Chapter 2: Command in the Aerospace Domain (B-GA-401-000/FP-001, Canadian Forces Aerospace Command Doctrine)

Grouping units along functional lines greatly enhances the overall effect of command and control within the aerospace domain. Critical to the success of the mission is the understanding of both the chain of command and the function of commanders at various levels. It is through this structure that commanders exercise the command and control of complex aerospace operations.

Royal Canadian Air Force Organization

In order to ensure unity of command, an organizational structure must adopt a well-defined and logical chain of command. The organizational structure of Canadian Forces (CF) aerospace forces consists of the following:

  1. Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). A single unified environment of the CF that provides air and space forces.
  2. Air division (Air Div). An air division is a formation of aerospace forces grouped together under an operational-level commander. Normally, an air division is comprised of two or more wings.
  3. Wing (wg). A wing is a tactical level formation of aerospace forces that conducts aerospace operations. A wing includes groupings of squadrons, units, sub-units, and staffs that perform the aerospace activities of command, aerospace operations, operations support, and mission support. A wing can either be established at a main operating base (MOB) or along functional lines with a headquarters and dispersed units. When deployed, a wing is called an air expeditionary wing (AEW).
  4. Squadron (sqn) / unit. A squadron is a tactical level unit of aerospace forces organized for the conduct of aerospace operations and activities. The RCAF organizes other units (schools, centres, establishments, etc.) to perform functions such as training, education, and research. A squadron/unit requires the support of a wing to function fully, whether at an MOB, other base, or while deployed. A squadron/unit consists of sub-units, known as flights, which perform specific duties to support the squadron/unit.
  5. Flight (flt). A flight is a tactical level sub-unit of aerospace forces that is organized for the conduct of aerospace operations and activities. A flight is normally a sub-unit of a squadron/unit and has a specific purpose such as operations, maintenance, standards, training, or support.
  6. Sub-flight (sub-flt). A sub-flight is a tactical level sub-subunit of aerospace forces, organized for the conduct of aerospace operations and activities. A sub-flight is the smallest element in the RCAF and normally performs missions and tasks during the execution of aerospace power. A sub-flight is generally known as a crew, section, team, or by a similar name.

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Figure 2-1 illustrates the organizational structure of Canadian Forces aerospace forces, which is divided into three tiers: command, formation and unit. The command tier is strategic-level command. The Royal Canadian Air Force is found within this tier. The formation tier consists of the operational-level formation and the tactical-level formation. The air division is found at the operational level and the wing at the tactical level. The wing at the tactical level may be a main operating base or dispersed units. The unit tier consists of the unit level and the sub-unit level. Squadrons are found at the unit level and flights at the sub-unit level. Crews, sections, teams, etcetera are found within flights. End Figure 2-1.

Figure 2-1. Hierarchical organization of aerospace forces

  

Organization of Aerospace Forces by Activity

Activities. Aerospace forces can be organized by one of four activities that they perform.

  1. Command is both an RCAF function and an activity. Command activities include the monitoring, assessing, planning, directing, and coordinating of all the other aerospace functions in order to accomplish assigned missions. The activity of Command constitutes an essential area of activity.
  2. Aerospace operation refers to “an activity, or series of activities, related to the planning and application of aerospace power to achieve assigned objectives.”[1] Aerospace operations normally involve more than one mission or type of mission. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to 
    1.  strategic attack;
    2. offensive and defensive counter-air;
    3. active and passive air defence;
    4. offensive and defensive space;
    5. air interdiction;
    6. close air support;
    7. antisurface and antisubmarine warfare;
    8. airlift;
    9. air-to-air refueling;
    10. electronic warfare;
    11. collection operations; and
    12. search and rescue.
  3. Operations support is an activity that includes “the provision of assistance that directly supports aerospace operations.”[2] This includes, but is not necessarily limited to
    1. operations planning and coordination;
    2. intelligence;
    3. aerospace management and control services;
    4. meteorology;
    5. aircraft maintenance;
    6. force protection;
    7. police and security services;
    8. chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) detection; and
    9. explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) / improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD).

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  1. Mission support is an activity that provides “logistical, technical and administrative support to operations.”[3] This includes, but is not necessarily limited to
    1. construction engineering;
    2. communication and information systems (CIS);
    3. supply;
    4. transport;
    5. electrical and mechanical engineering;
    6. food services;
    7. human resources; and
    8. finance services.

Organizing aerospace forces by their activity. This grouping into four areas of activity is flexible and provides a coherent organizing principle for aerospace forces. It is scalable, from large MOBs down to a small detachment. This grouping is used as an organizing principle at different levels as follows:

  1. Higher headquarters. These same categories may be used at higher headquarters (HQ) levels for organizing a large staff. For example, commanders may choose to appoint deputy commanders or chiefs of staff for the categories of force employment (FE), operations support, and mission support.
  2. Main operating bases. A wing organization at an MOB will normally reflect this grouping as follows:
    1. Command. At MOBs, the command element includes the wing commanders, their immediate staff, and those branch heads and key personnel from wing organizations that commanders employ as advisors and staff. Wing commanders employ a wing operations centre (WOC) in order to exercise effective command and control (C2) of their assigned forces.
    2. Aerospace operations. Squadrons and units responsible for aerospace operations constitute this grouping within a wing.
    3. Operations support. At MOBs, the operations support function is performed by the wing operations branch and an air maintenance squadron. 
    4. Mission support. At MOBs, the mission support function is performed by the wing administrative and wing logistics/ engineering branches.

