ACC A2 Airman emitting ‘accelerate change’

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Jonathan Carkhuff
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs

A difficult scenario for any Air Force pilot is the possibility of flying into enemy airspace defended by layers of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).

While, the more difficult challenge for Air Combat Command is how to replicate those SAMs or other adversarial weapons systems that could, one day, be aimed at Airmen in a near-peer conflict. 

Capt. David Coyle, Chief, ACC A2 Weapons and Tactics, has taken on that challenge of providing realistic training against SAM threats to pilots at approximately a 99.7% cost reduction to the Air Force.

“Our job at the MAJCOM is to organize, train and equip our Airmen,” Coyle said. “When I got to the MAJCOM, I thought I’d be writing reports and making PowerPoints.  I am excited to be involved in multiple processes where we can experiment with new ways of doing business; the low-cost threat emitter is but one of many projects helping shape the way we prepare for future conflict”

The foundational purpose of a threat emitter is to replicate a surface-to-air missile system, designed to track, shoot and guide a missile to the target aircraft.  While on the pilot’s side, their aircraft are equipped with sensors to detect SAM systems and alert the pilot to the threat type, location and action. 

However, the current emitters used by the Air Force are large - approximately the size of a shipping container and expensive.  Due to their size they are difficult to move, and their cost requires surrounding infrastructure for protection from the elements of a desert training range.

According to Coyle, the Low-Cost Threat Emitter is a tripod and desktop computer-sized hardware, built with commercially available equipment.  It can be assembled and moved by just one airman and requires only an external generator for power.  The total cost comes out to approximately $30,000 per unit, and is designed to train pilots flying fifth generation such as the F-35A Lightning II and F-22 Raptor, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. 

“Our ACC leaders give us freedom to experiment, try new things, fail fast and learn,” Coyle said. “Even with this prototype Low-Cost Threat Emitter, we have an open opportunity to adapt at an accelerated pace, which, in the Agile Combat Environment (ACE), is critical to staying ahead of our near-peer competitors.”

The Low-Cost Threat Emitter has already played a role in multiple exercises and is scheduled for use in several upcoming events as the Air Force adapts to the ACE, but for it be fully effective to train ACE concepts, more Low-Cost Threat Emitters will be required to replicate the density and fidelity of a real-world threat environment for pilots. 

“The Low-Cost Threat Emitter is a prime example of empowered Airmen understanding our adversaries and current technology, so they can seize opportunities to accelerate change,” said Brig. Gen. Steven Gorski, ACC Director of Intelligence.  “Their ideas and innovation prepare our Air Force to compete, deter and win.”