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Air Force exercises push data integration from across military domains

Air Force exercises push data integration from across military domains
An F-22 Raptor participates in the U.S. Air Force "Orange Flag" exercise at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Photo by Kyle Larson/U.S. Air Force

March 10 (UPI) -- U.S. Air Force "Orange Flag" and "Black Flag" exercises this week tested mission planning with cross-domain data gathering, the Air Force said on Wednesday.

The exercises involved the Air Force Test Center's 412nd Test Wing, headquartered at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and the 53rd Wing of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in achieving what the Air Force terms All-Domain Command and Control.

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The "Orange Flag" events concentrated on "kill web integration," a cross-domain program providing data for commanders in rapidly identifying and selecting options for tasking assets.

The program uses sensors and support elements across military domains -- space, air, land, surface, subsurface and cyber -- to obtain information on potential targets in a more flexible and adaptable "kill web" based on all available options.

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F-35 and F-22 fighter planes successfully integrated with land-based, naval and space-based sensors "without humans in the loop," an AFTC statement said on Wednesday.

Other elements of the exercises included tests on multi-national F-35's, command and control integration, strategic intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance integration through all domains.

"Orange Flag started three years ago with the intent to assess integration of warfighting systems in a dense threat, operationally representative environment," Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano, AFTC commander, said in a press release.

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"It has been tremendously successful," Azzano said.

The Air Force also announced that the next Orange Flag, scheduled for June, will likely include tests of GatewayONE, a communications prototype of secure two-way data path across multiple platforms, and Skyborg aerial vehicles, which are artificial-intelligence-equipped drones used to fly with and assist other piloted aircraft.

The next event will also test Joint All-Domain Command and Control capabilities, referred to as JADC2, to connect sensors from all the military branches -- Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force -- into a single network.

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"Black Flag" involved similar integration exercises but for more mature weapons and programs.

The exercise included testing and validating Tactics Improvement Proposals of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters' air-to-air survivability, F-35 emissions control tactics development and continued tactics development and evaluation for radar aboard F-16 fighter planes.

"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," said Lt. Col. Mike Benitez, 53rd wing staff director.

"Black Flag's largest benefit is that it's a tactical initiative with strategic impact," Benitez said.

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