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  1. Expeditionary operations. An AEW employs the same structure as an MOB. The construct of an AEW is scaled to fit the needs of a given operation.
    1. Command. An AEW commander employs the wing staff and WOC to command assigned forces. 
    2. Aerospace operations. Squadrons, units, detachments, and sub-units responsible for aerospace operations constitute this grouping within an AEW.
    3. Operations support. An operations support flight will be constituted to include all necessary operations support functions.
    4. Mission support. A mission support flight will be constituted to include all necessary mission support functions.
  2. Detachments. Small, temporary groupings of deployed tacticallevel aerospace forces, such as aircraft, C2, and support personnel and equipment designed to perform aerospace operations. Detachments are usually formed at established locations with significant support available, and when the scope of the operation does not warrant the deployment of an AEW. Detachments can be simple (for example, 2 x CC130 operating at an established, allied military airfield) or complex to include support from several wings with different types of aircraft and support requirements. A detachment is commanded by a detachment commander (DETCO) who is supported by sufficient personnel to perform required duties.

 

Command in the Royal Canadian Air Force

The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (Comd RCAF), who also fills the position of the Chief of the Air Force Staff (C Air Force), commands and provides strategic direction for the RCAF. As the senior RCAF officer in the CF, the Comd RCAF is directly responsible to the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) and acts as an advisor on strategic Air Force issues. Comd RCAF is also responsible for generating and sustaining a combat-capable, multipurpose Air Force to meet Canada’s defence objectives. Comd RCAF exercises full command over the RCAF. Two commanders report to the Comd RCAF, namely Commander 1 Canadian Air Division (Comd 1 Cdn Air Div) and Comd 2 Cdn Air Div / Air Force Doctrine and Training Division (AFDT Div).

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The Commander 1 Canadian Air Division is accountable to Comd RCAF and exercises full command over most RCAF formations and units. Comd 1 Cdn Air Div retains residual authorities, including operational airworthiness and flight safety for all CF aerospace forces. The generation of forces for immediate operational employment, including operational training unit / flight oversight and collective training, remain the purview of Comd 1 Cdn Air Div. Comd 1 Cdn Air Div is also the joint forces air component commander (JFACC) for CF operations and exercises operational control over CF aerospace operations. The JFACC is accountable to the designated supported force employment commander (FE Comd) for force employment (FE) of aerospace forces. The Comd 1 Cdn Air Div is also Commander Canadian North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) Region (Comd CANR), and is accountable to Commander NORAD (CDRNORAD) to exercise operational control over all forces allocated or made available for air defence in the region.

The Commander 2 Canadian Air Division / Air Force Doctrine and Training Division (Comd 2 Cdn Air Div / AFDT Div) is accountable to Comd RCAF and has oversight of RCAF individual training and education (AF IT&E), to include ab initio training for most RCAF occupations, core RCAF developmental coursing and related support. The 2 Cdn Air Div / AFDT Div is an RCAF operational-level headquarters, designed to reduce the span of control of Comd 1 Cdn Air Div and focus efforts on doctrine, training, and education. The 2 Cdn Air Div / AFDT Div HQ and Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre (CFAWC) support the overall RCAF training management and doctrinal development.

Air Force Command and Control

“Centralized control and decentralized execution” is the fundamental tenet of aerospace power as it relates to command and control (C2). Aerospace forces are organized based on sound command and control principles with the purpose of achieving operational effectiveness across the spectrum of conflict. Centralized control is required to ensure the most efficient use of limited aerospace assets. To best accomplish overall objectives, aerospace forces are coordinated and directed at the operational level by a single air commander. Centralized control also allows aerospace activities to be refocused quickly to exploit fleeting opportunities, to respond to the changing demands of the operational situation, and to be concentrated at the critical place and time to achieve decisive results. Decentralized execution fosters initiative and situational responsiveness, and provides subordinate commanders with the authority to apply their expertise and understanding of local conditions to accomplish the mission within the guidelines and overall intent of the commander.

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Centralized Control and Decentralized Execution

Centralized control gives coherence, guidance, and organization to the employment of aerospace power. It is achieved through a single aerospace commander, referred to as air component commander (ACC)[4] who, having a theatre-wide perspective, has the authority to assign available forces to best achieve objectives. The ACC is responsible for the control (to include planning, direction, prioritization, allocation, synchronization, integration, and deconfliction) of all aerospace assets.

 Centralized control ensures the most efficient use of limited aerospace forces and permits one commander to confirm, assign, or reassign forces to specific missions, based on changing circumstances and priorities. Decentralized execution, the delegation of authority to subordinate commanders to execute assigned missions, is subject to the commander’s intent, the rules of engagement, and the other parameters established by higher command. Importantly, decentralized execution allows commanders at all levels to apply their expertise and understanding of local conditions for mission accomplishment, while also fostering initiative and situational responsiveness in a dynamic environment.

An ACC must determine two related but distinct factors: the degree to which control will be centralized or decentralized, and the degree to which execution will be centralized or decentralized.

  1. Control. Centralized control means that the ACC retains control of the aerospace assets made available in the area of responsibility (AOR) and tasks are assigned at the ACC level of command. Decentralized control means that the ACC delegates forces, by a change of command relationship, to subordinate commanders. Missions and tasks are then assigned by those subordinate commanders, rather than at the level of the ACC.
  2. Execution. Centralized execution means that decisions as to the tactical execution of missions are determined at the ACC level of command. Decentralized execution may be achieved by providing general guidance to tactical commanders, permitting planning and execution to be accomplished at the tactical level.

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Factors Influencing Centralization of Control

For any military force, a spectrum of control styles is possible, ranging from centralization to decentralization. A commander must consider a number of factors when deciding the degree of centralization or decentralization of control. These factors are:

  1. Unity of command. According to this principle of command, it is always desirable to achieve the maximum possible unity of effort through unity of command.
  2. Concentration of force. According to this principle of war, it is desirable to focus effort at decisive points, rather than scatter resources widely. This can be facilitated by centralizing control.
  3. Economy of effort. This principle of war is a corollary to concentration of force. If there is to be concentration at decisive points, economy of effort must be practised elsewhere.
  4. Reach. Since aircraft are capable of ranging widely within a given theatre during a single mission, they add flexibility to the application of aerospace power. In order to optimize the employment of aerospace forces, centralized control can permit the execution of missions that involve considerable distance from operating bases.
  5. Speed. The high speed typical of most aircraft contributes to their ability to reach any point within a theatre or between theatres in a relatively short time. Centralization of control enhances the ability of commanders to exploit the speed of aerospace forces by ensuring joint operations are properly coordinated.
  6. Impermanence. This characteristic of aerospace power strongly affects the degree of centralization possible. Most aircraft cannot remain in a local area, committed to a local commander, for extended periods of time. They must return to bases to refuel and reload, which argues for centralization of their control. However, some aircraft types (notably rotary wing) can work effectively from dispersed forward locations, which allows for greater decentralization of the control of those aircraft types.
  7. Span of control. This principle of command affects how many forces can be effectively grouped under the control of one commander or agency. Commanders must carefully consider how many forces they can effectively control given their ability to communicate, plan, coordinate, deconflict, and assess mission success from their established location. For example, when an ACC is supported by an aerospace operations centre (AOC) to perform these functions, the span of control for the ACC can be theatre-wide.

