50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Forget the fighter folklore. Let’s talk about the next generation of Red Flag: space.
Since its inception, the traditionally fighter-heavy exercise known as Red Flag has been the hub of realistic war gaming and invaluable training for pilots.
While Red Flag has been going on since the mid 1970s, space assets, like those the 50th Space Wing brings to the table, have only been directly involved in the exercise since 2011.
Red Flag, an Air Combat Command-sponsored exercise, takes place in four phases throughout the year. Red Flag 13-3, which is the third phase of the overall exercise, is scheduled for Feb. 25-March 16. This phase will focus on non-kinetic operations and will be host to 50 SW as well as its mission partners in the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron.
Maj. Mark Bigley, 50 SW weapons officer, will be leading the team of 50 SW personnel from the 1st, 2nd, 7th and 19th Space Operation Squadrons.
“Red Flag has evolved through the years to keep pace with current combat requirements,” said Bigley. “Our goal is to get tactically relevant training for our personnel and to let the other communities know what Schriever brings to the fight.”
The other Red Flag mission partners from around the world include traditional and remotely piloted aircraft pilots, non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance personnel and ground-based special forces, among others.
These players represent a cross section of Air Force capabilities and have one thing in common in the way they operate: they use space assets to accomplish their missions.
Capt. Bryony Veater, 2 SOPS weapons and tactics flight commander, is slated to be the only person representing the 50th Space Wing who has participated in previous Red Flag exercises.
“Red Flag was a great experience last year, and it was the first time that many of our space operators had ever been to a large-force exercise,” said Veater. “It was also the first time many of the air players had ever met a space operator.”
Bigley echoed Veater regarding the unique opportunity Red Flag represents for space operators.
“This may be the first time some of our space and cyberspace operators will see, no kidding, why an F-15 or B-1 pilot cares about the support we provide and how it affects their mission,” said Bigley.
GPS operators, assigned to 2 SOPS, are scheduled to help model and mitigate vulnerabilities as well as test current tactics, techniques and procedures, while 1 SOPS personnel dynamically task their satellite platform to support the exercise via imagery collection.
Capt. Aaron Pinson, 7 SOPS chief of weapons and tactics, will be bringing a small team of Reserve members to Red Flag 13-3. For Pinson, this will be a first.
“I have been involved in other exercises,” said Pinson. “Each one provided a unique insight into the way the United States prepares for and responds to conflict and how each mission area of the Air Force contributes to the overall success of the mission.”
For the 527 SAS, this will be a second chance to fine tune lessons learned during previous exposure. Capt. Eric Snyder, the 527 SAS weapons officer, recently participated in Red Flag 13-2 and is headed back to Nellis AFB, the home station of his geographically separated unit, to bring the unit’s unique capabilities to the next phase of Red Flag.
“We’ll be replicating GPS and SATCOM electronic warfare threats during Red Flag 13-3,” said Snyder. “We’ll also be giving threat academics to exercise participants.”
While it’s true satellite operators wouldn’t normally be mission planning hand in hand with B-2 and Rivet Joint pilots, among others, being at Red Flag will allow the operators to find solutions to tough problems. When they’re expected to do it operationally in a real-world engagement and are a world apart from each other, they will have already built relationships and figured out the communication necessary to successfully complete the mission.
“I like to think of Red Flag as a large-scale tactical course in professional military education,” said Veater. “It’s a lesson in how the big Air Force conducts an air, space and cyberspace campaign.”