RF 21-3 integrates Space with next generation warfighting

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Alexandre Montes
  • Nellis Air Force Base Public Affairs

In an interview from 2020, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond touched on America’s great power competitors and how they are improving their space capabilities. This has fueled U.S. joint and allied partners to invest, train and replicate in space along with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to integrate with current air-to-air and air-to-land tactical assets.

The 414th Combat Training Squadron, which hosts Red Flag-Nellis, has provided training opportunities to effectively expand competitive space capabilities, requiring U.S. interagency to exercise national power.

In previous years, the 64th Aggressor Squadron battled the blue forces during these air-only exercises. As an enabler for change to true battlespace exercises, Red Flag-Nellis 21-3 has hosted a new approach, integrating space components into both blue and red forces. These teams include the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Space Force.

One Guardian from the U.S. Space Force, 16th Space Control Squadron, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, experienced Red Flag-Nellis 21-3 as a new participant, liaison officer and blue force member.

“As non-kinetics and Space itself, we’ve already integrated with Global Positioning Systems, satellite communications (SATCOM) and bringing what we offer at Red Flag on the electronic warfare side,” said 2nd Lt. Joshua Miller, 16th SPCS. “

Miller explained that electronic attack and electronic support assets provide an option to help monitor and detect Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) for the blue forces’ signals and its health. 

The 414th CTS planned a multitude of joint space assets and tools to rival both red and blue forces during the exercise. Although continuing to grow the joint and allied force multi-domain capabilities, all participating space units have one common goal.

Maj. Paul Sula, 26th Space Aggressor Squadron standards and evaluation flight commander, mentioned that on the red force, it is all U.S. Air Force, but back at his home station he is constantly working with U.S. Marine contingents. His experience has allowed the red force to play a significant role in this year’s Red Flag-Nellis 21-3, as they replicated and trained the joint blue force on how real world adversaries could act.

“Without space-based capabilities, you lose access to GPS satellites, around the world communication, SATCOM, along with convenience,” said Sula. “I believe there is a role to play, and space is a fantastic enabler.”

A key focus during the three-week exercise was to find out how space and ISR can create agile problem solvers when their capabilities are hindered or removed, allowing for battle managers to learn, re-train and execute the mission.

“We can help flyers with the mission planning and getting the non-kinetic effects in the beginning stages, to make the mission more successful,” said Sula.

One of the things the space and cyber participants have continued to push for is the integration of traditional only air-only exercises.

“There is usually a fight for relevance and a fight to get the airside to accept that there are other missions that can have a significant impact on how a mission can come out,” said Sula.

The bottom line from this exercise was that space, cyber and ISR are enablers across the board for the joint force and their assets. Learning these tactics at Nellis and over the Nevada Test and Training Range can help leverage common perspectives against shared threats, allowing us to fly, fight and win…airpower anytime, anywhere.