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Factors Influencing Decentralization of Execution

Similarly, the critical factors in the aerospace domain influencing the degree of centralization or decentralization of execution are:

  1. Freedom of action. This principle of command makes a decided case against an overly centralized control structure. It is desirable to decentralize the execution of operations to the greatest extent possible in order to maximize flexibility and encourage initiative by tactical commanders.
  2. Flexibility. This principle of war tends to argue against centralization, as speed of response to local circumstances and fleeting opportunities can be facilitated by a wider delegation of authority to local commanders.
  3. Mission command. The CF philosophy of mission command, which emphasizes that only the requisite amount of control should be imposed on subordinates, argues in general for a greater decentralization of execution.[5]

Commanders must analyse the situation, giving due consideration to the above, and then centralize or decentralize their control measures as appropriate to the circumstances. Principles of command and principles of wars, as well as the characteristics of aerospace power, support centralized control and decentralized execution.

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Figure 2-2 shows the spectrum of control as a horizontal line. Highly centralized control is on the left and highly decentralized control is on the right. The factors that affect the degree of centralization are: 1. reach; 2. speed; 3. impermanence; and 4. span of control. The factors that argue for more centralization are: 1. unity of command; 2. concentration of force; and 3. economy of effort. The factors that argue for decentralization are: 1. freedom of action; 2. flexibility; and 3. mission command. The two statements at the bottom of the image are: 1. Aerospace operations as controlled by an air operations centre typically fall towards the centralized end of the spectrum. 2. Other air force operations (such as the activities of an airfield) typically fall towards the more decentralized end of the spectrum. End Figure 2-2.

Figure 2-2. Spectrum of centralization/decentralization in C2

 

Theatre Air Control System

Air operations are controlled through an overarching theatre air control system (TACS). In North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) doctrine, this system is known as the air command and control system (ACCS). The TACS is centred on the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre (CAOC) and includes the organizations, units, personnel, equipment, and procedures necessary to plan, direct, and control air operations, and to coordinate air operations with other components in the joint environment. The Canadian TACS includes the following elements of the air C2 chain that provides operational and tactical C2 for forces executing aerospace missions.

  1. Combined Aerospace Operations Centre (CAOC) is the principal centre from which air operations are directed, monitored, controlled, and coordinated with the other components. In Canada, the CAOC also fulfils the role of NORAD Region Headquarters (CANR HQ), and is co-located with 1 Cdn Air Div HQ at 17 Wg.[6]
  2. Air component headquarters (ACHQ) is the operational-level element that supports an ACC when not physically located at the CAOC. The ACHQ provides the ACC with situational awareness and performs coordination and planning between the ACC, the Joint Task Force Headquarters (JTF HQ), and the CAOC, employing reachback. The ACHQ is a critical requirement that permits the ACC to integrate air effects into joint operations.
  3. Control and reporting centre (CRC) is a ground-based, integrated C2 element that may be static, mobile, or deployable. The CRC manages all defensive air, offensive air, and airspace management activities within an assigned area through surveillance, identification, weapons control, positive and procedural airspace control, and link management. The CRC produces a recognized air picture (RAP) that contributes to the overall common operating picture (COP). A CRC may delegate control, surveillance, and battle management to a subordinate unit capable of better interoperability, radar, and radio coverage to include a tactical control radar unit and airborne warning and control system (AWACS). In Canada, the CRC function is performed by the Canadian Aerospace Defence Sector (CADS), located at 22 Wg.

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  1. Wing Operations Centre (WOC) performs continuous coordination between the wing and the CAOC and between the wing and subordinate squadrons. Feasibility of assigned missions and tasks is verified by the WOC and then assigned to individual squadrons. The WOC monitors and ensures mission result reporting and provides continuous near real-time status of information to the CAOC.
  2. Squadron Operations Centre (SQOC) performs continuous coordination with the WOC for mission preparation. The SQOC is responsible for the preparation of assigned missions and tasks, their timely execution, and the reporting of mission results through the WOC to the CAOC.
  3. Combat operations centre (COC) performs the role of C2 link between the CRC and Alert Force Commander or DETCO for NORAD operations. The COC provides the CRC with continuous reporting and status of NORAD-assigned resources while providing the Air Force command (AF Comd) / DETCO with situational awareness updates and secure connectivity. The COC represents the vital, last link in the C2 chain between JFACC- and NORAD-assigned aircraft captains prior to take-off. In Canada, COCs are located at 3 and 4 Wg, and normally at locations where NORAD-assigned assets are deployed.
  4. Liaison officer (LO) is a tactical level officer assigned to a unit or headquarters for the purpose of coordinating and advising on tactical operational matters. Any RCAF tactical-level commander may deploy an LO to a tactical- or operational-level unit or headquarters to facilitate the integration of air effects.
  5. Air support operations centre (ASOC) is the air liaison element co-located with the senior fielded land formation (usually corps or division). The ASOC coordinates assigned missions with the CAOC and subordinate TACPs within its assigned area of control. The ACC can delegate limited operational control (OPCON) of assigned forces to the ASOC director so that air tasking order (ATO) missions can be tactically re-tasked as required to meet land force requirements in a fluid battle situation.
  6. Tactical air control party (TACP) is the principal liaison and control element aligned with land force manoeuvre units from battalion to corps. The primary mission of a TACP is to advise the respective ground commanders on the capabilities and limitations of air power and assist the ground commander in planning, requesting, coordinating, and controlling air effects. The TACP is designed to leverage the maximum combined effect of the aerospace capability while at the same time minimizing any restriction to the freedom of action of the commander’s organic fire-support assets. Additionally, the plan must allow for the potential integration of stand-off weapons and guided missiles.
  7. Forward air controller (FAC) is “a qualified individual who, from forward position on the ground or in the air, directs the action of combat aircraft engaged in close air support of land forces.”[7] A FAC operating from an airborne platform is known as a FAC(A).

