You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.
The Air Force set off almost 4 years ago to get serious about cyber. Air, space and cyber became the new mission. Initial plans for a major command for cyberspace stalled but smoothed the way for the real warfighting organization which stood up August 18: 24th Air Force.
Every USAF warfighter belongs to a “numbered air force” and cyber now has 24th Air Force, commanded by Maj. Gen. Dick Webber and headquartered at Lackland AFB, in Texas, a long-time home of cool spooky secret intel things. It reports up to Air Force Space Command, where four-star General C. Robert Kehler is in charge.
Their first order of business is protecting networks, and they’re also formalizing their place in US Cyber Command, a new, sub-unified command to be created later this year. Look for 24th Air Force to move the network operations center now at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, to Lackland.
Will airmen fight the net as well as defending it? “We don’t comment on capabilities,” Kehler noted delicately. One certain fact is that airmen will be in the fray setting up network domains just about anywhere air and spacecraft fly. They “go into the hinterlands and build the networks,” said Webber.
Airmen have relied for years on encrypted chat rooms linking aircraft and ground operations centers. The crew of a radar surveillance plane like JSTARS may work in 20 or more different chat rooms with other airmen and joint force warfighters every night over Afghanistan. That information rides in part on networks defended by the officers, enlisted airmen and civilians of 24th Air Force.
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