Green Flag-West, a realistic air-land integration combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies, is primarily conducted in conjunction with US Army Combat Training Center exercises at Ft Irwin, CA. It is a Close Air Support and Joint exercise administered by the US Air Force Air Warfare Center and Nellis AFB through the 549th Combat Training Squadron.
Green Flag-West was previously designated Air Warrior and stood up in 1981 in conjunction with the US Army's establishment of the National Training Center. Tasked to plan, control, and execute the air component's involvement in the exercise, the 549th CTS' mission is to train Joint and Coalition personnel in the integration and employment of air, space, and cyber power in conjunction with ground force operations.
The Green Flag mission begins long before tactical operations occur on the battlefield. 549th CTS planners begin designing the exercise with Army planners six months before forces arrive to begin maneuvers. Air Combat Command determines which, and how many flying units will participate and the 549th CTS works with those units, along with US Army planners, to build an integrated plan to maximize joint and individual unit training.
A typical Green Flag exercise involves two multi-role fighter and/or bomber squadrons (F-15Es, F-16s, F/A-18s, A-10s, B-1s, B-52s, etc.), unmanned aircraft (MQ-1, MQ-9, Shadow, Raven), electronic warfare aircraft (EC-130s, EP-3s), and aerial refueling aircraft (KC-130s, KC-135s, and KC-10s). Additionally, USAF command and control assets consisting of E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and the E-8C Joint Stars (JSTARS) play a significant role in the exercise by using their unique capabilities to monitor and support many aspects of both air and ground force maneuvers.
During exercise execution, Green Flag staff members direct, monitor, and instruct visiting units in the conduct of air operations in support of ground forces. To aid in this endeavor, the 549th CTS maintains a cadre of current and qualified air-to-ground experts who fly with visiting squadrons during most exercises. When not actively flying in the exercises, the same cadre provide exercise oversight and ensure the highest level of integration between air and ground forces.
Key to the GFW staff's oversight of the exercise is the Individual Combat Aircrew Display Systems. ICADS is the world's most sophisticated tracking system for combat training exercises and allows commanders, safety observers, and exercise directors to monitor the mission in real-time.
On average, all four military services, including the guard and reserve components, participate in two Green Flag exercises each year. Air forces of other countries participate in one or more designated coalition exercises annually. Green Flag exercises provide critical joint training for approximately 75,000 joint and coalition personnel per year, including 3,000 sorties, 6,000 flight hours, and the expenditure of over 700,000 pounds of live and training ordnance.
Green Flag-West, in support of the US Army's NTC, provides invaluable combat training to Joint and Coalition warfighters in the art of air-land integration and the joint employment of airpower.
(Current as of May 2012)