In the report, released Friday, GAO states that the Air Force’s Capability Release 1 (CR-1) of ABMS, the service’s contribution to the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control effort, will enable data transfer between communications systems on the KC-46 tanker, command and control ground systems and the F-35 fighter. Initial plans for CR-1 also included data transfer capabilities to and from F-22 aircraft, which currently can’t share information with the F-35 due to incompatible radio systems. 

“To help address this issue, the [Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office] initially planned for Capability Release 1 to provide links for F-35s or F-22s to share data with command and control locations on the ground,” according to the GAO. “RCO officials stated they later determined that the Capability Release 1 prototype would not include the F-22 connectivity requirement, in part, because of the F-22’s reduced role in the future force structure.”

The Air Force hasn’t yet updated documents to reflect excluding the F-22 and the shift to prioritizing the F-35, and officials from the RCO said they could potentially address F-22 connectivity in the future, according to the GAO. 

The Rapid Capabilities Office also needs to identify capabilities it intends to deliver this year under its cloud-based command and control (CBC2) ABMS effort. The service plans to “integrate a variety of air defense data sources to support homeland defense” under the CBC2 effort and it will build upon a software tool prototype for NORAD and NORTHCOM called Pathfinder, which takes data from aircraft and radars and analyzes it, according to the report. 

“The RCO intends for CBC2 to replace one legacy command and control system and incorporate data feeds from three other systems,” the report says. “To provide this capability, the Air Force plans to establish a cloud-based command and control network that enables on-demand access to shared computing resources.”

The service will develop incremental releases of small software applications using the Software Acquisition Pathway to meet requirements for CBC2. 

In February 2022, the Air Force finalized system requirements for the effort, but it has yet to define initial operational capabilities required by the end of fiscal 2023 for CBC2. Since the service has not yet defined those capabilities, it remains unclear what software developers can deliver within its schedule. The Air force plans to deliver initial capabilities this year, the GAO says.

“Therefore, the cost estimate through fiscal year 2025 remains at risk of not reflecting required resources until the requirements and schedule are clarified and incorporated into an updated cost estimate,” according to the GAO. 

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