The operations center sits in a large room, filled with rows of computers, displaying a simulated combat scenario.
Above different areas in the room are signs designating who sits where. Cyber, Space and Judge Advocate are just a few of the stations in the dark room. Illuminating the area in the front are projector screens displaying real aircraft positioning, weather maps and other intel sources. Announcements over the intercom can be heard of major developments such as a fallen aircraft or incoming opposition.
While the aircraft might be the muscle, this is the brain of Red Flag.
Red Flag is the premiere training exercise for pilots to receive combat training in a safe and realistic environment. While pilots garner most of the attention, the 505th Testing Squadron implements operational/tactical warfare, experimentation and training, and future programs and systems to be used during exercises.
Lt. Col. Julie “Spaz” Sposito-Salceies, 505th TS commander, leads the unit in the ever-evolving mission at the Combined Air Operations Center-Nellis.
The unit began as an experimentation unit. Eventually, the squadron was shut down, but potential was seen in the unit and it was reactivated with a new mission with the same squadron name.
“We support the combat operations division that focuses on the execution of war,” said Sposito-Salceies. “We also have liaison officers and specialty teams; we’re talking about 200 joint/coalition warfighters in one room working tactics at the same time.”
After being asked by the Air Force to become a center for combat innovation, the 505th TS mission expanded again.
“In August of 2017, we stood up the Shadow Operations Center-Nellis (ShOC-N),” said Sposito-Salceies. “We stood up as a software development capability. Now, we have coders, analysts, engineers and an entire squad of operators (pilots and special operations Airmen) working in one area.”
This close-knit relationship allows the squadron to skip most of the hurdles encountered in traditional innovation.
“We have coders building an application, and right next to them are the operators who will be using it,” said Sposito-Salceies. “The operator can tell them in real-time what does and does not work. That means, as soon as the application is done, it’s ready for experimentation/assessment.”
The 505th TS was tasked once more with creating a new Air Force process.
“We were tasked with standing up the multi-domain operations center in January,” said Sposito-Salceies. “It’s different from an air operations center. It’s a building or a process. We’re actually still trying to figure it out. If we have a space guy, a cyber guy and a ground operator, they need to be able to work together, and there’s not really an efficient way to do it right now. We’re designing an infrastructure for them to all work together and get the mission done.”
One of the first issues the squadron was presented was communication issues during operations with people with different security clearances.
“Traditionally, if you’re in a top-secret vault, I’m in a secret area, and we have a ground operator on a cell phone, it’d be very hard to talk to each other,” said Sposito-Salceies. “What our new tool allows us to do is all be in the same chatroom. The data gets tagged, so you won’t see anything unless you’re cleared to see it. It’s low bandwidth so it really works well for the operators in the field.”
With the squadron’s increase in duties, the unit was due for a name change. The 505th TS, as of Aug. 1, 2019, is now the 805th Combat Training Squadron with the same mission of software development, operational relevance assessment and tactics, techniques, and procedures development, Sposito-Salceies said.
Sposito-Salceies wants to increase the number of Airmen from the operational side of the Air Force in the squadron.
“I’ve been trying to get a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape instructor stationed here or to have as a liaison,” said Sposito-Salceies. “When we’re programming, we want all the experts to be beside us at all times. I might not have them stationed here, but I can bring them over as needed. All career fields, all DOD, all coalition forces, I welcome them all to this squadron.”
As the future of warfare technology increases, Nellis AFB remains at the center of warfighter innovation. While pilots train and hone their skills, the 805th Combat Training Squadron works to ensure innovation on the battlefield doesn’t slow down.
“I want to get every bit of capability we can get for the Air Force and the Joint Force” said Sposito-Salceies. “When you experiment for the future of war, you need to have a taste of everything.”