Orange Flag executes largest all-domain test focused on infrared spectrum

Orange Flag, the Air Force Test Center’s all-domain, large force test series focused on advanced technology, kill-web integration and analysis, returned for its second iteration this year at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 23, 2022.

Forty-one airborne participants used the R-2508 Range and Sea Test Range to execute simultaneous participant objectives, comprising 23 separate test events.

AFTC’s Multi-Domain Test Force is leading the effort to resource, organize, and align the Test Flag Enterprise, to include Orange Flag, Emerald Flag, and Black Flag.

“It was perhaps the most complex Orange Flag ever, because we executed in two separate ranges comprising around 30,000 square nautical miles of airspace,” said Maj. Daniel Harp, Orange Flag director. “The team did an outstanding job despite having a complex experimental design, extremely limited resources, and no formal institutional manning.”

The U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Space Force and multiple civilian Research and Development agencies participated. Every fighter mission design series in the Air Force also participated, to include all three variants of the F-35.

“Orange Flag’s significance goes well beyond meeting single platform requirements,” said Maj. Joshua Rountree, Orange Flag mission commander, and director of operations, Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force. “During this event we were able to provide mature platforms environments in which to experiment, provide burgeoning technologies the opportunity to test with fielded joint and multi-domain capabilities they normally have limited access to, as well as meet traditional programmatic test requirements. All in a single day event.”

Sixteen airborne fighters and one testbed acted as either sensors or fifth-gen targets to characterize the DOD’s state-of-the-art infrared kill chain performance, and continue developmental work in the infrared spectrum for both offensive and defensive capabilities.

“Orange Flag also continues to focus on maturing autonomy and machine learning,” said Harp, an F-35 test pilot. “Machine learning has progressed to the point where we can train algorithms to perform very specific tasks that humans might be particularly bad at. By facilitating human decisions, these types of narrow Artificial Intelligence may be able to shorten the kill chain or expedite decision-making.”

The test event supported data collection for a Small Business Innovation Research contract aiming to develop a natural language processing model and automatic speech recognition for tactical aviation communication.

“Development of this type of narrow AI will facilitate future manned-unmanned teaming efforts in the DOD,” said Harp.

Orange Flag 22-2 team leads included Maj. Joshua Rountree, Orange Flag Mission Commander, Maj. Kyle McLeod, deputy Mission Commander, Capt. Joshua Rivey, Test conductor and Maj. Brian Dienst, senior technical adviser.

Orange Flag 22-3 is scheduled to occur in October of 2022 and will focus on joint, all-domain kill webs.

For more information on Orange Flag visit https://www.aftc.af.mil/Test-Flag-Enterprise/Orange-Flag/

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