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By Airman 1st Class Ruben Garibay
377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The Distributed Mission Operations Center located at Kirtland Air Force Base, hosted its joint Virtual Flag exercise Aug. 25-29, 2023.
During Virtual Flag, operational and tactical warfighters engage in a virtual theater-level joint combat environment in an Indo-Pacific area of responsibility, allowing them to train with simulated real-world threats in real-time.
Participating in this exercise were warfighters from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force. This exercise occurs quarterly, with three instances focused on battle management and one centered around tactical command and control.
“Our exercises allow us to provide munitions, fuel, and logistics to entities around the world to ensure they are actually able to go out and fight the fight itself,” shares Maj. Andrew Metz, 705th Combat Training Squadron exercise director. “When fighters, bombers, those types of assets go up, we practice communicating with them on where to go, where to fuel up, and where to loiter.”
Virtual Flag uses air, land, space, cyber, and maritime scenarios to train joint forces how to work together to accomplish the mission at hand.
“The most difficult part of this training is learning how to work with our joint forces,” expresses Master Sgt. Joshua Underwood, 726th Air Control Squadron flight chief for weapons and tactics. “We get to see how one mistake leads to a ripple effect of consequences for our allies and partners in real-time. That’s not something you can get outside of a simulator without adverse reverberations.”
The 705th Combat Training Squadron employs a number of U.S. Air Force, joint, and coalition simulators and emulators, to include the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System, E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, Control and Reporting Center, Distributed Common Ground System, remotely piloted aircraft, Joint Terminal Attack Controller systems, air support operations center, datalinks, U.S. Navy Cells, U.S. Army Cells, environment generators, and white/red force operators.
“Our radar simulation constructs a picture for battle managers, fighters and bombers to visualize what the enemy is doing and position themselves accordingly to protect our high value assets,” Metz explains. “The majority of our players are from the tactical command and control community. That’s not just to say the Air Force but our sister forces like Navy Third Fleet, Marines from the MASS-3 [Marine Air Support Squadron], our Airborne Early Warning and Control team from Tinker Air Force Base, our Control and Reporting Centre, and others.”
Exercises like Virtual Flag offer the Distributed Mission Operations Center a platform to employ tactics, techniques, and procedures that impact air, land, space, and maritime missions. Through simulated training, various objectives are achieved during each training period. Participants develop essential communication skills for joint forces, acquire tactics and techniques to deter and combat national adversaries, and receive real-time feedback to refine their strategies effectively.
“Some of the best things about these types of exercises is that it saves time and money,” Lt. Col. Michael Butler, 705 CTS commander, reflects. “Participants practice things that cannot be practiced in a live environment without spending millions of dollars in equipment. Here, we can conduct these training for a fraction of the cost, without taking away any of the essential necessary training requirements.”