Air Force

How a merger will expand the Air Force’s cyber edge

The Air Force is merging its main cyber and intelligence organizations after years of discussion and speculation.

24th Air Force, or Air Forces Cyber, will merge with 25th Air Force — responsible for global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance this summer — according to an April 4 press release.

Officials had been coy about the potential merger when asked directly about it, despite publicly referencing it as recently as mid-March.

The merger follows several initiatives within the Air Force to integrate cyber and ISR together.

Last summer, the Air Force reassigned 24th Air Force from Air Force Space Command to Air Combat Command. At the headquarters level, the service created a new deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and cyber effects operations.

“The synergy between cyber, ISR, [electronic warfare] and [information operations] will increase unity of effort across these capabilities, resulting in new and improved options for combatant commanders,” the Air Force’s press release said.

“The integration also better aligns these units with priorities outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy and delivers the first ‘Information Warfare’ [numbered Air Force] for the Air Force.”

Even before the recent moves, from the beginning AFCYBER always maintained a close link between the two numbered Air Forces with 24th supplying the cyber personnel and 25th supplying the intelligence personnel.

“The merger of 24th and 25th is the next step in leveraging and integrating new ideas and technologies to both improve the quality and speed of decision-making and deliver improved effects for commanders,” Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, said.

“This formalizes the existing collaborations between cyber and ISR while expanding our competitive space in EW and IO, ultimately improving readiness and increasing lethality across the range of military operations — all vital to the success of multidomain war fighting in the 21st century.”

The release also said the new information warfare numbered Air Force bolsters the Air Force’s ability to “present electromagnetic spectrum forces and capabilities to execute missions alongside joint and interagency partners.”

Other services have integrated these capabilities to form a more cohesive information warfare package that includes cyber, electronic warfare, intelligence and information operations.

The Air Force also recently concluded a year-long study into how to better integrate electronic warfare with its forces.

The Air Force said the final organization structure has not been determined for the 24th and 25th merger, but it anticipates an activation ceremony in the summer of 2019.

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