Cyber Tested in F-35 Red Flag
February 8, 2017
Created in 1975, Red Flag was
established by Gen. Robert J. Dixon, then commander of Tactical Air
Command, to more realistically train forces for combat.
This year’s first Red Flag, 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, has
today’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance warriors thinking
about the many kinetic, or traditional weapon, and non-kinetic,
information warfare, effects they can produce in battle scenarios.
When training for war, in addition to the physical effects from bullets
and bombs, there can also be battle damage results involving technology
that are not so clearly seen, said Lt. Col. Neal, the 25th Air Force
operations division chief.
Maintainers from the 419th and
388th Fighter Wings conduct preflight checks on an F-35A Lightning II
from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force
Base, Nev., Jan. 24, 2017. Airmen from the active-duty 388th FW and Air
Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the Lightning II in a total
force partnership, capitalizing on the strength of both components
Col. Robert Cole, the Air Forces
Cyber Forward director, said rather than thinking about war from a
domain-centric perspective, future battles will be fought with combined
“In the past, the non-kinetic effects were not fully integrated into the
kinetic fight,” Cole said.
Now, Red Flag is integrating unseen effects into multi-domain operations
to include kinetic, cyber, ISR and electronic warfare, Cole said.
“This integration in an exercise environment allows our planners and
warfighters to understand how to best integrate these, learn their
capabilities and limitations, and become ready to use [these combined
resources for maximum] effect against our adversaries,” he said.
"For example, think about the movie ‘Black Hawk Down.’ As the U.S. task
force was moving from the air base to Mogadishu, there were a number of
spotters that alerted enemy forces,” Cole said. Consider if cyber was
used to coordinate contact with the spotters and tell them to walk away
or be targeted, he said.
A key component for coordinating all the different silent effects during
battle is the non-kinetic duty officer.
“We are bringing the non-kinetic duty officers into the fight at Red
Flag,” Neal said. “These experts in ISR and cyberwarfare are the newest
weapons in our command and control arsenal.”
The 25th Air Force kick started the Numbered Air Force non-kinetic duty
officer initiative with the development of a five-day Red Flag NKDO
course in preparation for Red Flag 17-1.
“This course has proven its worth, as it not only provided curriculum
bridging the air, space and cyber effects in warfare, but it also
produced a multi-domain NKDO team readied for Red Flag 17-1,” said Joe
Delgado, the 25th Air Force ISR Operations Integration and Exercises
The 14th, 24th and 25th Air Forces’ NKDOs, with coalition augmentation,
are performing well ahead of week one Red Flag standards, according to
At the end of 17-1, week one, 25th Air Force wings, including Air Force
National-Tactical Integration Teams from the 70th ISR Wing, are having
marked success and appear to be performing better than typical ISR
participants, Delgado said.
The specialized cryptologic analysts from the NTI teams are providing
time-sensitive, high impact, national-level intelligence to numerous
exercise participants, said Garland Henderson, operational integration
branch chief, 25th Air Force.
The 25th Air Force is also pursuing the successful employment of the
newly operational Net-Centric Collaborative Targeting system at this Red
Flag, Henderson said.
plan is to utilize NCCT to coordinate multiple sources of intelligence
for situational awareness or to take action,” he said. “Applying lessons
learned from previous Red Flag events, NTI at 17-1 has excelled by
reaching out to other ISR partners, such as the Distributed Common
Ground Station, to ensure critical data is passed in a timely manner.
“The realistic warfare challenges at Red Flag create an ideal
environment for capabilities, like NCCT, to prove their worth in a
time-sensitive, task saturated scenario involving the integration of
multiple ISR assets,” Henderson continued.
A typical Red Flag exercise involves a wide variety of aircraft, as well
as ground-based command and control, space and cyber forces. It has
expanded in recent years to include all spectrums of warfare, including
command, control, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and