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ESC team efforts bring new combined air, space operations center to life

by Chuck Paone
66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/16/2009 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) -- An Electronic Systems Center team from here worked in the past few weeks to bring to life a new, state-of-the-art combined air and space operations center in Southwest Asia for joint and coalition combat forces.

"We're constantly striving to bring enhanced AOC capabilities to the warfighters, and I'm particularly proud of the efforts to bring this new facility in Southwest Asia online," said Col. Bill Cooley, the 350th Electronic Systems Group commander.

"Our team had to overcome some significant challenges to make this possible," Colonel Cooley said.

Among the largest challenges was making sure the mission could continue unabated during the switch-over from the old facility to the new CAOC, said Capt. Dennis Smith, the 350th ELSG Fielding Flight commander. "The operators there are controlling air operations in two active theaters, so the transition had to be seamless. That required a tremendous amount of planning and coordination."

Other challenges included logistics. The 350th oversaw shipment of 135 tons of equipment from the U.S. into the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The team also awarded 85 separate contracts during a two- to three-year period and obligated more than $40 million of war on terrorism funding, Captain Smith said.

The transition to the new facility comes after U.S. and coalition forces spent more than six years occupying temporary facilities, which was warehouse space hastily renovated and retrofitted in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

While a number of issues delayed physical construction of the new facility, once things began to roll, ESC program managers were able to accelerate the equipping process.

"We were actually able to bring the new facility on line a couple of months ahead of schedule," Captain Smith said.

The new facility, which is actually three buildings designed to look and interoperate as one, better accommodates its users in many ways. However, it's the overall functionality that most concerned the 350th team.

"We added far more robust systems, all while enhancing the interoperability of each work area, and reducing space and power needs," Captain Smith said.

A key ingredient in that was installation a "trusted thin client," which allows users to view multiple networks on the same screen, even networks that contain different classification levels. The TTC also reduces the number of "desktop computers" at each work station, which not only reduces the clutter, but also allows for better computer administration, because most of the computer power is centralized and easily accessible by the information technology staff.

"We also expect this to be more efficient because it will reduce the power requirement for the computers and the air conditioning," Captain Smith said.

The team also increased audio-video display capacity by 60 percent, he said.

Communication capabilities, of course, underlie the AOC weapons system. The new AOC relies on 160 miles of fiber optic cable, displays air operations on 2,325 monitors and speaks to the outside world on 871 nonsecure phones and uses an additional 692 secure Internet-based telephones to discuss mission sensitive information, according to a U.S. Air Forces Central release.

"The team has done remarkable work on this very important initiative," Colonel Cooley said. "Not only are we deploying this new capability to the CAOC that is most in the current fight, but we delivered early, under cost, and we expect this will establish a standard for future command and control capability in other AOCs world-wide."

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