WASHINGTON — For the first time, the Air Force last week carried out three major test flag events at three separate locations simultaneously to see how well the service can share data electronically across different battlespaces.
The Orange Flag, Emerald Flag and Black Flag large force test events were held Oct. 26 in California, Florida and Nevada, the Air Force said in a Monday release.
The Air Force said it used a series of data transfer networks to transmit targeting data over long distances. The tests created their own airborne Link 16 networks — the military’s main tactical data exchange network — to transmit data to ground links, and then transferred that information between each flag event.
Maj. Theodore Ellis, director of the Black Flag event at the Nevada Test and Training Range, said the experiment was a success.
“It took two months of preparation between the three separate bases and connecting 10 different agencies to culminate all three flags in a single day, at the same time, for the first time,” Ellis said in a statement to Defense News. “We are still in the process of going through all the data, but the events were executed successfully.”
Maj. Daniel Prudhomme, the director of Orange Flag at Edwards Air Force Base in California, said it was the first time the test flag enterprise had tried to connect more than two geographically-separated areas with low-latency data link networks. The Air Force previously linked Orange and Emerald flag events in June.
Orange Flag involved aircraft such as the F-35A Lightning II and two General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger drones, which carried the Skyborg autonomy core system for a flight test that lasted several hours.
Capt. Joe Haggberg, deputy director of Emerald Flag at the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in Florida, said that test focused on connecting systems under the Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept. JADC2 ties systems across the services together to securely pass data between forces working in different locations.
“The [Emerald Flag] team gleaned valuable information that will fundamentally transform the way we think, fight and employ capabilities at further range,” Haggberg said.
And the Black Flag event involved testing the electronic warfare capabilities of the EC-130H Compass Call, F-15E Strike Eagle, and EA-18G Growler, testing non-traditional combat search-and-rescue methods, and other capabilities and tactics in scenarios similar to what they would encounter in actual combat.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.