ATAK and defend; 325th SFS integrates electronic C2

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stefan Alvarez
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Tyndall Air Force Base's 325th Security Forces Squadron began fielding an electronic command and control system in another push towards innovating the “Installation of the Future.”

This month, the Airmen of the 325th SFS utilized the Android Tactical Assault Kit on their patrols, marking their first instance using a real-time Command and Control, or C2, system exclusively for base defense missions, providing a massive improvement over traditional method.

“They had an initiative across the entire career field a few years ago to ask the question ‘How are you guys modernizing or innovating?’” said Staff Sgt. James Murphy, 325th SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of technology and innovations. “The inspection teams weren’t happy with how C2 of forces was done using security cameras and two-way radios to communicate back and forth. That’s were ATAK comes in.”

Developed by the Air Force Research Lab, the ATAK system operates on electronic tablets and phones, offering real-time mapping, and visual and communication capabilities that provide defenders with near immediate situational awareness. This instantaneous information is accessible to defenders at the Base Defense Operations Center, on patrol or during incidents.

“The system operates off subscriber identity module cards that are encrypted with military and first responder priority,” Murphy said. “This gives us priority on that [network] if it’s bogged down by a lot of people at an air show for example, so we have uninterrupted communications. If there’s another hurricane and cell towers are all down, these are capable of being tied into our tactical radios that can run encryption. You can have an encrypted network with your tactical radios hooked up on these, connect to each other and still see each other even if you have an entirely cellular denied or degraded environment.”

The digital plotting of emergency scenes with ATAK replaces the previous manual process involving a large map, handwritten directives and two-way radio communication, methods which have been used for over 60 years. The new system offers faster, more efficient means of communication. Defenders can also use the tablets to take photos and instantly share them with the BDOC and other patrols, enhancing situational awareness, especially in shifting patrols and critical incidents.

While the software itself isn’t new, it is a new addition to the tools at the disposal of the 325th SFS to enhance their mission of protecting and defending Tyndall personnel, facilities and assets.

“The ATAK has been in use by U.S. Special Operations Command and Air Force Special Operations Command for a while now,” said Murphy. “While they normally used it on their missions overseas, the Air Force is getting more on board with implementing it across the service in stateside applications. If a defender is trained on it while they were at one base and change duty stations, they can show up and get right back into it.”

The goal for the 325th SFS is to have all first responder agencies utilize ATAK to decrease response times for all emergency services.

“With the Air Force pushing for Joint All Domain Command and Control, they’re looking for a way to integrate all these info systems together,” Murphy said. “We are currently working with the wing’s plans and programs office to try to expand this capability out to the fire department, EOD, emergency medical services and every other first responder on base in order to basically make sure that we're all sharing the same information together when it comes to incident management.”

Murphy believes the ATAK system can have huge implications across the Department of Defense and become a core component of daily operations.

“Ideally with ATAK integration, we don't have to rely on someone being in the field communicating back to a joint operation center, where some Air Force guy sitting next to a Marine has to regurgitate everything just for the Marines to able to push information out,” he said. “Instead, we can just have all these different service components all together on the same server, all able to communicate and interact. Sharing information between services, especially in a deployed environment, is critical and could mean life or death.”

With ATAK having the ability to increase the effectiveness of base defense and incident responsiveness from all agencies, the future of Air Force emergency services can be enhanced with it’s implementation.

“We’re going to continue training, exercising and integrating ATAK into our daily operations,” said Murphy. “It’s going to make us faster and better at our jobs, keep us safe and keep the base and it’s members safe.”