Black Flag 24-1 concentrates on Joint Test Integration, setting the stage for Virtual Black Flag

  • Published
  • By 53rd Wing, VX-9
The 53rd Wing partnered with the U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine (VX-9) to conduct Exercise Black Flag 24-1, in April 2024.

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. This iteration of Black Flag focused on testing like we will have to fight, concentrating on tactics improvement proposals and joint-service tactical integration.

“As a general trend, integration across both the joint force and our coalition partners is becoming increasingly important,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Lehoski, 53rd Wing commander. “Additionally, the scenarios in which we execute these exercises are being designed with a newly developed baseline threat in mind.”

During this event, Air Force and Navy premier weapons platforms integrated during over-water exercises, testing new software and hardware projected to be delivered to the fleet.

“Getting our teams together to test in the most realistic environment possible is really core to what we do,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Matthew Davin, VX-9 chief operational test director. “It’s all about being effective together by validating our capabilities in a joint integrated environment.”

Specifically, the exercise looks at operations countering long range air-to-air kill chains and electro-magnetic spectrum operations. Data gathered during testing will be extensively analyzed with partner squadrons before observations and results are delivered to the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and the Naval Air Warfare Development Center to disseminate to the fleet.

“Deterrence is our number one goal,” Lehoski said. “But if deterrence fails, it is our job to make sure we are delivering the tactics, techniques, and procedures the warfighter needs on night one.”

Following Black Flag 24-1, the 53rd Wing is executing a Virtual Black Flag (VBF) Large Force Test Event for the first time this summer, which will include Navy, Army, and Space Force capabilities. VBF will allow units to complete test objectives that cannot be accomplished through regular flight operations.

“The virtual environment will be a key component in our test enterprise,” Lehoski said. “It will allow for more joint asset involvement, and we’ll be able to accelerate tactics development and evaluation support to the warfighter.”