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Air Force 53rd Wing formalizes 'Black Flag' training exercise

Air Force 53rd Wing formalizes 'Black Flag' training exercise
F-22 Raptors and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron refuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Nevada Test and Training Range in November. Photo by Savanah Bray/U.S. Air Force 

Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The 53rd Wing of the Air Force has combined its series of large-scale tests at Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base into a new event called Black Flag.

Gen. Mark D. Kelly signed COMACC Plan 21 on Dec. 15, formalizing the creation of Black Flag as a training event "solely focused on test and tactics development in a realistic, massed force, fully integrated, high threat density environment."

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Black Flag was established as the testing counterpart to Red Flag, the Air Force's training event.

"As a venue for innovation through integration, Black Flag is ultimately a deep-end testing arena to create and discover capabilities utilizing existing and emerging materiel," Lt. Col. Mike Benitez, 53rd Wing director of staff and Black Flag lead project officer, said in a press release.

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"Black Flag's largest benefit is that it's a tactical initiative with strategic impact. Warfighters know that innovation happens at the intersection of weapons and tactics - where integration occurs," Benitez said.

On top of allowing for multiple areas of test and tactics development to be executed in a single event, the Black Flag event creates an environment to put forth tactics improvement proposals put forth by senior leaders at the annual Weapons and Tactics Conference, officials said.

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"Black Flag is essential to national defense," said Col. Ryan Messer, 53rd Wing commander.

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"Instituting a flag-level exercise is the result of both the dedication of professionals in the 53rd Wing and also the support of senior leaders who acknowledge the importance of, and are investing in, testing like we fight," Messer said.

The 53rd Wing is the only Air Force wing responsible for operational test and tactics development for the service's fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft fleet, according to the Air Force.

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