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In 2006, the United States Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) had a requirement to control airspace over a combat area for both military operations and civilian flights. Known as Air Battle Management (ABM) and Air Traffic Control (ATC), both environments regard flight safety as the highest priority. These activities are typically directed by air traffic controllers and air battle managers who operate from separate facilities near the front lines.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Booz Allen, under a contract with SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic, developed an operations facility to co-locate these functions into an integrated air control system, a battlespace command-and-control center, or BC3. The benefits were clear—improved data sharing, greater protection for personnel and equipment, and improved supply-chain efficiencies.
Booz Allen designed a new structure for the combined operations, one that could deliver the required benefits and be assembled and tested stateside, then disassembled and relocated to the front lines. In 2008, Booz Allen was asked to design and field another BC3 for an additional combat area; this BC3 assumed two missions in one geographic area.
Two years later, in 2010, the environment changed again. We were now dealing with multiple conflicts over larger geographic areas, improved technologies—and had the opportunity to put fewer lives at risk by locating the control facility outside the combat zone.
“Build a transportable command-and-control facility to support air, space, surface and cyber operations? Booz Allen has the know-how.”
With the same SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic client, Booz Allen was charged with designing a new command-and-control facility called the battlespace command and control center–theater, or BC3-T. Its modular structure would include three separate operations floors capable of simultaneously directing missions in multiple conflict areas from one location. It would be built in the U.S., shipped inside 15 40-foot containers, and assembled in the theater of operations.
The normal pipeline for creating a program like the BC3-T is 4 to 5 years. That includes 2 years to design and up to 3 years to build once funding is approved. The problem is that by the time requirements are finalized, the technology is often outdated.
We set out to build a transportable facility incorporating advanced capabilities to support air, space, surface and cyber operations thousands of miles from the theater of operations.
At Booz Allen, we know how to evaluate needs, project the evolution of technology and develop requirements simultaneously so what we build isn’t obsolete by the time it’s implemented. Our clients provide a goal and mission statement and then we work shoulder to shoulder to discover, evaluate and implement new capabilities, even in the face of advancing technologies and shifting priorities.
This type of engagement requires hands-on design troubleshooting and team management. Our engineers often work on-site to understand the hardships and sticking points for people on the ground, resulting in easier installations and faster repairs.
Designing, building and testing the BC3-T took 3 years and required systems, electronic, network, facility, mechanical and power engineers as well as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, logistics, technicians, project and financial management experts.
Today, the BC3-T supports Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, coalition defense of the Arabian Gulf, and other U.S. Central Command missions.
That support has meant fewer lives being put at risk thanks to better, more efficient ways to share data, as well as other advances. The combined facility requires less manpower and offers better air picture and voice capabilities. Information is consolidated into a voice and data display, and formerly stove-piped systems have been integrated into the Department of Defense’s information network.
The entire system is securely built in the U.S. and goes through operational tests before being deployed.
The program sponsor, AFCENT has improved capabilities and reduced manpower costs. With multiple theaters around the world, our client is now sharing best practices, lessons learned and what to avoid with other command-and-control platforms to improve their capabilities.