Many ISR firsts accomplished at Red Flag

  • Published
  • By Lori A. Bultman
  • 25th Air Force

This year’s first Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, saw many firsts for the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance warriors of 25th Air Force.

This was the first time weapon systems and platforms identified Network Centric Collaborative Targeting as a desired learning outcome, said Lt. Col. Justin Tindal, chief, futures branch, Air Combat Command.


“NCCT is a Government-owned program of record that horizontally integrates airborne ISR sensors with national data for Air Operations Centers and Air Force DCGS [distributed common ground system] customers,” said Garland Henderson, operational integration branch chief, 25th Air Force.  “It theoretically shortens the amount of time needed to fix targeted emitters, fleeting targets and moving ground targets by simultaneously cueing airborne and other sensors with other collection assets.


Another first during this Red Flag was that NCCT procedural information was included in Red Flag SPINS [Special Instructions] and the NCCT duty officer or technician was used within the Combined Air Operations Center ISR Division, Tindal said.


An additional milestone during 17-1 was that, for the first time, crews planned for cooperative geolocation using NCCT, Tindal said.


“Cooperative geolocation with NCCT uses two or more assets, with geometry and speed of machine-to-machine cross-cueing, to rapidly find, fix and track a target or signal of interest,” he said. “Crews weren't mission planning with just their own aircraft in mind, but also where it is in relation to the other aircraft.”


Due to maintenance and weather issues, additional NCCT collaborative efforts scheduled during this Red Flag exercise were canceled.


Despite the setbacks, both United Kingdom Rivet Joint and U.S. Rivet Joint sent good mission data to NCCT on nights when the teams were active, Tindal said. 


“We did have collection from both RJ’s; and the NDOT [NCCT Duty Officer Technician] provided some tippers into appropriate tactical coordination rooms,” he said. Tippers are notifications that activity is occurring and may be of interest.


The use of NCCT at 17-1 was a first, but not the last. The equipment was permanently installed prior to this exercise for use at Red Flag, Tindal said.


Airmen installed NCCT hardware and software at Nellis Air Force Base to support this and future Red Flags and other exercises, Tindal said, adding that the equipment appeared to perform well.


Tindal expects NCCT’s continued participation at Red Flags twice a year, if practical.


“We need to firm up the operational procedural progress that NCCT had at RF 17-1 by continuing in follow-on Red Flags,” he said.


In the post-Red Flag briefings, leaders encouraged continued training opportunities with NCCT, said Master Sgt. Ross Retter, plans and programs, 461st Air Control Wing.


“Leadership would like to continue developing TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures] for NCCT and directed the team to work with the 55th Wing, sooner rather than later…” in an effort to arrange training opportunities outside of Red Flag.