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Air Operations Control Systems

Airspace is a crucial part of the operational environment used by all components. A high concentration of friendly surface, subsurface, and airlaunched weapon systems must share this airspace without unnecessarily hindering the application of combat power. The primary goal of airspace control is to enhance effectiveness of the joint force and increase the safety of joint air operations.

The joint force commander (JFC) normally designates a joint force air component commander (JFACC) as commander for joint air operations. The JFC also normally designates an area air defense commander (AADC) and an airspace control authority (ACA). Joint airspace control increases combat effectiveness by promoting the safe, efficient, and flexible use of airspace with minimum restraint upon airspace users, and includes coordinating, integrating, and regulating airspace to increase operational effectiveness. Effective airspace control reduces the risk of fratricide, enhances air defense, and permits flexibility. Airspace control operations may begin prior to (and continue after) combat operations and may transition through degrees of civil and military authority. The JFC defines the relationship between the ACA and component commanders. Airspace control is essential to operational effectiveness in accomplishing JFC objectives across the range of military operations.

The joint air tasking process is a systematic cycle that focuses joint air efforts on supporting operational requirements. It provides for effective and efficient employment of joint air capabilities through an iterative, cyclic process for the planning, apportionment, allocation, coordination, tasking, and execution of joint air missions and sorties within the guidance of the JFC. The process accommodates changing tactical situations or JFC guidance as well as requests for support from component commanders. Planners develop airspace control and air defense instructions in sufficient detail to allow components to plan and execute air missions listed in the ATO. The ATO is the operation order or mission assignment for all aircraft missions flown under control of the JFACC in the operational area and shows all missions operating in the operational area during the effective time period. In some theaters, numerous airspace procedures and airspace usages are published in the special instructions (SPINS).

Engaging enemy aircraft with friendly air, land, and maritime assets must be fully coordinated to optimize all aspects of friendly combat power. Joint engagement zone (JEZ) operations involve the employment and integration of multiple air defense systems in order to simultaneously engage enemy targets in the operational area. Successful JEZ operations depend on positively identifying friendly, neutral, and enemy aircraft. JEZ operations require effective C2 and positive control is normally used in a JEZ. Fighter engagement zone operations usually occur above and beyond the range of surface-based air defenses, and are highly dependent on coordination and flexibility within the ACS. Missile engagement zone (MEZ) operations are ideal for point defense of critical assets, protection of maneuver units, and area coverage of the joint security area. MEZ operations offer the ability to engage the enemy with a high- and low-altitude, all-weather capability beyond the forward line of own troops (FLOT) or disrupt massed enemy air attacks prior to committing fighter assets, and are effective across the full range of air defense operations and enemy threats.

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