Breathing AIR into MDF reprogramming

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Benjamin Aronson
  • 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing Public Affairs
The Crows at the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing (SWW) are evaluating a new process that could change how the U.S. Air Force approaches Electromagnetic Warfare Integrated Reprogramming (EWIR) to better adapt to wartime reprogramming timelines and support Agile Combat Employment (ACE) operations through a process called Agile Integrated Reprogramming (AIR).

“Our Airmen, our equipment, our weapon systems have to be Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) they have to be agile,” said Gen. Mark Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command. “They have to be able to reprogram at the speed of relevance.”

Reprogramming at the speed of relevance is what the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron aims to accomplish through AIR, a process to mitigate deficiencies and allow for faster reprogramming in EWIR, the process for the U.S. Air Force to detect Electromagnetic (EM) missions of threats, analyze their impact on warfighters and assets, reprogram Mission Data Files (MDFs) and field those changes to warfighters.

AIR uses the Mission Data Risk Matrix (MDRM) at its the core and is how the EWIR enterprise balances speed with a comprehensive and technical review process. This is how EWIR squadrons, such as the 36th EWS, can assess and communicate an acceptable level of risk in the Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (EMSO) environment to commanders and warfighters who can make more informed decisions to achieve operational objectives.

When releasing MDFs through AIR, transmitting this data must be done securely to the warfighters operating on the edge. Agile Data Distribution (ADD), a component of AIR, focuses on achieving this goal, leveraging both secure commercial and government communication pathways. 

“AIR itself is meant to help expedite EWIR in a wartime scenario where we are fighting a modern adversary that challenges our reprogramming timelines,” said Capt. Philip Liotta, 36th EWS weapons and tactics flight commander. “If the adversary is moving quickly, the intelligence and EW community will have to change TTPs to keep up.”

The 36th EWS has already been testing components of AIR at flag exercises across the country.
Beginning at Black Flag 22-1 through most recently Red Flag 23-1, the 36th EWS has evaluated the MDRM and other components of the expediated process, stressing it under combat-condition scenarios to quickly reprogram tasked aircraft operating at the leading edge of the conflict.

While AIR continues to go through more testing, the lessons learned on how to adapt and operate in war-time environment are invaluable and directly support the U.S. Air Force’s ability to achieve EMS dominance and win against any near-peer threat.  

“We’re not in the business of just trying to survive, we want to dominate,” said Liotta. “If we are not constantly reassessing how we do operations, we are going to be outpaced by the enemy threat in a highly contested Electromagnetic Environment.”