392d CTS leads historic SPACE FLAG featuring live fires against SATCOM and cyber

  • Published
  • By Space Training and Readiness Command Public Affairs

SCHRIEVER SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. – The 392d Combat Training Squadron, a part of Delta 1 under Space Training and Readiness Command, recently completed a historic, large force training exercise, where it executed the first live-fire against a satellite since SPACE FLAG’s debut in 2017.

SPACE FLAG 23-2, held at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, was the largest exercise iteration to date, involving 250 participants, and was historic in many ways.

It was also the most complex integration of cyber warfare, the largest integration of coalition partners ever at a SPACE FLAG exercise, and the first SPACE FLAG exercise to feature live-fire space electronic warfare, according to U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Albert Harris, 392d CTS commander.

The space warfighters involved in SPACE FLAG 23-2 rehearsed tactics spanning disciplines such as command and control/space battle management, intelligence, orbital warfare, cyber warfare, navigation warfare, missile warning and surveillance, satellite communications, space domain awareness, and space electronic warfare.

According to Harris, every warfighting Delta in the U.S. Space Force, along with coalition partners from Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada, participated in SPACE FLAG 23-2.

SPACE FLAG 23-2 used its traditional vulnerability period construct. Each vulnerability period lasted two days, with the first day focused on mission planning, while the second day featured the simulated execution of the plan built by participants.

During mission planning, the training audience considered simulated hostile actions taken by threats in the U.S. Indo-Pacific area of responsibility. Participants discussed space combat schemes of maneuver and their synchronization with other domains, such as air, sea, land, and cyber. They also considered acceptable levels of risks for coalition missions and produced coalition response options for approval by two senior leaders – one representing the United States and the other representing a coalition partner.

The Event

U.S. Space Force Maj. Mary Holman, SPACE FLAG 23-2 exercise director, and her senior exercise planner, Steve Pirner, led a team of exercise planners who delivered injects that allowed the completion of 122 training objectives across four nations.

“Each vulnerability period challenged the training audience, forcing them to apply their operating concepts and tactics in ways they cannot do outside a training environment,” Holman said.

The Deputy Commanding Officer of the 1st Space Brigade and senior leader for the first vulnerability period, U.S. Army Col. Michael Dyer, echoed Holman’s comments.

“I was impressed with the depth of knowledge, innovation, and professionalism of our space warfighters,” he said.

The second vulnerability period helped maximize the Guardian advantage through better understanding of coalition partner integration.

U.S. Space Force Brig. Gen. Devin Pepper, senior leader for vulnerability period two and the Deputy Commanding General for Operations in Space Operations Command, said that coalition partners participating in SPACE FLAG was by design, adding that “having them join us for combat training demonstrates our commitment towards partnering to win.”

During vulnerability period three, members of the 392d CTS, 57th and 527th Space Aggressor Squadrons replicated realistic threats to the coalition with an operations tempo that challenged the training audience like never before seen in past iterations of SPACE FLAG.

The Aggressors

U.S. Space Force exercises utilize aggressor squadrons to provide a thinking, breathing adversary to increase the realism of events like SPACE FLAG.

For SPACE FLAG 23-2, the 57th SAS replicated on-orbit threats and clashed against the orbital warfare (OW) training audience comprised of both U.S. and coalition forces.

U.S. Space Force Capt. Lydell Scott, adversary composite force package lead, integrated the OW, electronic warfare (EW), and cyber warfare aggressors. His aggressor team presented a highly complex back-and-forth of offensive and defensive actions, allowing officers and enlisted service members from multiple nations to experience layered effects from multi-integrated threat capabilities within the SPACE FLAG simulator.

Scott said that the OW, EW, and Cyber aggressors replicated adversary tactics during the training exercise to prepare the audience for a real-world, reactive adversary in space operations. This was done to ensure that they are ready to protect and defend on-orbit assets when required.

The 527th SAS acted as adversary forces armed with weapon systems that posed a risk to satellite communications. During the exercise, the 527th SAS used their advanced trainers to target and engage an on-orbit U.S. military satellite, marking the first time this has occurred within SPACE FLAG.

Under the guidance of U.S. Space Force Maj. Kyle Schroeder, package lead for the EW aggressors, operators from Space Operations Command were exposed to ground-to-space combat. This allowed them to practice detecting, locating, and responding to engagements on their military satellite system, making each of the operators more combat-ready should they see similar actions for real.

The cyber engagement in the exercise also featured the aggressors from the 527th SAS, who utilized the 11th Delta Operations Squadron/S9's (future 33rd Space Range Squadron) cyber range to simulate malicious intrusions into space systems, marking an impressive milestone where SPACE FLAG conducted its most expansive live-fire cyber training to date.

The cyber aggressors provided the training audience a challenge, as Delta 6 Guardians engaged in simulated combat operations to identify aggressors attempting to penetrate a simulated ground infrastructure enclave crucial to on-orbit operations.

Maximizing the Guardian – and Joint Force – Advantage

STARCOM continues to accelerate and improve its large force exercise training environments, Harris said, adding that many units are requesting the field command’s services to train not only U.S. Space Force Guardians, but also joint and coalition forces who require training on space operating concepts and tactics.

Harris praised the collaboration between government and industry partners within the 392d CTS, describing it as "truly special." He also expressed gratitude for the team of combat training instructors who have dedicated themselves to preparing space warfighters.

SPACE FLAG, certified as a Joint National Training Capability, is the premier exercise for training U.S. Space Force forces.

“Since 2017, each iteration has been better than the last, thanks to the expertise of the 392d and STARCOM, which work together to exceed expectations and provide advanced training that makes space warfighters more lethal,” Harris said.