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CF aerospace forces are arranged in accordance with the TACS system. This structure is described in Table 2-1.

 

As force generators, every unit commanding officer and formation commander has full command of assigned forces, as per Canadian Forces Joint Publication (CFJP) 3.0; this chart depicts the force employment model.

 

Table 2-1. CF aerospace forces C2 structure
AppointmentC2 RelationshipStaff SupportLiaison/CoordinationFocus

JFACC or ACC

OPCON
(The JFACC can seek North Atlantic Treaty Organization [OPCOM]of specific aerospace forces from the FE comd)

CAOC or ACHQ

Sends air component coordination element (ACCE)

Receives Liaison Elms

  • Operational level of warfare and campaign planning
  • Assigns mission and tasks

WComd or AEW Commander

Tactical command (TACOM) and Administrative control (ADCON)

WOC

Liaison Officer(s)

(LO)

  • Tactical level of warfare and tasked mission planning
  • Executes mission

Tactical Control (TACON) Units

CRC
ASOC
TACP

TACON Unit Personnel LO
  • Coordinates tactical positioning and flow, local movement and defence at installations

 

Definitions, Roles, and Responsibilities

The CF commanders at all levels have the inherent responsibility to effectively lead the forces assigned to them and successfully accomplish their missions. Understanding the definitions and roles of operational- and tactical-level commanders, and how they integrate, helps to define their responsibilities.

  1. Force employment commander (FE comd). The FE comd is the designated, operational-level commander who organizes assigned/ attached forces to best accomplish the mission based on their vision and concept of operations. An FE comd normally exercises operational command (OPCOM) of assigned forces. The FE comd provides direction and guidance on command and control relationships. The FE comd normally gives the JFACC authority to accomplish assigned missions and tasks, including OPCON of assigned forces and TACON of other forces made available. Normally, the JFACC employs an air component coordination element (ACCE) to facilitate operational-level coordination and planning with the FE comd.
  2. Joint force air component commander (JFACC). The JFACC is the designated commander responsible for making recommendations to the FE comd on the proper employment of all assigned, attached, and made-available aerospace forces. A JFACC normally exercises OPCON of assigned forces. The JFACC is responsible for all aspects of the conduct of the air campaign, including the performing of command and staff functions, conducting joint and component planning, tasking, executing, and overseeing joint aerospace operations, and assessing the effectiveness of their operations and effects. To accomplish these responsibilities, the JFACC is supported by the CAOC. Depending on the scale of a given operation, the JFACC will recommend to the FE comd that C2 of aerospace forces remain with the JFACC or be delegated to an independent ACC or to another component commander (e.g., maritime helicopter OPCON to maritime component commander [MCC] or tactical helicopter to land component commander [LCC]) under the command of a joint task force commander (JTFC). The JFACC may deploy an ACCE to represent the JFACC at the JTF HQ / MCC / LCC / special operations component command (SOCC). In Canada, the JFACC is also the Comd CANR and is accountable to CDRNORAD to exercise C2 of all forces assigned or made available to the NORAD mission in the region.

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  1. Air component commander (ACC). An ACC is the designated commander responsible for making recommendations to the JTFC on the proper employment of all assigned, attached, and made-available aerospace forces. An ACC normally exercises OPCON of assigned forces. The ACC is responsible for all aspects of the conduct of the air campaign, including the performing of command and staff functions, conducting joint and component planning, tasking, executing, and overseeing of joint aerospace operations, and assessing the effectiveness of their operations and effects. To accomplish these responsibilities, an ACC is supported by an ACHQ and a CAOC (either directly, or through reachback when the ACC is deployed forward with the ACHQ). An ACHQ is comprised of a relatively small group of key personnel to aid the ACC in coordinating, planning, and liaising with the CAOC. An ACC may deploy an ACCE to represent the ACC at the JTF HQ/ MCC / LCC / SOCC when the ACC is physically separated.
  2. 2 Air Component Coordination Element (2 ACCE). The 2 ACCE is the liaison and coordination organization that generates the capability to support the JFACC/ACC/ Canadian national commander (CNC) by performing operational-level coordination and planning at a deployed location. The 2 ACCE deploys an ACCE, led by an ACCE director, (designated by the JFACC), to support the JFACC/ACC/ Canadian national commander (CNC) as required. The 2 Wing Commander (W Comd) recommends to the JFACC the composition of each ACCE, based on operational requirements. The 2 ACCE represents a unique, deployable capability within the RCAF that supports the expeditionary mission.
  3. Air Component Coordination Element (ACCE). An ACCE is a liaison and coordination team assigned by the JFACC/ACC to support various commanders, capable of conducting operational level coordination and planning, leveraging the capabilities of a CAOC to integrate air effects into the joint operations. Deploying an ACCE is an option when the JFACC/ACC/CNC is physically separated from the CAOC/AOC/JHQ. Tailored by the JFACC/ ACC who defines their responsibilities, an ACCE is scalable in size and function. An ACCE performs operational-level planning and coordination in three specific instances at the following locations:
    1. JTF HQ. When the JFACC/ACC remains at the CAOC in Winnipeg, an ACCE deploys to the JTF HQ to liaise with the JTFC and other component commanders as required;
    2. ACHQ. An ACCE deploys to an ACHQ to support a deployed ACC;
    3. allied/coalition CAOC and national command element (NCE). An ACCE deploys to an allied/coalition CAOC and the Canadian NCE to support the deployed CNC.

