AFSPC concludes second Space Flag exercise: Participants gain critical joint training

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.  Air Force Space Command successfully concluded its second Space Flag exercise at the Boeing Phantom Works Virtual Warfare Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Aug. 25, 2017.

The 705th Combat Training Squadron, Operating Location-Alpha, located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, known as the Distributed Mission Operations Center-Space, developed, planned and executed Space Flag 17-2 on behalf of AFSPC.

Space Flag is a composite mission planning exercise designed to prepare space operators to work in a realistic contested, degraded, and operationally-limited environment against a thinking and determined adversary.

Space Flag provides a low-risk, physics-based environment to demonstrate maneuvers carried out by both Blue and Red Forces; and an advanced training opportunity for space operators to build the tactics and experience required to ensure the mission is accomplished despite operating within CDO conditions.

“Space operations in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment is an intelligence- driven enterprise. Space Flag 17-2 was an excellent demonstration of the integration between intelligence and space operations, and a perfect example of the credible advanced training infrastructure for space that we need going forward,” said Col. Lorenzo Bradley, 460th Operations Group commander.

Space Flag 17-2 allowed exercise participants from both the 50th and 460th Space Wings to work together, along with elements of the National Space Defense Center and the Joint Space Operations Center, to counter shared threats. For many of the participants, this was their first opportunity to work as a composite space force.

“For every other domain in which we operate, there exists a dedicated infrastructure of personnel, ranges, and weapon systems for test, evaluation, training, and tactics development,” said Bradley. “It is an operational imperative we develop a sustainable model for space, just like we have for the air, land and maritime components. Otherwise, we run the risk of being outpaced by the adversary.”

The primary training audience for the exercise included members of the 50th Operations Group, 50th Network Operations Group, the 460th Operations Group, and the 310th Operations Group. 

As part of Space Flag 17-2, participants received two days of academics on mission planning, shot validation standards, aggressor force capabilities, and composite force mission area overviews.

Bradley and Col. Toby Doran, 50th Operations Group commander, served as Blue Force Leads, and offered critical feedback and leadership throughout the exercise. Representatives from the National Space Defense Center, the Joint Space Operations Center, the 137th Space Warning Squadron, and the U.S. Army’s 53rd Signal Battalion added real-world context to the exercise scenario and provided direction to the participants.

The Red Force members from the 527th and 26th Space Aggressor Squadrons played the thinking adversary by replicating potential enemy capabilities and tactics.

“Space Flag 17-2 provided a proof of concept that a multi-Wing, AFSPC unit exercise can be successful for achieving desired learning objectives, and also yields lessons learned that can be conceptualized to help the units now in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment,” said Capt. Daniel Hammer, tactical mentor to the Blue Forces. “The CDO environment that space operators currently face is causing preparations for advanced level warfighting, and Space Flag exercises will allow members to substantiate those skills for increased mission success.”

The DMOC-S team is actively preparing for Space Flag 18-1 and Space Flag 18-2. Lessons learned in Space Flag 17-2 will be rolled into planning for next year’s exercises. The next iteration of Space Flag will include new participants from the 50 SW and the 460 SW and also looks to incorporate members of the 21 SW, further integrating space crews and enhancing their understanding of space domain defense and protection.