The Air and Space Operations Centre Air Tasking Cycle

For air power to effectively contribute to the joint environment, the AOC utilises the Air Tasking Cycle to plan, execute and assess the employment of air power effects. This also gives Air Force units the information they need to tactically implement the
For air power to effectively contribute to the joint environment, the AOC utilises the Air Tasking Cycle to plan, execute and assess the employment of air power effects. This also gives Air Force units the information they need to tactically implement their part of the air campaign.
 
Beginning with the Strategy Division, a number of inputs are considered before campaign objectives are developed. From this, the Air Operations Directive (AOD), and underpins the entire Air Tasking Cycle.
 
Combat Plans Division use the AOD to identify specific targets, weapons allocation and asset or aircraft allocations, identifying the overall weight-of-effort for particular effects. This is captured in the Air Tasking Order (ATO).
 
The Combat Operations Division is then responsible for the execution of the ATO, providing updated direction to the units and assets involved as the situation evolves and priorities change.
 
Specialist teams within the AOC provide subject matter expertise into planning and execution stages such as targeters, air mobility, joint personnel recovery and aeromedical evacuation.
 
Once the execution of the current ATO has been completed, the Strategy Division conducts an operational assessment of key objectives, which informs future planning efforts.
 
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division provides intelligence assessments of adversary action, informing the entire AOC through all stages of the Air Tasking Cycle.
 
Strategy Division
 
Strategy Division (SRD) is responsible for the Air Operations Directive and Force Generation planning which outlines the Director General Air intent and priorities for Air Force activities – how the aircraft and assets are to be used.
 
Staff Officer Strategy Guidance, SQNLDR Simon Longley said the SRD is uniquely placed at both the beginning and end of the Air Tasking Cycle.
 
“SRD is responsible for developing the objectives for new tasks and assessing previously executed ones,” SQNLDR Longley said.
 
“To communicate this, we develop the Air Operations Directive which describes the Commander’s intent, priorities and which assets can achieve the campaign objectives.”
 
“Any commander, aircrew or combat support staff member in Air Force can read this document to understand what the senior air commander’s intent is for that task and how the plan fits with other campaign assets, including Navy and Army.”
 
SQNLDR Longley said working in the AOC is as close as you can get to conducting operations without physically being deployed.
 
“We play a critical role in ensuring the right platform delivers the right effect at the right time” SQNLDR Longley said.
 
Combat Operations Division
 
Combat Operations Division is the ‘plan execution’ phase of the Air Tasking Cycle. Former Deputy Chief Combat Operations, SQNDLR Patrick Greentree said that executing RAAF operations gave him a great insight into what our Air Force achieved every day.
 
“Combat Operations is a very dynamic environment – no day is the same. We execute operations which have been meticulously planned from the strategic through to tactical levels, providing oversight and direction from DGAIR,” SQNLDR Greentree said.
 
“We also provide the Diplomatic Clearance function for our aircraft landing in other countries, and the search and rescue response for the entire ADF.” 
 
SQNLDR Greentree said Combat Operations Division plays a critical role linking the wider Air Force to operations.
 
“We are the key linkage between all Air Force elements conducting operations, and HQJOC.
 
“As our Air Force units carry out their assigned tasks, we provide overarching guidance to ensure they are clear with what we’re directing them to do, which is often at short notice.”
 
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division
 
ISR Division’s core role is to analyse current and emerging adversary capabilities and courses-of-action in order to inform the Air Tasking Cycle. In addition, the ISR Operations team plans all ISR effects across the air campaign.
 
ISR Operations Collection Manager, FLTLT Samuel Baldock said the AOC is focused on an effects-based approach.
 
“We aim to task subordinate elements with the effect we want to achieve, not how to achieve it. They can make the tactical decision on how to achieve it, enabling effective air power,” FLTLT Baldock said.
 
“As the sensor tasking authority for DGAIR, ISR Ops works with Air Force units and HQJOC to ensure our RAAF ISR sensors are effectively tasked. The analysis, correlation and fusion team then determines the intelligence ‘so what’ for the air campaign.
 
“This informs the current fight and subsequent tasking and overall distribution of ISR sensors across the air campaign.”
 
FLTLT Baldock said the AOC is critical to ensuring air power can have the right effect in the joint environment.
 
