NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – Approximately 125 participants from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia work together during Coalition Virtual Flag 13-4 here to defeat a mock threat with the use of virtual simulators Sept. 11 through Sept. 19.
The purpose of CVF 13-4 is to train U.S. service members and allied partners to execute major combat operations to include finding, fixing, tracking, targeting, engaging and assessing an adversary capable of attacking and moving on a virtual, geographically modified battlefield.
Coalition Virtual Flag is an exercise held once a year is led by the 705th Combat Training Squadron out of Kirtland AFB, N.M. The unit is also known as the Distributed Mission Operations Center. The DMOC provides the link to the Air Force that enables usage of virtual simulators to connect participants in a simulated operational level conflict.
With the use of virtual simulators the exercise can become a coalition effort without having to move aircraft and manpower to one singular location.
“[CVF 13-4] provides an opportunity to maximize our virtual capability over a network by distributing [information] to different bases,” said Stanley Kristovich, 505thTest Squadron senior intelligence duty officer. “Nobody has to physically deploy their aircraft, and most of the pilots aren’t even physically flying. They are in simulators.”
Those participating in the exercise at Nellis AFB conduct their operations from the Combined Air and Space Operations Center-Nellis. The CAOC-N provides an advanced training platform for the combat air forces to develop and refine new tactics, techniques and procedures for theater operations.
“At the CAOC -Nellis we [fulfill the role of] the Air Operations Center,” Kristovich said. “We have allied members executing the command and control for the operational level for this simulated air war.”
The movement of aircraft and people for this exercise isn’t as much of a necessity due to the virtual simulators used during the exercise because participants can train from their home units in an environment that can be tailored and adjusted.
“CVF creates an environment where it’s almost as realistic as actually flying,” Kristovich said. “It’s an opportunity to train with many different types of aircraft you might not be able to get deployed here.”
“We have some of our coalition players contributing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and strike aircraft to participate in the coalition mission,” he added. “They are simulating they are deployed, but they are actually flying from their home bases in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.”
Working with coalition partners provides Airmen a unique training opportunity with benefits and challenges.
“We get to understand how our joint and coalition partners organize to conduct the same type of missions we do,” Kristovich said. “We get to share TTPs as well as understand [our coalition partners] strengths and weaknesses and [vice versa].
“When we come together and blend units, whether their American, British, Canadian, or Australian, they all have their own experience levels and practices that they are used to,” he added. “We have this fundamental design we all follow. Sometimes you can pick up different procedures whether it is how to use software or how to communicate.”
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Lofgren, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, sees CVF exercises as an opportunity to work with coalition partners in a cost efficient way.
“We have so few opportunities to train in large force employment exercises and with our coalition partners,” Lofgren said. “This exercise allows us the freedom to conduct this kind of training without the huge cost of bringing players together. Events like this give the participants’ experience they can use when thrust into combat situations.”
Training with joint and coalition partners on a virtual battlefield enables the Air Force and its allies the opportunity to train on a global scale where participants are able to contribute from anywhere in the world.