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  1. ACCE director. An ACCE is led by an ACCE director, whose role is to represent the JFACC/ACC/CNC throughout the planning and execution of joint operations. The ACCE director is delegated authority to recommend courses of action, and to ensure that assigned aerospace forces are employed effectively in accordance with JFACC/ACC/CNC guidance. The ACCE director also performs the function of national representative at an allied/coalition CAOC on behalf of the CNC. The JFACC/ ACC/CNC provides the air component coordination element (ACCE) director with specific guidance, clear expectations and the limits of their responsibilities. When deemed necessary to ensure timely tasking of assigned forces, the JFACC/ACC may delegate OPCON over assigned forces to an ACCE director.
  2. Wing Commander (W Comd). A tactical-level commander, the W Comd is subordinate to the JFACC and is assigned forces to enable the execution of assigned missions and tasks. A W Comd normally exercises tactical command (TACOM) of assigned forces. The W Comd is responsible for coordination between assigned forces and the CAOC, adjusting missions and tasks in coordination with the CAOC, and assigning tasks to assigned forces to support missions as required. The W Comd is supported by a WOC.
  3. Air expeditionary wing commander (AEW comd). When deployed on an expeditionary operation, a formation is commanded by an AEW comd. A tactical-level commander, the AEW comd is subordinate to the JFACC/ACC/CNC/JTFC and is assigned forces to enable the execution of assigned missions and tasks. An AEW comd normally exercises TACOM of assigned forces. The AEW comd is responsible for coordination between assigned forces and the CAOC, adjusting missions and tasks in coordination with the CAOC, and assigning tasks to assigned forces to support missions as required. The AEW comd is supported by a WOC.
  4. Squadron commanding officer (sqn CO). A tactical-level commander, subordinate to the W Comd or AEW comd, the sqn CO commands assigned forces, and plans and executes assigned missions and tasks. A sqn CO normally exercises TACOM of assigned forces during force employment operations.
  5. Flight commander (flt comd). A tactical-level commander, subordinate to the sqn CO, the Flt comd commands assigned forces, and plans and executes assigned missions and tasks. The authority and responsibility exercised by Flt comds are at the discretion of the sqn CO.
  6. Sub-flight commander (sub-flt comd). In aerospace operations, a sub-flight is commonly referred to as a section, team, crew, or by another similar name. A tactical-level commander, subordinate to the flt comd, the sub-flt comd commands assigned forces, and plans and executes assigned missions and tasks. The authority and responsibility exercised by sub-flt comds are at the discretion of the sqn CO.
  7. Detachment commander (DETCO). A tactical-level commander who commands a detachment. A DETCO normally exercises TACOM of assigned forces. A DETCO is subordinate to either a JFACC/ACC/CNC/JTFC or W Comd / AEW comd. A DETCO is supported by personnel to ensure coordination with assigned forces and the CAOC/ACHQ/WOC in order to execute the assigned mission.

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Table 2-2. CF aerospace forces C2 structure in joint force employment
Appointment

C2 Authority

Supporting Staff

LiaisonFocus
JTF Comd OPCOM JTF Staff

Coordinates broadly theatre-wide Receives ACCE/LO

  • Command the joint force
  • Operational planning of joint effects
JFACC or ACC

OPCON
(The JFACC can seek OPCOM of specific aerospace forces from the FE comd)

CAOC/AOC

Deploys ACCE/LO Receives LOs

  • Commands air component
  • Operational-level integration of air effects into joint warfare
  • Assigns missions and tasks
ACCE Director

OPCON only if delegated by JFACC/ACC

ACCE or reachback to CAOC/AOC

Functions as the JFACC/ACC Liaison

  • Operational-level integration of air effects into joint warfare in a defined theatre
  • Assigns missions and tasks
W Comd / AEW Comd / DETCO TACOM WOC LO
  • Commands assigned forces
  • Tactical-level planning and execution of missions and tasks
Squadron Commanding Officer TACOM Unit Personnel LO
  • Command unit
  • Tactical-level planning and execution of assigned missions and tasks
TACON Unit Commanding Officer TACON

Unit Personnel

LO
  • Tactical-level warfare
  • Controls assigned forces
  • Coordinates battlespace

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Considerations. The following factors must be carefully considered when determining the C2 construct of any operation.

  1. Aerospace requirements for the FE comd and/or JTFC. At all times, it is the responsibility of the JFACC to recommend the most appropriate organization of aerospace forces that meets the supported commander’s priorities by optimizing aerospace effects, while respecting the tenets of aerospace power and the principles of war.
  2. Span of control. The ability to effectively manage the actions of subordinates is based on the number of subordinates, the number of activities, the range of weapon systems, and the size/complexity of the AOR.
  3. Expertise. The availability of both personnel expertise and C2 equipment and processes necessary to plan and prosecute the aerospace campaign. This factor includes the requirement to deploy the aerospace expertise forward.
  4. Complexity and scope of operation. There must be balance allowed between the overall campaign focus and the directing of air operations based on the complexity and the scope of joint aerospace operations.
  5. Authority, responsibility, accountability and C2 relationships. Commanders must have clearly articulated assigned authorities, responsibilities, and accountabilities. Clarity is required at all levels of command and must be enunciated by all commanders in guidance to subordinate commanders. The effective employment of available/assigned aerospace forces/capabilities must be optimized at all levels. Ultimately, the JFACC remains the authority to recommend the best application of aerospace forces with consideration for mission type, joint operations, and unique C2 relationships that might be required.
  6. Ability to reachback. Depending upon the scale of an operation, it may not be practical to deploy an AOC with the ACC. Reachback leverages the capabilities of the AOC/CAOC to support the ACC. A deployed ACC or other commander employs the concept of reachback when they rely upon an AOC or CAOC to provide for aspects of the conduct of the air campaign. Reachback support can include performing staff functions, conducting joint and component planning, tasking, executing and overseeing joint aerospace operations, and assessing the effectiveness of operations and effects.
  7. Duration. The length of the operations is important as far as sustaining force generation (FG) commitments.

