Green Flag-West is a large force, live-fly Joint exercise that provides advanced, realistic and relevant air-to-surface integration warfighter training in a robust contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment. It is primarily executed in conjunction with US Army exercises at the National Training Center at Ft Irwin, CA, but also trains against sea-based threats in order to provide multi-domain air-to-surface fires training. Green Flag-West is administered by the US Air Force Warfare Center through the 549th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis AFB and the 12th Combat Training Squadron at Ft Irwin.
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 and 12th CTS' missions are to train Joint and Coalition personnel in the integration and employment of air, space, and cyberspace in conjunction with ground force operations.
The Green Flag mission begins long before tactical operations occur on the battlefield. 549th CTS and 12th CTS planners begin designing the exercise approximately 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 to build an integrated plan to maximize joint and individual unit training.
A typical Green Flag exercise involves at least one multi-role fighter and/or bomber squadron (F-15E, F-16, F/A-18, A-10, B-1, B-52, etc.), unmanned aircraft (MQ-1, MQ-9, Shadow, Raven), electronic warfare aircraft (EC-130, EP-3), and aerial refueling aircraft (KC-130, KC-135, KC-46, and KC-10). Additionally, USAF command and control airborne and surface-based assets often 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 and 12th CTS maintain a cadre of current and qualified air-to-ground experts who fly with visiting squadrons during some 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.
In addition to working with the NTC, Green Flag also facilitates naval air-to-surface training at the Southern California Tactical Training Range in San Diego, CA. Known as Air Operations in Maritime Surface Warfare, the air-to-surface mission is becoming increasingly pertinent in training against near-peer adversaries. Green Flag-West helps to ensure that Air Force assets are ready to support in a maritime fight.
On average, all four military services, including the guard and reserve components, participate in Green Flag exercises. Air Forces of other countries also participate in designated coalition exercises. Green Flag exercises provide critical joint training for approximately 25,000 joint and coalition personnel per year, including 450 sorties, 900 flight hours, and the expenditure of over 100,000 pounds of live and training ordnance. Approximately 30% of a unit’s annual close air support training requirements are completed in just 2-weeks at Green Flag-West in the most realistic, relevant and advanced way possible.
Green Flag-West provides invaluable combat training to Joint and Coalition warfighters in the art of air-land and air-sea integration and the joint employment of airpower.
(Current as of Nov 2022)