Air Force: cyber modernization key to multi-domain war

Air Force Falconer


Air Force: cyber modernization key to multi-domain war

Air Force leaders are looking at cyber and C4ISR modernization and sustainment as the connective tissue to tie together land, air and sea domains with other services.

Referencing the importance of sustaining and improving upon the Air Force’s now-deployed AN/USQ-163 Falconer command and control center, senior Air Force leaders explained that space, cyber and C4ISR systems need to consistently be integrated and updated with the latest technology to improve cross-domain combat operations.

“Looking at our adversaries, we are going to have to fight in a multi-domain way,” Brig. Gen. Kevin Kennedy said recently at a Washington D.C. Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association event. “The cyber domain is the key to integrating across all the other domains.”

Connecting satellite communications, radios, sensors, IT networks cyber techniques and precision, navigation and timing technologies are vital to an enterprise approach that improves multi-domain operations.

The changing threat landscape, combined with a U.S. military move toward more connected networks, is creating a growing array of threats from the Air Force supply chain, legacy platforms and data links, he added.

Engineering resilient systems at their inception, and adopting newer tactics such as those which prioritize centralized control with decentralized execution, are strategic pillars mapping the way forward for the Air Force, he added.  

Kennedy also emphasized that the added benefits of streamlined or more networked command and control technology bring commensurate risks or increases in vulnerability. As a way to address this, Kennedy stressed that it is important to build upon currently successful cyber-hardening practices.

“There is an organic cyber flexibility and security capability the Air Force needs to retain, and we are exploring what that means for offensive operations,” Kennedy asked.

Kennedy echoed what many Air Force weapons developers stress, namely that the current pace of technological change requires quickly accommodating new advances as they emerge.

For instance, if an acquisition or sustainment program integrates new technology, it is likely to become obsolete in as little as two years – therefore underscoring the need to closely collaborate with industry and monitor emerging commercial-off-the-shelf technologies.

 “Capabilities need to be able to morph. The goal is we want resilient capability and a diversity of approach for functions,” Kennedy said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. He can be reached at


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