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RCAF Command and Control Structure

The FE comds organize forces to accomplish the mission based on their vision and concept of operations (CONOPS) and provide direction and guidance on command relationships. Aerospace forces should be organized for coordinated action with the internationally accepted best air force C2 practices, as well as being in concert with CF principles of command, and the CF tenets of aerospace power.

There are two basic organizational structures that can be selected by the FE comd to bring to bear the optimal aerospace power effects while retaining the key aerospace tenet of centralized control / decentralized execution. Throughout both options, Comd 1 Cdn Air Div retains residual authorities, including operational airworthiness and flight safety. In the capacity as JFACC, the Comd 1 Cdn Air Div recommends the air C2 structure for CF operations to the FE comd. At the tactical level, it should be noted that each of the two constructs requires the establishment of a formation with the mandate to focus on the tactical level of warfare, which is the execution of assigned tasks. The TACOM of assigned forces therefore resides with the W Comd, AEW comd, or DETCO.

The JFACC is normally delegated OPCOM of high demand / low density (HD/LD) assets such as inter-theatre air mobility and strategic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), as well as air sovereignty assets. For such assets, specific relationships with the FE comd and ultimately with the JTFC will be established as required. For example, TACOM of HD/ LD assets may be made available by the JFACC to the JTFC via the ACC/ ACCE director. The JFACC can also delegate command and control authority to land and maritime component commanders when practical. Each of these structures is described below with respect to organizing authorities, C2 architecture, and subordinate force C2 relationships.

  1. JFACC roles and responsibilities are delegated to a deployed ACC. The first option is to assign the roles and responsibilities to develop the operational-level plan (air campaign plan) to an ACC assigned to a JTFC. The operational-level C2 is exercised by the ACC assigned to a JTFC. 
    1. Organizing authority. Within the parameters established by the CDS, the Comd RCAF transfers OPCOM of forces to the FE comd who then appoints an ACC. In this option, the JFACC recommends to the FE comd the designation of an ACC who is responsible to plan and assign missions and tasks, and to execute, monitor, and assess air operations.
    2. C2 architecture. This C2 structure will be determined by the FE comd upon advice from the JFACC. In this C2 structure, the ACC reports directly to the JTFC. The ACC is supported by the CAOC either directly (ACC located with CAOC) or through reachback (ACC deployed forward). The ACC can employ reachback, as required, for the full spectrum of capabilities associated with the CAOC. In order to better integrate air effects into the overall operation, the ACC should send ACCEs as required to other HQs, including the JTF HQ and those of the MCC, LCC, SOCC, and support component commander. When employing reachback, a deployed ACC will be supported by an ACHQ.
    3. Subordinate force C2 relationships. The ACC normally exercises OPCON of assigned aerospace forces.

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Figure 2-3 illustrates the command and control structure when there is an air component commander as well as a joint force air component commander. The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the force-employment commander are at the same level. There is coordination between these two commanders. The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force has full command of the Commander 1 Canadian Air Division, who is also the joint force air component commander. The Commander 1 Canadian Air Division exercises residual authority over the air component commander within the joint task force. The joint force air component commander exercises command/control authority over an air component coordination element. This air component coordination element coordinates with the force-employment commander.  The force-employment commander exercises operational command over the joint task force commander. The joint task force commander exercises operational command over the air component commander, the land component commander, the maritime component commander, the special operations component commander and the support component commander. The air component commander exercises command/control authority over a second air component coordination element. This air component coordination element coordinates with the joint task force commander. The air component commander exercises operational control over the wing / air expeditionary wing commander who in turn exercises tactical command over the detachment commanders. End Figure 2-3.

Figure 2 3. C2 structure employing an air component commander

Figure 2-3. C2 structure employing an air component commander[8],[9],[10]

  1. JFACC performs ACC roles and responsibilities. In order to better integrate air effect into the overall operation, the JFACC should send ACCEs as required to other HQs, including the JTF HQ and those of the MCC, LCC, SOCC, and support component. The operational level C2 is exercised by the JFACC in support of a supported commander.
    1. Organizing authority. Within the parameters established by the CDS, the Comd RCAF transfers OPCOM of forces to the FE comd. In this option, the JFACC recommends to the FE comd that the JFACC be responsible to plan and assign missions and tasks, execute, monitor, and assess air operations.
    2. C2 architecture. The JFACC should establish one or more ACCEs with other comds’ HQs to better integrate aerospace operations with joint operations. Although always responsible to the FE comd for all Canadian aerospace operations (domestic or expeditionary), in this construct the JFACC is given a supporting relationship to the supported commander and must ensure the aerospace campaign plan is not only coordinated but also complimentary to that of the supported commander. The requirement for reachback to the CAOC is a critical consideration since the C2 of aerospace forces is executed from a geographically separated location.
    3. Subordinate force C2 relationships. The JFACC normally exercises OPCON of all aerospace forces. The responsibility of the ACCE is tailored by the JFACC to address the requirements of the JTFC and the level of C2 authorities, if any. The W Comd / AEW comd are responsive to the missions and tasks assigned by the JFACC.  

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Figure 2-4 illustrates the command and control structure when the joint force air component commander acts as the air component commander. The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the force-employment commander are at the same level. There is coordination between these two commanders. The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force has full command of the Commander 1 Canadian Air Division, who is also the joint force air component commander. The joint force air component commander exercises command/control authority over an air component coordination element. This air component coordination element coordinates with the force-employment commander.  The force-employment commander exercises operational command over the joint task force commander. The joint task force commander exercises operational command over the joint force air component commander, the land component commander, the maritime component commander, the special operations component commander and the support component commander. The joint force air component commander exercises command/control authority over a second air component coordination element. This air component coordination element coordinates with the joint task force commander. The joint force air component commander exercises operational control over the wing / air expeditionary wing commander who in turn exercises tactical command over the detachment commanders. End Figure 2-4.

