The Air Force, in cooperation with the RAND Corporation, is working on how to characterize nonkinetic effects akin to the way the military measures effects in the kinetic world.

The effects of kinetic weapons, such as bombs, are widely understood. These include blast radius and the potential number of targets that could be affected, all of which makes their planning and employment easier given commanders understand what they do.

For nonkinetic effects, such as cyber or electronic jamming, it’s much more difficult to visualize their effects, making planning and employment more unpredictable and in some cases less likely.

According to an Air Force spokesman, the service worked closely with RAND to characterize nonkinetic targeting effects similar to the measurement of kinetic effects, “in order to best define and scope our posture for operations in current and future warfare.”

While they uncovered several insights, they could not elaborate on what insights were discovered for operational security reasons. Moreover, this work with RAND and how the Air Force might intend to use it is classified. The service said, however, that “the work was a good evolution as we continue to develop our capabilities and approaches to operations in this domain.”

This effort began in 2014 at least. The director of intelligence at Air Combat Command, then Maj. Gen. VeraLinn Jamieson, said in 2015 that her shop had one year of study on this with six cases evaluated: four traditional cyber and two electronic warfare. They were at the start of an algorithm that will be able to look at predicting the effects of cyber capabilities, Jamieson, now a three-star general and the director of intelligence for the Air Force, said at the time, noting then it was in its nascent stages.

Some have discussed previously that it might be necessary to develop tools for combatant commanders — who the teams from Cyber Command are delivered to and controlled by — in order to help them understand both how cyber might be folded into campaign plans and how it could help visualize the effects.

“I think from the [combatant commands], what I hear is they are not seeing something that helps them in their campaign, and because of that they’re a little bit distrustful of their being able to depend on what they ask for,” said Bill Leigher, director of government cyber solutions at Raytheon. “They don’t have control over it; it’s not expressed in a way that makes sense for a plan that they already have on the books.

“The bigger issue is having capabilities that combatant commanders understand, understanding where they fit into their campaigns and why they need the legal definition of a weapon and how are you going to treat them like so,” Leigher, a former rear admiral, added.

Raytheon has developed a tool to help commanders develop concepts of operations and instill confidence in the deployment of these emerging technologies. The Coordinated Cyber/Electronic Warfare Integrated Fires program, or CCEWIF, doesn’t help commanders visualize these nonphysical environments, like an active real-time planning tool, but rather helps develop concepts of operations going forward.

Raytheon was awarded a contract with the Missile Defense Agency for work on CCEWIF.

MDA explored the use of this tool with multiple purposes, such as developing system-of-system integration/interface requirements, assessing alternative architectures and employment concepts, war gaming and combatant commander planning, MDA Director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told C4ISRNET in a statement.

Moreover, Greaves said MDA is considering CCEWIF, along with other similar tools, for planning and other purposes.

No one doubts there will be a learning curve. When the airplane emerged, the military had to figure out how to morph it into the fight, Todd Probert, vice president of Mission Support and Modernization at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, said.

Through years of employment, however, a lot of data could be compiled regarding deployment and probability of success of a kinetic weapon such as a missile, Probert offered. It is more abstract to think of electronic warfare or a cyber weapon, as these newer capabilities don’t have the same track record as “tried-and-true” methods such as a Patriot missile, he added, but the first steps are being taken to assess the potential.