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New BLACK SKIES Combat Readiness Exercise
by U.S. Space Force Author
 October 6, 2022

Space Training and Readiness Command completed its first iteration of the inaugural SKIES exercise series aimed at improving the U.S. Space Force’s command and control capabilities.

The exercise, BLACK SKIES 22, which ran from September 19-23, was a live simulation exercise designed to rehearse the command and control of multiple joint electronic warfare fires.

Space Delta 1's 392d Combat Training Squadron led the development of BLACK SKIES with assistance from Space Delta 11's 25th Space Range Squadron, and multiple combat squadrons within Space Operations Command, the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

A live simulation exercise is a training event involving real people operating real systems, said U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Albert Harris, 392d CTS commander.

U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Albert Harris, Commander of the 392nd Combat Training Squadron, presents a commander's coin to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Esmeralda Sanchez-Avila from the 216th Space Control Squadron during BLACK SKIES 22 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on September 23, 2022. Sanchez-Avila was recognized for earning a BLACK SKIES 22 "Professional Performer Award". (U.S. Space Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Luke Kitterman)
U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Albert Harris, Commander of the 392nd Combat Training Squadron, presents a commander's coin to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Esmeralda Sanchez-Avila from the 216th Space Control Squadron during BLACK SKIES 22 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on September 23, 2022. Sanchez-Avila was recognized for earning a BLACK SKIES 22 "Professional Performer Award". (U.S. Space Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Luke Kitterman)

“This is different from virtual simulation involving real people operating simulated systems, and constructive simulation involving simulated people operating simulated systems,” Harris said.

The 25th SRS configured multiple advanced training ranges for BLACK SKIES 22.

The live range spanned the distance between California and Colorado and elevated to a specified point 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. This range allowed space warfighters participating in the exercise to fire their weapon systems in a safe environment that replicated certain war-like conditions, offering them an opportunity to rehearse and refine their warfighting tactics, techniques and procedures.

Participants included Electronic Warfare Airmen from the Florida Air National Guard’s 114th Space Control Squadron, the California ANG’s 216th Space Control Squadron, the Air Force Reserve’s 380th Space Control Squadron, Guardians from the Space Delta 3’s 4th and 16th Electronic Warfare Squadrons, Guardians from Space Delta 5, and coalition warfighters from U.S. Space Command’s Combined Space Operations Center.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Mendoza, 216th Space Control Squadron space systems operator, utilizes a ‘Honey Badger System’ during BLACK SKIES 22 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on September 20, 2022. The 216 SPCS specializes in electromagnetic warfare and is participating in the Space Training and Readiness Command’s (STARCOM) BLACK SKIES 22 along with numerous other units spanning from California to Colorado. The first of its kind, BLACK SKIES 22 is a live simulation exercise designed to rehearse the command and control of multiple joint electronic warfare fires. (U.S. Space Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Luke Kitterman)
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Mendoza, 216th Space Control Squadron space systems operator, utilizes a ‘Honey Badger System’ during BLACK SKIES 22 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on September 20, 2022. The 216 SPCS specializes in electromagnetic warfare and is participating in the Space Training and Readiness Command’s (STARCOM) BLACK SKIES 22 along with numerous other units spanning from California to Colorado. The first of its kind, BLACK SKIES 22 is a live simulation exercise designed to rehearse the command and control of multiple joint electronic warfare fires. (U.S. Space Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Luke Kitterman)

The exercise scenario focused on a notional crisis in U.S. European Command's area of responsibility. The crisis included coalition combat operations in the air, special operations on the ground, and cyber operations effecting various domains, all presented by the 392d CTS using constructive simulation.

"BLACK SKIES 22 offered an unprecedented opportunity to partner across the Total Force, including Active-Duty, Air National Guard, and the Air Force Reserves,” said Col. Christopher Fernengel, Space Delta 3 commander. “This was an exercise that allowed our service members to step into the arena and demonstrate our combined electronic warfare readiness.”

The BLACK SKIES 22 training audience used live and virtual simulation provided by the 25th SRS to layer electromagnetic effects against 29 simulated targets. Participants also planned and executed integrated operations, refined multiple tactics and rehearsed command and control relationships.

The exercise concluded with over 20 learning points, proving to be a huge success, enabling advanced training for 50 space warfighters in California and Colorado.

“BLACK SKIES 22 increased our readiness by practicing offensive and defensive operations in the electromagnetic spectrum,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, STARCOM commander. “By rehearsing functions such as joint fires and joint command and control, BLACK SKIES helps to prepare space forces to compete and prevail in conflict when our nation calls upon us to do so.”

Overall, it took the 392d Combat Training Squadron nine months to build the BLACK SKIES exercise.

Space Force Maj. Benjamin Skee, 392d CTS large force exercise flight commander, served as the BLACK SKIES 22 exercise director.

Skee built a joint team spanning multiple Space Force Bases to successfully put on the exercise. His team comprised of an exercise control group at Vandenberg, Schriever, and Peterson Space Force Bases that included exercise planners, intelligence support and various space tacticians.

"I watched Major Skee build and lead this team over the last several months,” said Harris. “I was impressed with his team’s ability to quickly build a scenario, secure the appropriate approvals, and deliver the required resources to make possible the first brand new exercise for the Space Force.”

Looking ahead, additional exercises in the SKIES series include RED SKIES, a live simulation orbital warfare training event, and BLUE SKIES, a live simulation cyber warfare training event. RED SKIES is planned to debut in early 2023, and a date for BLUE SKIES is under evaluation.

U.S. Space Force | U.S. Department of Defense

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