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AFSPC makes history with inaugural Space Flag exercise

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- April 17 marked a new era in Air Force Space Command history. The inaugural Space Flag exercise, designated Space Flag 17-1, took place at Boeing’s Phantom Works Virtual Warfare Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, during which 46 men and women navigated notional scenarios designed to prepare them for the possibility of a fight extending to the space domain.

Developed in response to evolving threats and with knowledge gained during rounds of experimentation at the newly-renamed National Space Defense Center, Space Flag is the first exercise focused on priming the tactical space warfighter to move beyond the traditional outlook of operating in a permissive, benign environment to one that emphasizes achieving the operational advantage in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited domain. No other exercise allows space operators, planners and leaders to exercise acting decisively to defend U.S. space interests in the face of new challenges.

Just as Red Flag was created to provide fighter pilots with relevant and realistic training to better prepare them for combat, Space Flag is designed to fulfill a similar purpose for space warfighters. Adversaries are developing capabilities to deny, disrupt and degrade our access to space during a conflict. As adversary threats grow, training must shift to counter these threats. Space Flag helps prepare space forces to react to a thinking adversary and operate as warfighters in this environment. It builds on recent initiatives, such as the Space Mission Force, which are creating a warfighting mindset among space operators.

The 705th Combat Training Squadron, Operating Location-Alpha, located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, known as the Distributed Mission Operations Center-Space, developed, planned and executed Space Flag on behalf of Headquarters Air Force Space Command.

“Space Flag 17-1 is historic. This is an exercise dedicated to the advanced training of space operators in a realistic and representative space environment,” said Larry Overmyer, DMOC-S director. “The space operators who participated in this exercise developed warfighting skills and tactics, techniques and procedures required to maintain and operate their systems to provide space capabilities to commanders around the world.”

Space Flag was comprised of “Blue Forces” from the 50th Space Wing; including the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Space Operations Squadrons. The 527th and 26th Space Aggressor Squadrons provided a challenging and thinking adversary named the “Red Force.” Additionally, the 22nd Space Operations Squadron, the NSDC and DMOC-S provided “White Cell” support.

Future Space Flags are envisioned to increase in size and scope with the integration of additional space wings, eventually becoming the premier AFSPC advanced training event, with participants from the entire spectrum of the space enterprise.

“Space Flag was the first time most space crews had ever faced a thinking adversary. The 50th crews initially approached the problem with a pre-Space Mission Force mentality. After a wakeup call in the first event, courtesy of the 527th and 26th Space Aggressor Squadrons, the crews applied their lessons learned and brought a strong fight to the second vulnerability period,”said Capt. Even Rogers, Red Force lead.

From start to finish, Space Flag focused on preparing space warfighters to conduct operations as part of a larger, integrated space mission force. This composite mission planning structure is key to giving participants the opportunity to rapidly process and disseminate information and react appropriately when confronted by a threat.

“This was the best space intel and space ops integration I have seen in my 26-year career. Facing an actual thinking adversary provided exceptional benefits—our space operators now understood the real threat they will face,” said Col. Toby Doran, 50th Operations Group commander and Blue Force lead.

Space Flag 17-1 is a significant step in the transformation taking place to prepare space operators for the reality of a contested environment in space, and a taste of the SMF mentality was given to the participants of the Space Flag exercise.