WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. –
Red Flag is a large-scale exercise that offers the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron an opportunity to enhance their integrated mission planning capabilities with the use of ever-evolving intelligence.
Red Flag is hosted multiple times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and includes a variety of units and airframes from across the Department of Defense, U.S. allies and partners.
This yearly exercise was created to prevent the aircraft causalities that occurred during the Vietnam War from happening again. One of the most critical lessons learned from the war was the need for integration between multiple airframes, such as bombers and fighters. This integration creates a dominant, multi-capable force that starts with a mission planning cell before the pilots even leave the runway.
“In the B-2 community, we say ‘mission planning is our primary tactic’ and our quality of mission planning is what sets us apart,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Conant, 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander. “Preparing our mission with the best plan possible, with the best data possible, is important because that can reduce challenges and errors, as variables on the battlefield inevitably change. Our mission planning philosophy combines the tenants of flexibility with a holistic perspective on how to execute a joint air campaign.”
The strategic implementation of air crew tactics and intelligence analysis allows for quality preparation that is a vital component to combat superiority.
“Intel plays a critical role early in the mission planning process,” said Conant. “Initial assessments are what we base facts and assumptions on, to then build the plan. But, intel never stops. As the mission planning progresses, they are constantly updating and refining their products so we can adjust.”
Red Flag trains our air crew and intelligence officers to mission plan with their counterparts from fellow Air Force units, which tests their integration capabilities on a grander platform within a stable environment. For the 393rd EBS, it is important to learn from other air crews and understand how their aircraft can assist and benefit the execution of the B-2 mission.
“Intel and operations go hand in hand,” said Maj. Jonathan Waag, 509 Operation Support Squadron chief of intelligence. “Red Flag provides us the opportunity to practice our processes as Unit Level Intel and develop our analytical skills at the tactical level. The mission planning process at Red Flag allows us to network among the Intel community and learn from our collective experiences.”
The 509th Bomb Wing prioritizes multi-aircraft integrations because it offers the most realistic and valuable training for the Airmen. The B-2 primarily integrates with their fellow low observable platforms, the F-35 and F-22. These integrations are typically conducted four to five times a year, one of the biggest collaborations being Red Flag. As these airframes have modernized, so have the mission planning tactics to optimize the new stealth capabilities.
Much like tactics and aircraft capabilities, the technology used by intelligence analysts has also improved with new variants of remotely piloted aircrafts, satellites and communication networks providing more timely and accurate information before, during and after mission flights.
“Intelligence tools and training are constantly evolving to meet the operational needs of the Air Force,” said Waag. “Advancements in technology have increased both the quantity and quality of information that we can provide to our pilots to increase their lethality. As a community we are well equipped to provide the necessary intelligence to accomplish our mission.”
As the most technologically advanced stealth bomber, the B-2 Spirit has more than a leg up on the aircraft used during the Vietnam War. Coupling its modern tactical capabilities with its updated data analysis tools and mission planning expertise, the B-2 Spirit and its’ aircrew and intelligence officers make an extremely lethal team.
“Warfighting is a team sport, always has been and always will be,” said Conant. “Integration exercises build our combat capabilities, and, serve to communicate to everyone (allies and potential adversaries) that we are getting better and ready to fight as a warfighting team…anytime, anywhere.”