EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Red Flag 23-1 wrapped up earlier this month with close to 100 platforms and 3,000 coalition servicemembers in attendance, including Crows from the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing who provided warfighters with Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) support to accomplish their first ten combat missions.
The 350th SWW sent the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron, 39th EWS, 87th EWS and the 453rd EWS to support warfighters with support ranging from assessment of platforms to mission planning and threat analysis.
While each of the squadrons had their own specific mission at Red Flag, the mission that connected the 36th EWS, 87th EWS and 453rd EWS was testing Agile Integrated Reprograming (AIR), a concept of operations to overcome Electromagnetic Warfare Integrated Reprogramming (EWIR) deficiencies to provide warfighters with Mission Data File (MDF) updates in a dynamic threat environment.
“I knew from the start we had to get ourselves into training exercises,” said Capt. Philip Liotta, 36th EWS weapons and tactics flight commander. “The only way the warfighter is going to know this [faster updates to Mission Data] is important, is by giving the environment where WARMs [War Reserve Modes] are theoretically active so they understand what is happening to their systems and why it’s important to be reprogramed.”
The 453rd EWS’ role in AIR involved validating simulated threat information and transmitting the report to the 36th EWS reprogramming center who used that data to produce new MDFs that capture the novel signals and delivered it back to aircraft.
Outside of AIR, the 453rd EWS’ presence included an analysis team and a mission planning team, supplemented by the 39th EWS, that supported the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission at Red Flag.
“The analysis team and the mission planning team work completely separately,” said Maj. Caitlyn DeFabo, 453rd EWS director of operations. “The mission planning team would use IMOM [Improved Many-on-Many software] to show the EM [Electromagnetic] operating environment for aircrew mission planning to fly around threats, so they don’t get shot at. The analysis team worked at execution, when the planes were flying, to let them know when threats came up in the near real time.”
To ensure that aircraft could properly detect and respond to these simulated threats at Red Flag, the 87th EWS executed its COMBAT SHIELD mission and assessed Electronic Warfare (EW) capabilities such as radar warning receivers, electronic attacks pods, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, and HARM targeting systems.
The 87th EWS’s detachment at Nellis AFB provided COMBAT SHIELD support to three units, evaluating platforms such as the HH-60, HC-130 and F-16 to identify areas in the EW process that can be improved. This effort directly supports COMBAT SHIELD’s adaption to the AFFORGEN deployment cycle, evaluating fighter and rescue units within their deployment window as they attend exercises for training.
“These assessments are important because it offers operational units at Red Flag an opportunity to use their EW systems against simulated adversaries to the best of their abilities,” said Master Sgt. Nathaniel Gross, 87th EWS COMBAT SHIELD flight chief. “Without these assessments and assurance of EW effectiveness, units run the risk of being [simulated] shot down during the exercise.”
The execution of these missions at Red Flag 23-1 by the 350th SWW are just one way that the Air Force is reinvesting in EMS dominance and increasing warfighter lethality to take on any challenge.
“Looking at our competition now, EW is going to be a much bigger factor in future combat compared to what I had for my first combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria,” said DeFabo. “The 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing can use exercises such as Red Flag to prepare warfighters for their first ten combat missions while also preparing ourselves to best support them through EW assessments, near real-time threat detection, rapid reprogramming, and EM mission planning.”