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300 take part in cost-effective, 4-day virtual Pacific battle
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- From left, U.S. Navy Lt. Justin Sheppard, Cmdr. Michael Noonan and Capt. Greg Keithley, from Third Fleet stationed at San Diego, coordinate naval support in the Maritime Operating Center, or MOC, during Virtual Flag 11-1 hosted by the 705th Combat Training Squadron, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. More than 300 Joint warfighters at 18 locations from Japan to England converged in a virtual battlespace over the Pacific for a four-day exercise ending Dec. 16. With a price tag of $2 million it would cost 20 times that for a similar exercise with live aircraft, according to a recent 705th CTS study. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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300 take part in cost-effective, 4-day virtual Pacific battle

Posted 12/17/2010   Updated 12/17/2010 Email story   Print story


by Maj. Heather Baldwin
705th Training Squadron Director of Operations

12/17/2010 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- More than 300 Joint warfighters from Japan to England converged in a virtual battlespace over the Pacific for a four-day exercise ending Dec. 16.

Participants from 18 locations joined forces to defeat the simulated threat in Virtual Flag 11-1. The 705th Combat Training Squadron at Kirtland AFB executes four VFs each year. It's the largest Air Force event of its kind, merging air, space and cyber simulators and computer-generated forces against a complex threat in a challenging scenario.

No two exercises are the same according to Col. Will Reese, 505th Distributed Warfare Group commander. The objectives, scenarios, personnel and systems are tailored to maximize training in accordance to Air Combat Command and component numbered air force guidance and individual participating unit training objectives.

"The 705 CTS, also known as the Distributed Mission Operations Center, perfectly balances all of these to conduct large scale, integrated training events tackling tough issues for our Air Force and joint partners," Colonel Reese said.

VF 11-1 had the largest U.S. Navy contingent since ACC sanctioned the event in 2006. Navy Capt. Greg Keithley, Third Fleet, said he expects participation to increase. "I didn't know what to expect," he said. "VF provided an excellent opportunity to exercise the Maritime Operations Center (MOC). We will definitely look for opportunities to play in future events."

The MOC is the Navy's hub for planning, coordinating and executing operations during contingencies. It works closely with the Air Force's equivalent, the Air and Space Operations Center. Participants from other Services also found value in the exercise. U.S. Army units from Hawaii and Texas participated from their home stations in preparation for upcoming deployments.

Virtual Flag exercises are a cost-effective training venue, according to Gary Porter, Virtual Flag Program Manager. "There is no way we could do this with live aircraft, the same number of people and frequency on a continuing basis," Porter said. VF costs under $2 million with coalition events closer to $2.5 million. The price tag for a similar exercise with live aircraft is more than 20 times that cost, according to a recent 705th CTS study.

VF and similar exercises are becoming more important in supporting operational and tactical level training, said retired Lt. Gen. Joseph Hurd who advises senior leaders during exercises and training events. Virtual exercises provide training with fewer resources, enable lessons to be learned in a sterile environment and provide an opportunity to employ weapons to their full capability.

"It was a real learning experience," said Navy Lt. j.g. Nicole Lobecker, USS Port Royal. "For me, working with the Air Force is something new and it was interesting to see how it all goes down."

The next VF is scheduled for March 9-17, 2011. It will be a joint exercise with more than 350 players expected to participate in a different classified Pacific scenario.

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