That 705th Combat Training Squadronalso known as Distributed Mission Operations Center, exercise conducted VIRTUAL FLAG: Battle management in a synthetic, joint combat environment, ensuring joint operational and tactical warfighter readiness in the Area of responsibility of the US Indo-Pacific Command at Kirtland Air Force BaseNew Mexico and eight distributed locations.
The DMOC used its live, virtual and constructive or LVC environment capabilities to connect simulators and live aircraft in a dynamic battlefield to challenge and engage multiple air, land and sea combatants in the USINDOPACOM AOR US Air Force, US Space Forces, US Navy, US Marine Corpsand US Army platforms.
“For VIRTUAL FLAG: Battle Management, the DMOC replicated a combat environment, prioritizing agility and sustained command and control capabilities by integrating joint war fighters to meet our pacing challenge in the USINDOPACOM AOR,” said US Air Force Maj. Christopher Hawzen, 705th CTS VF exercise director, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
Joint military participants traveled from across the US to train and integrate with geographically disparate units in scenarios executing mission-type commands with degraded communications and limited Air Operations Center (AOC) connectivity.
“The virtual environment allows GSUs to train together for contingency operations or combat without leaving home base while integrating multiple high-end training events,” said Scott Graham, 705th CTS exercise manager, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
More than 262 operators have been trained and 339 readiness training events have been conducted to gain experience and familiarize Airmen, Wardens, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers in a common combat environment.
VF: Battle Management’s use of LVC training improved air combat training systems, allowing cross-domain air dominance in combat against peer and near-peer opponents. LVC training also expanded combat mission training by allowing for the rapid execution of multiple scenarios over a limited time frame. The quickly adaptable environment encourages learning and builds experiences without the time or expense of exclusively live practice.
“VIRTUAL FLAG is a great opportunity for us to work face-to-face and distributed with our mutual partners to gain a better understanding of the capabilities we can deploy in a common fight. This exercise gives us an opportunity to practice tactics, techniques and procedures that could be used in our next deployment and future war,” said US Navy Cmdr. Phillip Boice, Carrier Strike Group NINE Assistant Operations Officer for Commander/Navy VF Lead, North Island Naval Air Station, California.
The flag-level exercise included E-3C Airborne Warning and Control Systems, E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Systems, RC-135V/W Rivet Joints, MQ-9 Reapers, C-17 Globemaster IIIs, E-2 Hawkeyes, P-8 Poseidon, MH-60 and MH-60R Seahawks, AN/GSQ-272 SENTINEL weapon systems and the US Marine Corps Multi-Function Air Operations Center and US Air Force Control and Reporting Center.
“One thing never changes: the DMOC allows warfighters to hone their combat skills in a live, fast-paced, and realistic collaborative training environment,” said Hawzen.
VF also integrated kinetics with non-kinetic effects to practice war tactics in a degraded environment. One of the key non-kinetic actors in VF 22-4 was the cyberspace element, which integrated cyberspace to help defend an AOC and a CRC.
The Cyberspace Defense Force consisted of members of the 834th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, the 92d Cyberspace Operations Squadron, the 552d Air Control Networks Squadron Mission Defense Team, and the US Marine Corps 9th Communications Battalion. The teams defended against Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs, which aimed to collect critical task commands and data from the AOC and deny, delay, disrupt, destroy, and manipulate (D4M) the AOC during operation. The defense units hunted down and cleared the APTs on the network so the cyber attackers couldn’t reach their targets.
“Integrating cyberspace into flight exercises like this one helps educate the flight community about cyberspace capabilities and threats. It also helps our cyberspace forces expand their knowledge of joint combat and its integration with the other branches of warfare, preparing both sides for the common concept of all-domain warfare,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Travis Britton, 834 .Cyberspace Operations Squadron Weapons and Tactics Chief, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
The 805th Combat Training Squadron’s Shadow Operations Center-Nellis, under the direction of the 318th Cyber Operations Group, Detachment 2, planned, organized and executed red team actions during VF. The Red Team consisted of Air Force and Marine Corps personnel tasked with conducting actions in accordance with the desired learning objectives of the 552d ACNS AWACS Mission Defense Team E-3 Sentry and the 834th COS Cyber Protection Team.
“The ShOC-N is at the forefront of efforts to address current and future pacing challenges. In this regard, conducting Red Team actions within the VIRTUAL FLAG: Battle Management construct helped ShOC personnel develop penetration testing skills much needed during experiments within the confines of our Air Force Battle Lab,” said US Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn Finney , 805th CTS/ShOC-N Operations Officer, Nellis AFB, Nevada.
Sentinels from the 310th Space Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit, honed their skills by warning of incoming enemy missiles, analyzing jammer-induced degradation in global position signals, and sharing and analyzing electronic information and persistent infrared data from satellites, and provides valuable Information to help the war fighter understand the threats they face on the battlefield.
“VIRTUAL FLAG exercises provide an excellent opportunity to train space operators in a collaborative environment,” said Walt Marvin, exercise planner for the 392d Combat Training Squadron, Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado. “Our space element learned its role very quickly and ensured that space support played an integral role in mission accomplishment on the tactical battlefield.”
during VF, Air Combat Manager and tactical air control groupor TACP, Airmen traveled to Kirtland from the other side Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forcesand US Air Forces in Europe To participate in the experiment, the third iteration of the Tactical Operations Center – Light experiment was conducted. The experiment was designed to continue the development of the future C2, concepts to speed up kill chains and improve distributed combat management.
“The 705th CTS team has been extremely supportive in our efforts to leverage their skills and expertise to experiment with these concepts. Integration with VIRTUAL FLAG: Battle Management provided exposure to unique tactical problem sets and amplified intensity of our previous experiment iterations, allowing the team to make progress on our collaborative experiments,” said US Air Force Maj. Dustin Nedolast, 505th Command and Control Wing, Test Manager Department 1, Fort LeavenworthKansas.
VF: Battle Management ran 8-hour vulnerability windows that enabled C2 over time, allowing contestants to complete force and battle management challenges across all five areas from start to finish.
“Although we have been conducting VIRTUAL FLAG exercises for more than 21 years, the mission and execution have changed dramatically,” said Lt. Col. Michael Butler, 705th CTS commander, US Air Force, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. “We’re constantly evolving to meet the needs of joint and coalition warfighters, adding elements, changing threats – anything that can pose a pace challenge we want to address at the DMOC.”
The exercise also included the use of state-based authorities, allowing C2 tactical units to train mission commanders, contentious logistics problem sets, and a dedicated mission planning cell that operated concurrently with execution.
“Technology, equipment and participants change. The DMOC’s use of the LVC training environment prepares joint and coalition warfighters for any pacing challenge,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Aaron Gibney, 505th Combat Training Group Commander, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
VF: Coalition will be held Oct. 24-Nov. 5 at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico; VF:C Distinguished Visitor Day is scheduled for October 28th. For more information on VF exercises or to schedule a DV to attend the DMOC, contact the 505th Command and Control Wing Office of Public Affairs.