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Digital Transformation in U.S. Air Defence

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The Western Air Defence Sector (WADS) marked a stride into the digital age with the unveiling of its cutting-edge Agile Operations Centre on January 26. The establishment is an advanced hub designed to furnish Airmen with simulation capabilities. These capabilities are indispensable for individuals tasked with managing and operating Command and Control Battle Management Systems, pivotal components in safeguarding the United States’ security interests.

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In light of the Air Force’s commitment to staying at the forefront of military innovation, the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept has been adopted and is currently being implemented. This strategic initiative involves the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into various facets of Air Force operations. The primary objective is to harness the power of AI to optimise operational processes, provide invaluable support in decision-making scenarios, and ultimately enhance the overall effectiveness of the Air Force in fulfilling its mission.

Leading figures, including Maj Gen Bret Daugherty, Liz Larter, and WADS leadership, inaugurated the US$11.8 million project, representing a paradigm shift in technology and infrastructure within the air defence sector. Col Antony Braun, 225th Air Defence Group commander, highlighted the centre’s status as the most prominent technological leap, emphasising the success of collaborative planning and funding involving NORAD, Congress, and the Washington Air National Guard.

The Agile Operations Centre stands out as a symbol of innovation, boasting a flexible and adaptable system interface and new rack-mounted, virtual, and cloud-ready components. A substantial three-year effort included the installation of 10 state-of-the-art server racks and 2 million feet of new fibre cabling. The introduction of ergonomic furniture allows air defence operators to control multiple monitors efficiently using a single keyboard and mouse, enhancing overall operational agility.

Before the centre’s completion, a state-of-the-art training space named the Mission Training Centre (MTC) was established in August. The MTC is crucial in separating live operations from training activities, ensuring a focused and effective training environment.

Under the command of NORAD, WADS holds a pivotal position as one of the two Air National Guard air defence sectors in the continental United States. NORAD’s responsibility encompasses U.S. and Canadian aerospace control through a sophisticated network involving alert fighters, tankers, airborne early warning aircraft, rotary wing air interceptors, and ground-based air defence assets guided by interagency and defence radars.

This technological leap into the Agile Operations Centre positions WADS at the forefront of digital transformation within the air defence sector. Incorporating virtualised solutions, cloud-ready components, and advanced infrastructure reflects a proactive approach to meeting the demands of modern aerospace control.

Further, in the military landscape, New Zealand also has been deploying cutting-edge technology to foster its naval military. OpenGov Asia has reported that The New Zealand Government is set to trial Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), offering a versatile platform for various roles.

The His Majesty’s New Zealand Ship (HMNZS) Aotearoa is transporting the Bluebottle, a USV designed and manufactured by the USV private company in Australia, from Sydney to Auckland. Once operational, the Bluebottle will undertake maritime tasks at sea without fuel or personnel, marking a significant step in leveraging digital technology for naval operations.

The Bluebottle, powered by solar, wind, or wave energy, represents a cutting-edge approach to maritime autonomy. It is also equipped with a retractable rigid sail for wind propulsion. With a top speed of five knots and the ability to operate at sea indefinitely in challenging wave conditions (up to sea state 7), the USV brings a new dimension to autonomous maritime operations.

By observing this, it is acknowledged that the military is considering deploying technological advancements in its defence. The strategic deployment of cutting-edge technology in the Agile Operations Centre aligns with the broader digital transformation occurring in defence sectors globally. This initiative is committed to leveraging digital capabilities for enhanced operational efficiency, responsiveness, and adaptability in safeguarding aerospace integrity.

As the digital era continues to unfold, the WADS Agile Operations Centre stands as a testament to the significance of technology in bolstering air defence capabilities. It exemplifies a forward-looking approach to ensuring the readiness and resilience of defence systems in the face of evolving challenges in the digital age.


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