By 2nd Lt. Suzanne Kohout
21st Space Wing Public Affairs

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – A recently concluded exercise has proven that space is rapidly improving all aspects of the battlefield operations, said the commander of last month’s 11-day Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2002.

“We intended to send information as rapidly as possible from the combined air operations center, where the decisions can be made, to the warfighter in the air so that we can prosecute faster,” said Lt. Gen. Tom Hobbins, 12th Air Force commander at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., and the air and space component commander of the exercise. “And we’re narrowing the time it takes to find, fix, track, target, engage and assess significantly in this experiment.”

The 12th Air Force is the “warfighter” numbered air force given responsibility for conducting the air and space war portion of the experiment.

The exercise, a massive experiment in improving and refining those aspects, was centered at Nellis. It was the Air Force component of Millennium Challenge 2002, a joint warfighting experiment mandated by Congress and sponsored by U.S. Joint Forces Command.

The goals of JEFX were to improve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the battlefield as well as test the expeditionary air operations centers with automation technology.

The scenario was set for 2007, as the exercise utilized capabilities already in place that will continue to that year or those being tested for use five years from now.

The scenario also proved that space’s integration in all technological systems will be even more important five years from now as it is today.

“JEFX drove home the total integration of space into all we do,” said Brig. Gen. Duane Deal, 21st Space Wing commander and one of two deputies to Hobbins during the exercise. “To put it into context, during the Desert Shield Gulf War preparations, we were scrambling to procure and install Global Positioning System receivers into aircraft, something not really pushed heavily before then. Today, we have GPS integrated into everything we do, from navigation positioning and timing, to GPS-guided weapons.”

Deal said that the pervasiveness of space’s involvement in space-based communications, weather tracking and forecasting, missile warning and other systems has made space as essential to a soldier in the field as his helmet.

“[It is] imperative to integrate space-smart pros into every portion of our Air Force and also to address the command-and-control aspects of space capabilities,” Deal said. “We must know the intricacies of utilizing the gamut of air platforms and tactics — from unmanned aerial vehicles to fighters to bombers. And we, in space, must bring our unquestioned expertise in space to integrate into wartime operations.”

Tech. Sgt. Tim Dougherty, of Air Force Print News, contributed to this article.