Figure 2 4. C2 structure employing the JFACC

Figure 2-4. C2 structure employing the JFACC[11],[12],[13],[14]

RCAF Command and Control in an Expeditionary Combined Environment

Canadian aerospace forces provide the operational flexibility needed to accomplish missions across a broad range of expeditionary military operations. This flexibility extends the operational reach of the FE comd and enables the accomplishment of operational objectives designed to meet strategic goals. Canadian aerospace forces facilitate integrated command and control (Command function); provide fires (Shape); enhance mobility and manoeuvre (Move); provide surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence collection, processing and dissemination (Sense); provide force protection (Shield); and, support and resupply (Sustain). Canadian aerospace forces are generated with an expeditionary character in that they are designed to conduct aerospace operations far from MOBs, and to operate effectively in an integrated nature within national, allied, or coalition force structures. Canadian Forces aerospace operations offer deployed commanders significant capability and flexibility during expeditionary operations. The C2 organizational structure that ensures mission accomplishment across a range of expeditionary operations is aligned with the CF C2 doctrinal model. This C2 structure and its relationships are similar to those of our traditional allies, namely the United States (US) and NATO member countries. The CF contributes to two different types of expeditionary operations: allied and coalition operations.

  1. Allied operations are normally joint, combined operations based on previously existing formal agreements,[15] procedures, and standards. Allied operations are those that are performed with NATO, the US, Australia, and New Zealand. Operation ALLIED FORCE is an example of an allied operation.
  2. Coalition operations are normally joint, “combined operations based on ad hoc agreements, standards and procedures.”[16] The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is an example of a coalition operation.

Canadian Aerospace Forces as Part of an Alliance/Coalition Theatre Air Component

The task force concept as per CFJP 3.0[17] is a temporary grouping of units under one commander formed for the purpose of carrying out a specific operation, mission, or task. In this construct, the Canadian national command authority is delegated by the CDS to the FE comd, who normally delegates OPCOM of all assigned CF aerospace, land, maritime, and special operations forces to the CNC/JTFC. The CNC/JTFC is supported by an NCE which will normally include an ACCE, who will advise on all CF aerospace operations. The CNC/JTFC delegates OPCON of assigned CF aerospace, land, maritime, and special operation forces to the allied/ coalition joint force commander (CJTFC). The JFACC in Canada retains the role of senior air advisor to the FE comd. The Comd 1 Cdn Air Div retains residual authorities, including operational airworthiness and flight safety, for all CF aerospace forces.  

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Figure 2-5 illustrates the command and control relationships when Canadian aerospace forces are part of an alliance/coalition theatre air component. The Chief of the Defence Staff and the alliance/coalition headquarters are at the same level. There is coordination between the Chief of the Defence Staff and this headquarters. The Chief of the Defence Staff exercises national command / full command over the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the force-employment Commander. The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force exercises national command / full command over 1 Canadian Air Division. The joint force air component commander is part of this division. 1 Canadian Air Division exercises residual authority over the Canadian air task force within the combined joint task force.The force-employment commander exercises national command over the joint force air component commander. The force-employment commander exercises national command / operational command over the Canadian national commander / joint task force commander. The Canadian national commander / joint task force commander exercises national command / operational command over the support component (not part of the combined joint task force) and all Canadian task forces (air, land, maritime and special operations) that are within the combined joint task force. The alliance/coalition headquarters exercises command/control over the combined joint task force headquarters. The combined joint task force exercises command/control over the allied/coalition joint force air component commander, the allied/coalition joint force land component commander, the allied/coalition joint force maritime component commander and the allied/coalition joint force special operations component commander. The allied/coalition joint force air component commander exercises operational control over the air task forces (Canadian, American, British etcetera). The allied/coalition joint force land component commander exercises operational control over the land task forces (Canadian, American, British etcetera). The allied/coalition joint force maritime component commander exercises operational control over the maritime task forces (Canadian, American, British etcetera). The allied/coalition joint force special operations component commander exercises operational control over the special operations task forces (Canadian, American, British etcetera). End Figure 2-5.

Figure 2-5. Canadian aerospace forces as part of an alliance/coalition theatre air component

Canadian Aerospace Forces as Part of a Canadian Joint Task Force

The C2 structure of a Canadian JTF must be designed to best suit the operation. Normally, the FE comd will delegate OPCOM of assigned forces to the CNC/JTFC, who will delegate OPCON of aerospace forces to the JFACC/ACC, using the component command method as detailed in Figures 2-3 and 2-4. Alternatively, the FE comd may elect to employ the direct command method, where the CNC/JTFC retains both OPCOM and OPCON of assigned forces. In this construct, the integration of air effects into the joint environment will be performed by an ACCE generated by the JFACC.

In the direct command method, the CNC/JTFC will exercise OPCOM of the ACCE. The ACCE director will advise the CNC/JTFC of the best employment of assigned aerospace forces to accomplish required missions/ tasks. The ACCE team will support the ACCE director in four distinct roles as applicable: planning and coordinating the employment of assigned aerospace forces; liaising with the Canadian CAOC through reachback; liaising with the allied/coalition CAOC to ensure Canadian missions/ tasks are coordinated at the theatre level; and liaising/coordinating with subordinate tactical-level commanders such as an AEW comd / DETCO to ensure clarity of assigned missions/tasks.

NORAD and the Command and Control of Aerospace Forces

In addition, the CF conducts operational planning and executes continental operations in conjunction with the US through NORAD. The C2 of aerospace forces assigned to the NORAD mission is executed through distinct agreements and procedures. The CDRNORAD is responsible to both the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada, and exercises command and control of HQ NORAD and the three NORAD regions.

