint fires. Raytheon Corporation’s artificial intelligence-enabled software powers ASTARTE, facilitating airspace synchronization and tactical decision-making. Its modular design allows for seamless integration into existing Army and Air Force command and control systems.

Lieutenant Colonel John Ohlund, commander of the 805th CTS, highlights the significance of the integration efforts:

“The ASTARTE program underscores the immense potential of integration at ShOC-N. The collaboration between software developers from Raytheon, DARPA, and the C2 operators showcased the power of automation when motivated partners come together.”

Real-World Testing and Crucial Assessment

In a simulated division-level Joint Air Ground Integration Center (JAGIC), Army and Air Force personnel tested the ASTARTE software within an air-ground conflict scenario. This evaluation incorporated both live data from the Air Force’s Red Flag exercise and simulated data generated by the ShOC-N. Air Force air battle managers assumed the role of an Air Force tactical C2 node, acting as a Control and Reporting Center to enhance real-time battle management decision-making.

During the joint warfighter assessment, ASTARTE underwent rigorous testing in various combat scenarios and JAGIC battle drills. Its performance was evaluated on its ability to make sense of multiple data streams, thereby creating a unified common operational picture and providing tactical recommendations to enhance joint fires. This event also served as a critical opportunity to assess ASTARTE as a decision aid, potentially replacing legacy C2 systems. Recent enhancements to the ASTARTE system, including improvements to the user interface and role-player training, focused on enhancing the transparency of the system’s processes for generating potential courses of action.