Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Command and Control in Africa: Three Case Studies before and after Tactical C2

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Command and Control in Africa: Three Case Studies before and after Tactical C2

Article excerpt

Africa provides a unique context to study the role of the United States in coalition command and control (C2) systems. The Air Force's tactical C2 is not well understood outside the platforms that supply the capability despite its importance to mission success. This article highlights modern-day tactical C2 of airpower by using three recent examples in US Africa Command (AFRICOM). The Joint Surveillance Tkrget Attack Radar System (JSTARS) was the common tactical C2 thread throughout the operations and thus offers a good lens through which to study AFRICOM's C2 writ large.

In particular, these operations in Africa have gone largely undocumented since 2011, and properly employed C2 is often treated as an afterthought or a given. The study of examples from Africa is ideal for demonstrating the value of C2 in a wide spectrum of operations. Libya provides conventional C2 battle employment. Additional examples emphasize flexibility and utility of C2 in nontraditional means. These case studies prove the critical nature of tactical C2.

Libya Operations: Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector

Arguably the most decisive factor in modern airpower is the ability to move rapidly and efficiently to any locale in the world and conduct effective operations. When we do so, we use portable C2 platforms as the primary means to ensure theaterwide continuity. This is the role of tactical C2-those who bring overall order to a fractionalized campaign.1 The Libya campaigns offer a classic example. Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector demonstrated how modern tactical C2 translated commander's intent, operational guidance, and combat potential into decisive action for a large force-on-force campaign.

The decisiveness of airpower and operational C2 was tested from the first night in Libya. On 17 March 2011, the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted Resolution 1973, which authorized the use of force under chapter 7 of the UN charter in three areas: enforcement of a no-fly zone, enforcement of a UN arms embargo against Libya, and protection of civilians targeted by the regime of Mu'ammar Gadhafi and its supporters. French, British, and US military action began under Odyssey Dawn on 19 March.2

C2 is doctrinally defined as a joint function, but it was not planned this way in Africa.3 Additionally, C2 in Africa involved an international coalition that was even less defined than its joint dimensions. Specifically, Maj Gen Margaret Woodward, the AFRICOM combined force air component commander, hosted by the European Command's combined air and space operations center (CAOC), maintained operational C2. Although commanders requested tactical C2 assets such as the E-8C JSTARS and E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) from the start of planning, they were not approved until after strike operations were under way.4 Libya operations began with operational C2 and strike assets with nothing in between the two. That is, the absence of C2 structure in the battlespace to supply real-time direction, solve problems, and bring order to a diverse coalition operation created a stovepipe command structure.5 Communications were routed along country-specific lines or through the naval vessels, which were ill equipped to handle the volume of information and lacked line-ofsight radio coverage to shooters/sensors in the battlespace, thus causing numerous delays in operations-including targeting.

The dynamic nature of warfare calls for real-time decision making inherent in tactical C2. We relearned that the latter should be present at the onset of hostilities-even more so in a coalition fight. Odyssey Dawn's air campaign constituted a significant departure from practices found in conventional Western airpower doctrine. Instead of beginning with offensive counterair strikes to take down the Libyan integrated air defense system, it sought to produce an immediate impact on the ground to meet the UN resolution and protect civilians as the highest priority. …

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