Space Flag holds first exercise with coalition partners

  • Published
  • By Capt. Lauren Hill
  • Air Force Space Command Public Affairs

Coalition partners from Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the United States recently participated in Space Flag, a coalition exercise, for the first time at Aerospace Corporation’s facility, Aug. 12-16, 2019.

Space Flag 19-3 integrated approximately 160 coalition participants, observers and distinguished guests in Air Force Space Command’s “Fight Tonight” exercise focused on using current capabilities to deter, deny and disrupt adversarial actions in the space domain.

U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson and each participating nations’ top space military leaders met with Space Flag personnel to learn more about the exercise and its criticality in training warfighters in the space domain.

“The threat in space is real and we must train like we fight – alongside our international partners – to maintain space superiority and deter conflict in the space domain,” said Wilson after meeting with Space Flag participants.

Space Flag 19-3 brought new challenges and opportunities to learn from coalition partners, who were chosen based on their current positions through existing agreements with the 21st Space Wing, 460th Space Wing and Combined Space Operations Center.

“The coalition forces brought a different perspective that forced everyone to think outside our typical way of doing things as we integrated intelligence in space packages throughout mission planning.” said Tech. Sgt. Sean Johnson, noncommissioned officer in charge, 20th Space Control Squadron Intelligence Operations. “As we brainstormed response methods, no idea was discounted, which speaks to the professionalism of each player.”

“Being able to participate in the first ever coalition Space Flag was a privilege,” said Royal Australian Air Force Flight Lt. Gene Elliott, chief of training, 460th Operations Support Squadron. “It was a great opportunity to bring our perspectives and talents to the fight given Australia’s relative infancy in the warfighting domain of space.”

The senior space representatives agreed (Space Flag 19-3) was a critical move to normalize coalition training opportunities with junior and mid-level officers and enlisted members.

“Space Flag is a fantastic opportunity for the U.K. to participate and expand its role in future exercises,” said Royal Air Force Group Capt. Steve Blockley, National Air Defence and Space Operations director. “Just as we do for operators in the air, land and sea domains, this is a chance for our space operators to work alongside allies and create partnerships that will last throughout their entire careers.”

Royal Canadian Air Force Brig. Gen. Kevin Whale, director general and space component commander, spoke on Canada’s lasting partnership with the U.S. and how he sees Canada’s future participation in Space Flag.

"Canada has a long history of collaboration with the U.S. in space under (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and, more recently, the expanding and multinational Combined Space Operations initiative,” Whale said. “Our integrated participation in Space Flag this year is a welcome evolution of our collaboration that directly contributes to our shared interests in space."

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Headquarters AFSPC director of Operations and Communications, briefed Space Flag’s plan to expand its cooperation with allied partners in future exercises amid AFSPC’s broader initiative to include international partners in joint, coalition space education and training opportunities, such as Schriever Space Scholars, AFSPC Weapons and Tactics Conference, Space 300 and Schriever Wargame, among others.

“All operators here understand what warfighting means in the space domain,” Burt said. “They are energized and motivated to continue these friendships and partnerships they’ve built over the course of this exercise and we must continue building on these types of opportunities for the defense of the space domain.”