As the Comd CANR, Comd 1 Cdn Air Div is accountable to CDRNORAD to exercise operational control over all forces assigned or made available for air defence in the region. The Comd CANR executes the control of assigned aerospace forces through the CAOC at 17 Wg Winnipeg and the CADS at 22 Wg North Bay.  

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Figure 2-6 illustrates the command and control relationship when Canadian aerospace forces are part of the North American Aerospace Defence Command. The President of the United States and the Canadian Prime Minister are at the same level. The President commands the Secretary of Defense who in turn commands the United States Northern Command. The President commands the North American Aerospace Defence Command through the Secretary of Defense. There is coordination between the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the North American Aerospace Defence Command. The Prime Minister commands the Defence Minister who in turn commands the Chief of the Defence Staff. The Chief of the Defence Staff commands the North American Aerospace Defence Command. The North American Aerospace Defence Command commands three North American Aerospace Defence Command regions: Alaskan, Canadian and Continental United States. Each of the three North American Aerospace Defence Command regions commands an air defense sector. Supporting each of the air defense sectors are alert sites that are located throughout the United States and Canada. End Figure 2-6.

Figure 2-6. Canadian aerospace forces as part of NORAD

Chain of Command

The chain of command always has absolute priority and as the only source of command authority is the only reporting chain that may be referred to by the term “chain of command.”

  1. Operational chain of command. The chain of command for FE purposes is as depicted in Figures 2-3, 2-4, and 2-5 above. In all cases, the CDS directs that aerospace forces be assigned to the FE comd for operational employment. The Comd RCAF directs the Comd 1 Cdn Air Div to transfer OPCOM of specified forces to the FE comd. The JFACC always supports the FE comd by acting as the senior advisor for the employment of aerospace forces. Further:
    1. Domestic operations. The JFACC/ACC will exercise OPCON of all assigned CF aerospace forces during domestic FE operations in order to support the objectives of the JTFC.
    2. Coalition operations. When operating within a multinational coalition, the RCAF will follow two distinct command relationships. At all times, RCAF personnel are under the OPCOM of the CNC. OPCON will be exercised over RCAF personnel by the individual designated as the coalition combined joint forces air component commander (C/JFACC).
  2. Institutional chain of command. This chain of command is similar to the operational chain of command but is used for FG. The main difference between the two chains of command is at the higher headquarters where the Comd 1 Cdn Air Div is accountable to the Comd RCAF for FG. In addition, there is no FG done by an AEW comd.
  3. NORAD chain of command. The NORAD Agreement establishes that CDRNORAD is responsible to the Government of the United States, communicating through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, and to the Government of Canada through the CDS.[18] As mentioned earlier, Comd 1 Cdn Air Div is also Comd CANR, and is accountable to CDRNORAD to exercise operational control over all forces allocated or made available for air defence in the region.

Summary

How aerospace forces are grouped, and in particular how they interrelate, powerfully affect the operation of C2. Command relationships must be clearly articulated and adhered to in order to regulate the interaction of all entities in the system. Likewise, the different roles and responsibilities of the various reporting chains must be clearly understood so as not to blur command relationship.  

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Notes

1. DTB record 37248.  (return)

2. DTB record 34914.  (return)

3. DTB record 34911.  (return)

4. The term air component commander (ACC) can be adapted for different command situations. In a joint environment, the duties and responsibilities of an ACC are normally assumed by a joint force air component commander (JFACC). In a multi-national operation, a combined force air component commander (CFACC) is normally designated. Ultimately, a combined joint forces air component commander (C/JFACC) could potentially be designated. In all cases, these commanders have, at a minimum, the same responsibilities as an ACC.  (return)

5. See CFJP 01, Doctrine.  (return)

6. The term air operations centre (AOC) can be adapted for different operational situations. In a joint environment, the duties and responsibilities of an AOC can be assumed by a joint air operations center (JAOC) led by a joint force air component commander (JFACC). In a multi-national operation, a CAOC, led by a combined force air component commander (CFACC) is normally designated. Ultimately, a combined/joint air operations centre (C/JAOC), led by a C/JFACC could potentially be designated. In Canada, the AOC has been designated as a CAOC in order to recognize the combined nature of the bi-national, NORAD agreement, as the CAOC also serves the Canadian NORAD Region HQ. This CAOC is led by a JFACC, a title that recognizes that this RCAF officer is responsible for aerospace forces that support all CF joint operations. In all cases, these operations centres have, at a minimum, the same responsibilities as an AOC.  (return)

7. DTB record 552.  (return)

8. The ACC is responsible to plan, task, execute, monitor, and assess aerospace operations, and reports directly to the JTFC.  (return)

9. The FE comd, upon advice from JFACC, delegates command and control authority to component commanders as required (e.g., maritime helicopters OPCON to MCC / naval mission element [msn elm] or tactical helicopters OPCON to LCC / land msn elm).  (return)

10. During certain C2 arrangements recommended by the JFACC and approved by the FE comd, a DETCO can be directly responsible to the JFACC/ACC. Such a situation can exist when a DETCO performs a C2 function on behalf of the JFACC/ACC and is not subordinate to a W Comd / AEW comd, or when an AEW comd is not deployed and a DETCO assumes TACOM of assigned forces.  (return)

11. The JFACC and all aerospace forces are in a support relationship with the supported commander.  (return)

12. Responsibility of ACCE is tailored by JFACC to the supported commander’s needs (e.g., level of C2 authorities).  (return)

13. The FE comd, upon advice from JFACC, delegates command and control authority to component commanders as required (e.g., maritime helicopters OPCON to MCC, or tactical helicopters OPCON to LCC).  (return)

14. See footnote 10 (Figure 2-3).  (return)

15. See DTB record 35677.  (return)

16. DTB record 35678.  (return)

17. CFJP 3.0, Operations.  (return)

18. Chief of the Defence Staff, “Interim Directive on CF Command and Control and Delegation of Authority for Force Employment,” 9 July 2009, http://vcds.mil.ca/cas/dmcs2005/FilesO/DMCS-22197.pdf (accessed 9 February 2012).  (return)

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