86 Communications Squadron accelerates innovation; supports CJADC2

The 86th Communications Squadron has been at the forefront of creating a cohesive communication network to support combined joint operations throughout the European theater: the Advanced Battle Management System.

As part of Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control operations, ABMS is a digital network environment that connects warfighting capabilities across all domains to achieve a global decision making advantage.

CJADC2 is a framework that enables these operations between the joint force and its partners by connecting forces into a cohesive battle network.

Ramstein Air Base was selected as the site for an ABMS onramp due to the installation’s mission set and strategic location in the European theater following a memorandum in October 2020 by Gen. Charles Brown, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, designating ABMS as the number one modernization priority for the Air Force.

The 86th Communications Squadron and other communications units quickly leaped into action, working on an accelerated timeline in preparation for a CJADC2 demonstration scheduled for February 2021. The goal of the onramp was to test multiple technologies in order to open new lines of communications between the joint force and its allies.

Over the course of four months, 86th CS accelerated innovation by assessing and upgrading multiple systems to support the onramp of ABMS.

“It took a holistic approach to analyze what we needed to accomplish,” said Capt. Hector Valladares, 86th CS operations flight commander. “It was all hands on deck to make this happen.”

The project involved connecting multiple sensors across Europe, enabling troops to act and communicate more effectively.

“We connected many different and unique sensors that allow us to detect air based threats to Ramstein,” Valladares continued. “The system integrates and fuses these sensors to support warfighters in a way that hasn’t been accomplished before.”

ABMS incorporates multiple technologies to support CJADC2, including artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The Airmen of 86th CS divided work across multiple teams to upgrade multiple communications operations on Ramstein.

“We laid thousands of feet of fiber cables to make new information paths,” said Senior Airman Joe Sekine, 86th CS cable and antenna systems technician. “Our team laid the cables and conducted initial testing, then our teammates in network management brought their equipment online to connect sensors from multiple locations. It was a total group effort, and we worked well together to get the system up and running.”

The extensive amount of data transmitted via ABMS required significant updates to Ramstein’s network bandwidth.

“Everybody was involved in this process,” said Airman 1st Class Connor Kelley, 86th CS cyber infrastructure technician. “We had different teams establishing and configuring data links while others installed new equipment at various locations on base.”

Ramstein’s NIPRNet is now 16 times stronger, and its SIPRNet has been increased to 26 times its previous capability. Globally, Ramstein’s NIPRNet speed is now ranked in the top 1% for the entire U.S. Air Force, and its SIPRNet is the fastest for any Air Force installation.

When U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa conducted their CJADC2 demonstration in February, the cross-domain digital architecture 86th CS set in place helped facilitate exercises between the joint force and NATO allies.

Ramstein is the first installation in Europe to conduct a successful onramp of ABMS in the U.S. Air Force.

“We are incredibly proud of the Cyber community for tackling this effort and making the CJADC2 demonstration a success,” said Col. Andrew D’Ippolito, USAFE-AFAF Communications Director. “The combined work of the 86th Communications Squadron, 603rd Air Communications Squadron, 691st Cyber Operations Squadron, 1st Combat Communications, and many others set the standard for the Air Force and will accelerate change for years to come.”

As the U.S. Air Force continues to find new ways to accelerate change to accomplish the mission in new ways, Ramstein Airmen continue to do just that.

86th CS efforts to modernize communication systems directly enable command and control within the European Theater. Because of their innovation, Ramstein continues to pursue installation excellence and serve as a Global Gateway for Europe and beyond.

Editor’s Note: Due to the technical nature of topics discussed in this article, the following terms have been immediately abbreviated in order to discuss information more efficiently: Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet); Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet); Air Force Network (AFNet)