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RED FLAG Command and Control, ‘Much More Lethal’

RED FLAG, Command and Control, C2, 505 CCW, ShOC-N, Shadow Operations Center- Nellis, ACC, Nellis Air Force Base, USAF, coalition, joint, air operations center, 505th Command and Control Wing, 805th Combat Training Squadron

U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force, joint, and coalition forces participate in RED FLAG 20-1 in the Shadow Operations Center-Nellis (ShOC-N) at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, 3 Feb 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Shelton Keel)


RED FLAG (RF) joint/coalition exercises focus on air, space, and cyber domain integration, maximizing the live, virtual, and constructive capabilities executed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Most are familiar with RF's tactical side (aircraft flying), what they don't realize is that there's even more significant capability that is being exercised around the Airmen and their aircraft by the Shadow Operations Center – Nellis (ShOC-N).

During RF 20-1, 75 percent of RF's training was accomplished by ShOC-N's professional control force via a man-in-the-loop constructive environment. In contrast, 25% of the training was accomplished via live and virtual assets on the Nellis Tactics and Training Range.

ShOC-N provides operational level command and control (C2) training on advanced Air Operations Center (AOC) tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) while operating in a contested, degraded, and operationally-limited (CDO) environment. RF's primary objective is to provide readiness training in a Major Combat Operations scenario while providing operational level participants the opportunity to plan and employ live, virtual, and/or constructive tactical entities in a CDO environment, against a near-peer threat. 

"RED FLAG is one of the few environments where you get operational to tactical level C2 so what you can do inside these environments is bring the joint and coalition forces because we never fight alone," Lt. Col. Julie Sposito Salceies, commander, 805 Combat Training Squadron (CTS). "ShOC-Nellis brings them into a single environment where we can not only practice legacy infrastructure, but we can also look at emerging capabilities and architectures, and now we can experiment and train to them prior to first contact with the enemy. So it makes us much more lethal."

The Royal Austrian Air Force (RAAF) led the AOC with augmentation from Coalition (Royal Australian Air Force and Navy, Royal Air Force and Navy), Joint (U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, and U.S. Navy), Air National Guard, Air Reserve Command and active duty AOCs, Air Operations Groups, Air Operations Squadrons, and Intelligence Squadrons.

"For us, we have learned quite a lot in the mission planning space, in particular, how to plan a defensive cyber operations mission and how to integrate it into an Air Operations Center. Our team in Australia operates within the Australian Air Operations Center but some of the tactics being used here on RF are quite unique in the sense of the complexity of the mission and the adversary that we're facing," according to Squadron Leader Shaun Reece, RAAF. "We've learned a lot in terms of mission planning and how to integrate our capability into a coalition environment, as well as some of the TTPs."

Twenty-one units from three countries, 91 aircraft, 317 air, space, and cyber personnel, 461 aircrew, 912 maintenance, and 242 support personnel attended RF 20-1 for joint and coalition operational and tactical-level training.

"In a command and control world, we will have to communicate with coalition as well as joint forces. It [RF] allows us to know who & how we need to communicate with them in order to meet the effects that we need on certain targets when we need those effects done on those targets," said Capt. Ronald Dewey, U.S. Marine Corps, RF command and control duty officer, Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Corps Station Miramar, California.

Air, space, and cyber participants were trained in 68 joint strategic and operational objectives across the exercise operational Joint Operations Area. Participants operated at ShOC-N and received direct operational level training on Combat Operations Division (COD), Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance Division, Combat Plans Division, and select specialty teams positions and processes while supporting RF's tactical training audiences in a Major Combat Operations scenario. 

The Space Cell processed 82 Position, Navigation, and Timing notifications in support of Personnel Recovery (PR) and Dynamic Targeting (DT) events. Personnel also responded to 79 missile warning and 196 Infrared/Electronics Intelligence (IR/ELINT) notifications.

"As space members, we get a chance to one, see it because we just don't on a day-to-day basis for the most part in our roles and responsibilities back home," Capt. Lydell Scott, flight commander, U.S. Space Force, Schriever AFB, Colorado. "So it helps us integrate a lot better and basically get what we can do out there to the folks that may not know that these are things that we can provide beyond missile launches and aircraft."

A total of 279 Non-Kinetic (NKO) lines were planned, and 267 lines were executed.

According to RAF Wing Commander Tim Adcock, "a lot of different nations coming [to RF exercises] obviously with their ways and means of doing business, their capabilities as well. The different platforms that come that's a unique opportunity right now for the UK in terms of the space operators and the NKO effects operators able to come and, and have those capabilities available to us."

The ShOC-N Innovation Directorate fielded and tested their Airmen-developed oneChat as the sole ops C2 chat/collaboration solution for the first time in an operational environment during RF 20-1. As a collaborative tool that replaces legacy chat programs, oneChat is primarily used for C2, with the goal of leveraging it for Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

"Currently, all the services operate on a different chat program. So what this [oneChat] was built to do was to build a government-owned and government-developed product that can be backward compatible and ingest those communication methodologies," said Lt. Col. Thomas Turner, ShOC-N director of innovation, 805 CTS.

Defensive Cyber Operations teams successfully protected communication infrastructure against 241 of 351 cyber-attacks. 

"We're working through them [attack determinations] in an exercise because real-world nation-states that are out there that are our peers, near peers at least are definitely looking at how do they get after our weapon systems. So we've got to be looking at how we defend them," said Capt. Joseph Giametta, RF white cell cyber lead, 552nd Mission Defense Team.

"The 805 CTS/ShOC-N is on the leading edge of developing what Joint All-Domain Command and Control [JADC2] is and how to incorporate it into exercises such as RED FLAG for the joint and coalition exercise environment," according to Col. Shayne Yorton, commander, 505th Combat Training Group (CTG).

ShOC-N also known as the 805th Combat Training Squadron (CTS), Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, 505 CTG, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, is aligned under the 505th Command and Control Wing (CCW), Hurlburt Field, Florida, which shapes the way joint and coalition warfighters execute command and control (C2) of multi-domain operations. The 505 CCW provides a tactical advantage to the warfighter to achieve and maintain C2 dominance in air, space, and cyberspace.