But there is an underlying issue with both the new problems and the new solutions—how do you train against them and develop advanced tactics?
“We don't have really good ways to simulate these problems today,” Elder says. “If we jam GPS [navigation] or line-of-sight communications, it has effects on civil air travel and television sets. We're also used to flying remotely piloted aircraft over Afghanistan and Iraq, and they worked well, but we didn't have to deal with communications being threatened and people trying to get in to put a cyberthreat on the system. If you deal with a peer adversary, those things are going to happen. Rather that let that occur, we're trying to think about what an adversary would do and try to stay a step ahead.”
In fact, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operating in a contested airspace was one of the primary drivers of the Ewice study.
“It requires a lot of connectivity to command and control RPAs and to get information off of them,” Elder says. “Right now, that requires an uncontested environment. Is there another way to operate them effectively, even if communications are degraded? We could use medium-altitude RPAs as standoff communications adjuncts until they are needed for their [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capabilities.”
The Ewice study involves the U.S. Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Air Force and Canadian Air Force. The Ewice project has begun discussions with coalition partners about involving their systems and technologies in order to understand how those and their tactics fit in. Program offices, development planning offices and the Air Force Research Laboratory are participating as well.
The study also will incorporate the findings from a number of previous senior-level studies, such as “A Day Without Space,” which confronted officials with a temporary loss of all sources of information gathered from spacecraft.
“We started thinking about how we might deal with degraded space capabilities as we began working through the Pacific Pivot,” Elder says. “Perhaps we should do a Day Without Spectra, Information, Cyber or Early Warning. They are intended to produce input from a lot of the primary thinkers across the services and our allies.”