Air Force Space Command successfully completed its sixth Space Flag 19-2 exercise at the Boeing Virtual Warfare Center in Washington, D.C., April 19.
Space Flag is a mission planning exercise focused at the tactical-level within the space domain on AFSPC’s “Fight Tonight” mission, allowing space operators to maneuver in a robust, physics-based modeling and simulation environment. Participants simulate operations in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment with current capabilities against a thinking and determined adversary.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein met with Space Flag participants to gain their tactical-level perspective on space as a warfighting domain and their vision for maintaining a competitive advantage against adversaries in space.
“This is a great opportunity to get inside the minds of these Airmen, to see what they’re thinking about with regard to operating in today’s space domain,” Goldfein said. “We’re the best in the world at space and our adversaries know it – they know they’re up against these talented Airmen.”
Maj. Neil Fournie, Space Flag director, leads the Distributed Mission Operations Center-Space team, who developed, planned and executed Space Flag 19-2 on behalf of AFSPC. Assigned to the 705th Combat Training Squadron, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Fournie expressed the direct impact Space Flag has on expanding the skills of today’s warfighters.
“Simply put, this exercise exists to make this generation better warfighters in the space domain,” Fournie said. “Some of these Airmen have operated their specific systems for two to three years. But here, they learn the bigger picture of how to operate in a domain that can one day be contested, degraded and operationally-limited or placed in a conflict scenario.”
The participants are organized within teams, or, Blue and Red Cells, in which Blue Cell players simulate warfighter maneuvers to gain and maintain space superiority against space threats, such as space object identification, direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons, orbital threats, terrestrial jamming threats, directed energy threats and directed energy weapons.
Capt. Lauren Oglesby, 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron Mycroft instructor, was selected as the package lead for the Space Defense Blue Cell. Her first time participating in Space Flag, Oglesby spoke on her experience integrating with other systems within the cell.
“Space Flag provides the ‘so what’ behind mission planning and develops the mission planning skill set in a way we don’t normally get to pursue,” Oglesby said. “It is incredibly helpful to have people from so many different systems in one place working together. I learned so much about what my counterparts do, even those who are at the same base as me, that I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to interact with and learn from.”
In a separate room, Red Cell players simulated adversarial operations, who acted and reacted to Blue Cell movements to present realistic challenges within the space domain.
Capt. Danielle DePaolis, 527th Space Aggressor Squadron Weapons and Tactics chief,, has participated in three Space Flags and performed as the Red Cell lead for 19-2.
“As the Red Cell, we simulate what the adversary might do and force the Blue Cell to think of innovative ways to maintain peace in space,” said DePaolis. “I always say there is no winner or loser at Space Flag. What’s important is that we learn how to recognize and react to adversary threats in the real world and hone our warfighting skills.”
In addition to the group of space operators participating at Space Flag, intelligence analysts provided a perspective essential to mission planning within the exercise.
“Our intelligence analysts add an invaluable technical mindset with their ability to role-play the adversaries’ actions,” Goldfein said, highlighting their expanded integration within the space domain.
Senior Airman Sydney Glover, 50th Operations Support Squadron intelligence analyst, was responsible for analyzing data and informing the Blue Cell on potential adversarial actions within the exercise.
“It was an incredible experience to analyze a variety of actions in space and think through the second and third order of effects for each action,” Glover said. “It’s so important for the intelligence community to continue increasing our knowledge on space operations, especially in today’s contested environment.”
Space Flag, which began in 2017,modeled after the enduring success of Air Force Red Flag exercises, has experienced exponential growth as a total force exercise.
Space Flag 19-2 involved more participants than ever before – including active duty and Reserve Airmen from the 21st, 50th, 460th and 310th Space Wings, as well as the Colorado and Florida Air National Guard, Navy and Army personnel. Additional forces supporting the primary training audience include the National Reconnaissance Office, National Space Defense Center and the Combined Space Operations Center, who provide command and control functions as the White Cell.
The next Space Flag exercise, scheduled for August 2019, will include coalition partners for the first time, and exercise planners aim to continue expanding with joint and coalition partners to eventually make Space Flag a multi-domain, joint, coalition exercise.
Goldfein concluded his visit by encouraging participants to continue building a warfighter mentality within the space community, while emphasizing strategic deterrence.
“We want to put enough doubt in the adversary’s mind that there is no way they can win or accomplish their objective because of who they’re up against … these Airmen,” Goldfein said. “We don’t want a war to start or extend in space because if it ever does, everyone loses. This is about deterrence.”