Driving innovation, 606th ACS and 435th AGOW refine tactical C2

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  • By 31st Fighter Wing and 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs 31st Fighter Wing and 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
  • 31st Fighter Wing and 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs 31st Fighter Wing and 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Multi-capable Airmen and equipment assigned to the 606th Air Control Squadron, from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, have forward deployed to areas throughout Europe to provide critical command and control capabilities in support of ongoing NATO operations throughout Eastern Europe.

The 606th ACS is a tactical command and control (C2) combat unit that specializes in air domain awareness and agile control integration, and works with operational C2 elements to receive information from the 603rd Air Operations Center out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, alongside northern and southern NATO forces.

The 435th AGOW’s Tactical Air Control Party operators and 1st Combat Communication Squadron personnel specialize in providing joint fires integration and ensuring tactical command and control through resilient communications systems. Together, the 606th ACS and 435th AGOW utilize Agile Combat Employment skills and knowledge to rapidly deploy, decentralize battle management and produce time-sensitive targeting processes during integrated coalition operations.

"We have three different operational command and control agencies that we are communicating with who push information down to us," said Capt. Philip Stephenson, 606th ACS chief of weapons and tactics. "As a tactical command and control unit we are taking that information, consolidating it and applying it at the tactical level through multiple domains."

These units specialize in executing agile control integration in support of dynamic targeting for rotary and fixed wing assets. This construct prioritizes weapons solutions with specialty skill sets to ensure successful integration during coalition operations.

“The integration we are seeing from the team is critical to the future force projection of NATO air assets as well as enhancing the current capability of the Air Component,” said the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron TACP mission commander. “We have the right Airmen, in the right positions, to effect change at the strategic level utilizing tactical systems.”

The 606th ACS is an information hub for NATO’s Eastern flank, and the 435th AGOW provides integral battlespace awareness from the forward edge. Working as a two-way street, these units also receive input from pilots and other channels to establish a common operational and tactical picture across the theater.

From Aviano's F-16 Fighting Falcons to RAF Lakenheath’s F-15E Strike Eagles fly, the 606th ACS and 435th AGOW provide aircrews with information on the environment they are flying into and makes sure they receive the fuel and targeting data they need. The 606th ACS is in charge of tracking a fleet of refueling tankers to ensure the pilots in the area of responsibility are ready at a moment's notice to complete the mission.

“In [U.S. European Command], we have the opportunity to completely overhaul how the USAF presents and employs theater air control,” said Lt. Col. Anthony D’Agostino, 606th ACS director of operations. “Our hybrid unit exists to paint the picture for what is happening in the air, land, and sea; then build solutions as the operating environment changes.”

Agile Combat Employment is a large proponent in what allows the units to innovate the execution of theater air control and rapidly deploy. This includes expertly maneuvering to new locations on the fly, training to quicker timelines, and relying upon NATO counterparts and partner nation agreements for success.

"The importance of ACE is being able to maneuver quickly," said Stephenson. “We put a lot of training into what we do and work a lot with our fighter units across Europe, including our NATO partners, to be united as a singular front."

Training across not only multiple wings, but also with NATO partners, ensures a collective understanding of how to execute rapid and reliable operations in support of the defense of NATO. The 606th ACS and 435th AGOW’s combined contingency support bolsters aircraft de-confliction, threat awareness, and smooth coordination with host nation counterparts.

Their efforts not only streamlined efforts for NATO command and control operations, but also demonstrated the effects of combat communications, TACP operators, and the Control and Reporting Center integration. Together, these units are shaping next-generation employment for combat operations in contested and degraded communication environments.

The 435th AGOW and 606th ACS continues to drive the next evolution in pairing special warfare Airmen, communications professionals, and battle management experts between the U.S. NATO Allies to create real-time decision superiority at the tactical edge.