USAFCENT upgrades CAOC while demonstrating distributed operations

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dustin Mullen
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs

U.S. Air Forces Central recently renovated its Combined Air Operations Center here, while simultaneously executing all of its primary functions from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

The $3 million renovation covered facility upgrades aimed at modernizing and maximizing its ability to provide command and control of all air power in theater.

“The operations center has operated in [the original] configuration since inception,” said Lt. Col. Miguel Gonzalez, 609th Air Operations Center director of staff. “Advancements in technology and communications over the past 10 years have allowed the CAOC to evolve and operate in a more distributed environment. These advancements allowed us the opportunity to restructure our combat operations floor to make us more effective and efficient in supporting our air, space and cyber operations.”

The renovation process included gutting the combat operations floor and rebuilding it with a more efficient layout and improved communication capability.  To ensure no mission gaps during this process, USAFCENT conducted simultaneous CAOC operations from both Al Udeid and Shaw AFB.   

Not only did the CAOC team at Shaw support normal daily operations, they also executed the recent USAFCENT Air and Missile Defense Exercise 21-1, which was held in October. 

Participating in AMDEX 21-1 at Shaw while fulfilling day-to-day operations instilled further confidence in USAFCENT’s ability to conduct distributed operations, Gonzalez said.

Distributed operations is a system that revolves around being able to work from multiple locations, while maintaining shared awareness and avoiding single points of failure. USAFCENT’s CAOC leverages that ability by ensuring it has multiple locations ready to take on its complex mission demands. 

“Being distributed isn’t just operationally smart, but it also presents a lot of organizational opportunities,” said Col. Frederick Coleman III, 609th AOC commander. “One of the opportunities it presents is the ability to turn off our systems to take care of some long-overdue renovations. Over the past several weeks, we did just that. We closed down our operations floor at Al Udeid and we completely overhauled the way it is designed.”

Investing in the CAOC at Al Udeid also helps reinforce AFCENT’s commitment to coalition and regional partners.

“Our Qatari partners are fantastic hosts, and we enjoy a terrific partnership with them,” said Coleman. “We will continue to invest in our relationship with Qatar, with our coalition partners here at Al Udeid, and in our exquisite command and control facility here.”

The CAOC commands and controls the broad spectrum of what air power brings to the fight: global vigilance, global reach and global power for America and its partners. Serving as the operational bridge that integrates and synchronizes strategic decisions to tactical-level execution, the CAOC is comprised of a vast array of people, programs and processes that execute day-to-day combined air, space, and cyber operations.

“The AOC embodies the fundamental Air Force tenet of centralized control & decentralized execution,” said Coleman. “Air power is a distinct competitive advantage – and the AOC is how we leverage this competitive advantage in the most efficient and effective way.

“Centralized control doesn’t mean centrally located,” Coleman continued. “We have to be smart about how we posture. We need to be agile. We need to be lean. We can’t be anchored in any single location.  We need to have a shared awareness and distributed capabilities that allow us to employ from multiple locations, and aren’t dependent on any single person, system or facility.”

The new layout not only improves operations and streamlines communication, but it also contributes to the health and safety of the force.

“The new layout of the operations floor will also help mitigate the spread of COVID,” said Gonzalez. “It gives our personnel more spacing between positions and provides a better area for information flow between different areas of the Air Operations Center. We will continue to invest in the AUAB and Shaw structures to ensure we continue to operate from both locations.”