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Adapt To Win – Green Flag-West 23-02
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Zachary Rufus
November 27, 2022

The 549th Combat Training Squadron successfully operated a disaggregated, multi-service Green Flag-West exercise November 2-9, 2022 that integrated U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force command and control, tactical units, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, while operating from multiple locations across the west coast.

Green Flag participants staged out of U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps bases along the coast of California placed the joint force in a realistic environment where they can practice deterrence and defense against growing threats in the Indo-Pacific operations theater.

Traditionally, Green Flag-West exercises were air-to-ground primarily executed in conjunction with U.S. Army exercises at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California. In an effort to modernize and strengthen our military for strategic competition, the 549th CTS used Green Flag-West 23-02 to focus on facilitating air operations in maritime surface warfare missions, air-to-surface.

November 7, 2022 - U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt IIs assigned to the 66th Weapons Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, sit on the flight line at Naval Air Station North Island, California. In an effort to modernize and strengthen our military for strategic competition, the 549th Combat Training Squadron used Green Flag-West 23-02 to focus on facilitating air operations in maritime surface warfare missions, air-to-surface. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Rufus.)
November 7, 2022 - U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt IIs assigned to the 66th Weapons Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, sit on the flight line at Naval Air Station North Island, California. In an effort to modernize and strengthen our military for strategic competition, the 549th Combat Training Squadron used Green Flag-West 23-02 to focus on facilitating air operations in maritime surface warfare missions, air-to-surface. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Rufus.)

 “Integrating with the Army is easier because Green Flag-West has been doing that since 1981,” said Capt. Joseph Cole, 549th CTS assistant director of operations. “Integrating with the Navy isn’t something that the Air Force usually gets to do on a unit-level and in order to win in a maritime fight, we’re going to need each other.”

One challenge both services faced was trying to accomplish the same mission while learning each other’s languages.

“If we don’t practice and go through the struggles now to execute the translation errors, we will fail,” said Maj. Taylor Raasch, 66th Weapons Squadron instructor and project officer. “We try to teach our students to go out and talk to other services, learn their language and understand how they operate. At the end of the day, as a good communicator, you have to speak and understand their language in order to provide the effect that we all want to move forward with - which is to win.”

Aside from translation challenges, the two services worked cohesively to execute any mission set they were tasked with executing.

“A concern we had in the planning phase of Green Flag was ‘how are we going to find the boats?’” said Cole. “We know we can kill them, but how can we find them and target them?”

Upon acting as a joint force, they came to learn the U.S. Navy is very good at it.

“It seems very obvious, but they find the ship like you wouldn’t believe; it’s quick and it's accurate,” said Cole. “I think both sides learned a lot from this. We learned to give those responsibilities to the people that should be managing them. From the Navy’s perspective, when they locate an enemy ship, they have to put a boat in position to strike, which can take a while, when an aircraft can strike in minutes.”

The 66th Weapons Squadron, along with the help of the 549th CTS, 29th WPS, 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and Navy Special Warfare partners, was able to successfully load a DATM-160, a training version of the ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, onto an A-10 placed on an austere island off the coast of Naval Air Station North Island, California.

The A-10 can carry up to 16 MALDs, the same quantity as the B-52, and 12 more than the F-16. When launched from an aircraft, the MALD, like a cruise missile, can mimic the radar returns of any American aircraft in service – buying time and survivability for the blue forces by making the targeting problem more complicated for the enemy.

In this iteration of Green Flag, the 66th WPS took “Accelerate Change or Lose” personally.

Raasch added, “What we, (the A-10), can do to help support the 5th generation fight in support of a pacing threat is provide the unique capability to carry a multitude of weapons and work in austere environments. We can help provide effects in the Indo-Pacific operations theatre.”

Air Force A-10 pilots integrated with Navy H-60Rs, E-2s, P-8s and Navy SEALs. The Navy benefited as well, integrating their C2 and ISR platforms with the U-2, Distributed Ground System and other non-traditional C2 methods they do not normally train with.

The units moved to several locations throughout the exercise, including San Clemente Island, and executed expeditionary operations with the support of Navy SEALs and U.S. Air Force C-130s from the 29th WPS.

November 7, 2022 - U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Frizzell, 29th Weapons Squadron pilot, scans the surrounding airspace aboard a C-130J Hercules during a Green Flag-West 23-02 mission over the Pacific Ocean. The 549th Combat Training Squadron successfully operated a disaggregated, multi-service Green Flag-West exercise Nov. 2-9, that integrated U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force command and control, tactical units, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, while operating from multiple locations across the west coast. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Rufus.)
November 7, 2022 - U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Frizzell, 29th Weapons Squadron pilot, scans the surrounding airspace aboard a C-130J Hercules during a Green Flag-West 23-02 mission over the Pacific Ocean. The 549th Combat Training Squadron successfully operated a disaggregated, multi-service Green Flag-West exercise Nov. 2-9, that integrated U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force command and control, tactical units, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, while operating from multiple locations across the west coast. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Rufus.)

"I could not be prouder of the integration that our team and these units accomplished during Green Flag-West 23-02,” said Lt. Col Matthew Keilen, 549th CTS commander. “We look forward to furthering multi-service maritime integration in the future."

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