“We ensure air power effects are effectively planned and executed in the joint environment – particularly important for our high demand, low quantity ISR assets.”
 
Joint Airspace Control Cell 
 
The Joint Airspace Control Cell (JACC) is the central point of airspace management for the ADF.
 
Staff Officer Airspace Operations, FLTLT Ben Chaffey said the JACC is responsible for developing airspace control plans for the safe and efficient conduct of exercises and operations.
 
“Developing airspace control plans requires months of coordination and planning with civilian airlines and air traffic control, Army and Navy, as well as other government agencies and international partners,” FLTLT Chaffey said.
 
“For Operation APEC 18 Assist, we developed procedures to integrate unmanned aerial systems into civil controlled airspace in Papua New Guinea.
 
“For Operation Atlas (ADF support to Commonwealth Games), the JACC planned the airspace procedures in conjunction with the Queensland and Federal Governments for more than a year, and were involved during execution.”
 
FLTLT Chaffey said the JACC requires lateral thinking and good negotiating skills.
 
“It is such a busy but rewarding place to work. I’ve learnt so much in such a short time frame, and being able to contribute to operations as a FLTLT has been invaluable.”
 
Australian Space Operations Centre
 
AUSSpOC provides Space operational advice to DGAIR, CJOPS and the joint warfighter; working closely with coalition partners and external Australian agencies such as the Bureau of Meteorology and Emergency Management Australia. NCO Space, CPL Dane Reynolds said AUSSpOC supports all parts of the Air Tasking Cycle with specialist Space advice.
 
“We provide guidance on satellite vulnerability for the whole ADF, advising tactical units of any space-based risks to their mission,” CPL Reynolds said.
 
CPL Reynolds has completed a number of Space Operations courses and enjoys working in the interesting AUSSpOC environment.
 
“I have really enjoyed working in AUSSpOC, particularly the confidence from my superiors in my expertise and experience on different tasks, despite my rank.”
 
Joint Personnel Recovery
 
The Joint Personnel Recovery team covers the spectrum of recovery operations from search and rescue (SAR) in non-threatening environments through to combat SAR and special recovery operations in hostile environments.
 
Staff Officer Joint Personnel Recovery, SQNDLR Peter Fishpool said SAR is a 24 hour-a-day job with one of the team always on shift to coordinate requests for assistance.
 
“We coordinate SAR responses as they happen, including requests for assistance from civilian authorities and monitoring any ADF SAR beacon activations,” SQNLDR Fishpool said.
 
“As part of the Air Tasking Cycle, we produce personnel recovery and SAR plans for ADF exercises and operations, and pass them on to relevant units.
 
“Recently, we coordinated a SAR plan for an injured civilian yachtsman off WA and our plans were used by the P-8A Poseidon crew to conduct their tactical search and rescue mission.”
 
Command, Control, Communications and Computers
 
Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) is responsible for producing the Air Tasking Order for Combat Plans Division.
 
Tactical Systems Operator, LAC Troy Cannon said the Air Tasking Order outlines to all Air Force units what effects need to be achieved for operations and exercises.
 
“With the Air Tasking Order, we can coordinate all flying for Air Force aircraft conducting domestic and regional operations or exercises,” LAC Cannon said.
 
“The AOC is a good posting to gain an understanding of Air Force operations from a higher headquarters. It helped me gain the understanding of the big picture and why commanders make the decisions they do.”
 
Aeromedical Evacuation Control Cell
 
The Aeromedical Evacuation Control Cell (AECC) is responsible for the conduct of strategic aeromedical evacuation (AME) for ADF personnel, approved Australian civilians and Foreign Nationals from an area of operations. SNCO AME Coordinator, FSGT Robyn McEnearney said the AECC provides specialist AME advice to the Air Tasking Cycle and HQJOC.
 
“When we receive AME requests from our deployed medical staff, we plan the best way to move the member to their home location or the nearest appropriate health care facility.
 
“We task No. 3 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron to provide clinical care in the air for members that need to be medically returned to Australia, both internationally and domestically.
 
“With our oversight of strategic, forward and tactical AME, we can make sure DGAIR and ultimately ACAUST have the right advice to plan and conduct AME support for any ADF operation or exercise.”