This was the total number of aircraft lost during the Vietnam War
from 1962 to 1973. It was a number too high that prompted the Air
Force to conduct a study, where it found the first 10 combat sorties
were the most dangerous events for aircrew personnel.
To prevent more losses, Gen. Robert Dixon, then-commander of
Tactical Air Command, helped establish Red Flag as a way to prepare
Airmen for combat. Since its inception in 1975, Red Flag has trained
more than 440,000 military personnel, flew more than 385,000 sorties
and logged more than 660,000 flight hours. More importantly, the
numbers of aircraft lost dropped to 43 aircraft in combat.
July 22, 2016 - Space and Cyber Airmen discuss operations at Nellis
Air Force Base, Nevada, during Red Flag 16-3. Red Flag 16-3 is aimed
at teaching service members how to integrate air, space and
cyberspace elements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David
As the service grew, technologies
have evolved as well. New capabilities and advanced systems
came into the Air Force's arsenal. Aircraft became faster
and more agile. Computers became a household item. Phones
are no longer confined to buildings and attached to wires.
The country has seen lots of updates, to say the least.
And so has America's enemies.
Likewise, Red Flag
continued to evolve to ensure Air Force's dominance in air,
space and cyberspace.
“Fifth generation warfare is
not just about fifth generation aircraft, such as F-22s and
F-35s,” said Capt. Neil Fournie, 414th Combat Training
Squadron chief of Advanced Warfighting Division. “It's about
building fifth-generation Airmen who understand how to
combine air, space and cyber together to enable holistic
Fournie's job is to combine
all domains together in Red Flag, evaluate the non-kinetic
portions and make sure they are all integrated into the
“Non-kinetic is when you are
able to prevent the enemy from achieving their objectives
without dropping a bomb or blowing up a system,” explained
Lt. Col. Brian Capps, Space and Cyber Detachment commander.
“You can do it through space and cyber.”
This new way
of thinking has been the impetus on why, for the first time,
a space officer--Col. DeAnna Burt--is leading the Air
Expeditionary Wing as a commander. Burt provides a different
perspective needed for the combat environment.
do you take things that are really hard to touch and feel,
and actually integrate and synchronize them in timing and
tempo with things you can feel--that's important,” said
Burt, who is also the installation commander at Schriever
Air Force Base, Colorado. “Every target does not require a
bomb. There may be other ways through cyber and space to
negate, deny or disrupt that target if you will, and allow
you to achieve the same effect.”
and cyber has been a continuous process in Red Flag with
technological advancements in those domains. According to
Fournie, it started trickling into Red Flag exercises in the
mid-2000s; however, it became more emphasized beginning in
2011. Cyber integration already began kicking off during the
“It was definitely a learning curve,” he
said. “The scenarios had to catch up with the capabilities.
As each of the units bring their capabilities, we had to
look at our scenarios and evolve our scenarios accordingly.”
Bringing these capabilities to Red Flag means it is not
just about air anymore but a multi-domain battle space,
congruent with the Air Force's mission--fly, fight and win
in air, space and cyberspace.
into Red Flag exercises really helped to illustrate how we
integrate as a service, especially in terms of understanding
the command and control relationships required to make sure
effects are properly synchronized,” Fournie said.
Flag 15-1 became the watershed moment for space and cyber
integration. Before then, the space and cyber footprint was
described as decent but not organized to a level to
effectively integrate it into the larger picture, according
During this exercise, a core team of
officers learned the Red Flag process of plan, execute and
debrief. They studied different platforms and how space can
provide support. They looked at collateral space effects,
such as missile warning, overhead persistent infrared,
persistent navigation and timing, defensive space control
and satellite communications.
“These members built
the space package, and began integrating with the fliers,”
Capps said. “The greatest integration from the space
perspective was when we started seeing pilots and fliers
asking questions in the space room.”
In 15-3, Red
Flag took it one step closer. Space personnel began
observing operations as part of a space cell in the Combined
Air Operations Center-Nellis. They showed they can plan and
execute a space package for the warfighters.
said integration started several years ago with having an
air plan and layering space and cyber on top.
the participants are planning and executing inclusive
mission sets, where it's all fused into a single plan,” he
And it all happens during mission planning,
where representatives combine tactics and techniques
together. Although, the challenge is communicating the
“We need to communicate on the same level
with each other,” Fournie added. “That's what we tell our
space and cyber personnel. You need to explain the effects
and capabilities that you can bring. If you just start
talking about a capability without the context of what it
provides to the battle space or to help the mission
commander achieve the mission priorities, then we are
Burt echoed the sentiment and said it has
been a growing experience for the space and cyber side of
“Understanding that it's not just a
support function, that we are warfighters and how the
effects we have can be brought to bear to help us defeat our
potential adversaries is an important cultural shift,” she
Author's Note: Some information courtesy
By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
Comment on this article