62d AW provides air-to-ground communications during Ex BLACK FLAG 23-1

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Zoe Thacker and Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Sutton
  • 62d Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Aircrew and maintainers with the 62d Airlift Wing packed their bags and flew south to participate in Exercise Black Flag 23-1 in late February of 2023; working alongside the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron’s Command and Control Division from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and the Joint Communication Support Element of U.S. Transportation Command.

Black Flag is an Operational Test focused exercise that evaluates the suitability of emerging capabilities and tactics in multi-domain, multi-service, operationally relevant scenarios. Recent Black Flags have included experimentation of both Tactical C2 and Battle Management capabilities using commercially available communications hardware and software to enhance the ability to ensure agility and resiliency when fighting a peer adversary.

This Black Flag iteration included an experimental component that sought to place Air Battle Managers and Weapons Directors on board a 62d AW C-17 Globemaster III to provide tactical C2 and battle management while airborne.

“We were responsible for providing the aircraft with the ability to connect to military computer systems on the ground, while we were airborne,” said Master Sgt. Brian Martin, 62d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. “Once connected, information was able to be relayed across the mission space.”

The 422d TES conducted this C2 training with the communication equipment onboard a C-17 for the first time. Utilizing the communications systems, two controllers were able to perform C2 functions that would normally be provided by an E-3G AWACS, E-8C JSTARS, or the ground-based Control and Reporting Center, all while airborne in a C-17 working on the Nevada Test and Training Range throughout Black Flag 23-1.

“The 422d TES personnel brought equipment onto the C-17 that was new to me,” said Senior Airman Anthony Vargas, 62d AMXS communications and navigations journeyman. “I had to ensure the radios and equipment on the aircraft were operational for the duration of the exercise so learning what the systems did and how they integrated to the aircraft was very interesting and something I look forward to working on in the future.”

Agile Combat Employment is on the forefront of Air Force leadership’s minds to be prepared for the next fight, and it’s exemplified everyday with aircrew, maintainers, aerial porters and more across Air Mobility Command. Exercises like Black Flag 23-1 allow Airmen to train like they fight; something the 62d AW’s Mobility Warfighters are very accustomed to.

“My biggest take away from the exercise is witnessing how the operational tests [and experimentation] are completed,” said Vargas. “Using that knowledge, I was able to answer questions from the operational test personnel regarding radio system specifications, limitations, and components. It was an amazing experience.”