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News | April 19, 2022

VIRTUAL FLAG:  Homeland Defense exercise sharpens skills, deters enemy aggression

By Deb Henley 705th Combat Training Squadron

VIRTUAL FLAG 22-2: Homeland Defense exercise was successfully executed at the 705th Combat Training Squadron’s Distributed Mission Operation Center, or DMOC, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, and distributed locations around the world from March 28 – Apr. 1.

VF: HLD, an Air Combat Command exercise, provides operational and tactical warfighter training in synthetic, theater-level, joint-combat environments.  VF: HLD focused on horizontal and vertical command and control, or C2, integrating air defense assets with tactical U.S. Air Force C2 platforms. 

“The virtual world is the best opportunity we have to practice our tactics and C2 ops [operations] without revealing plans or capabilities to those we don’t want to see them,” according to Lt. Col. Michael Butler, 705th CTS director of operations, KAFB, New Mexico.

Butler continued, “Here, we can prove our ability to defend the homeland without fear of disclosing our advantages.  The purpose is to be so good at what we do that no one will attempt to challenge us; they know they will lose.”

VF 22-2’s primary mission areas included the defense of U.S. airspace incorporating enemy incursion by the Integrated Air and Missile Defense, C2 and Defensive Counter-Air operations.  The homeland defense scenario was developed in cooperation with North American Aerospace Defense Command, Continental U.S. NORAD Region and 601st Air Operations Center subject matter experts to test and practice in the U.S.’s Eastern and Western Air Defense Sectors and Canadian Air Defense lanes.

“This was the apex of months of planning and careful estimation of adversary courses of action,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bradley, NORAD IAMD future capabilities branch chief, Peterson AFB, Colorado.  “We refined our ability to do what we are the best in the world at, deterring enemy aggression and defending our homeland.” 

VF 22-2’s use of live, virtual and constructive training improved air combat training systems enabling all-domain air dominance in combat against peer- and near-peer adversaries.  LVC training also expanded combat operations training by enabling rapid execution of multiple scenarios over a limited time frame.  The rapidly adaptable environment encourages learning and builds experience without the time or cost of an exclusively live exercise.

During VF 22-2, fighter units from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Portland Air National Guard (flying simulators at Lakenheath Air Base, United Kingdom), Ohio ANG, District of Columbia ANG (flying simulators at Aviano AB, Italy), Shaw AFB, South Carolina, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson AFB, Alaska, and air battle managers from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, connected to the DMOC ensuring the execution of the exercise’s objectives.  Over 90 operators were trained & 700+ readiness training events were accomplished, building experience and familiarizing Airmen with homeland defense tactics. 

“The DMOC’s mission is to present the warfighter with the most-realistic, virtual-combat representative world to execute tactical and operational C2 proficiency, providing our forces the environment to practice and gain experience in mission sets that we don’t practice regularly, especially with the current real-world events we are currently witnessing,” said Lt. Col. Lindsay Post, 705th CTS commander, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.