Combat training exercises play a critical role in establishing and improving the capabilities of military personnel in their respective functions. It allows our warfighters to get the necessary experience to handle the most difficult, real-world situations.
For the past 40 years, Red Flag has been an advanced aerial combat training exercise that enables U.S. Air Force pilots and other flight crewmembers from the U.S. and NATO to confront air combat situations. Held four times annually, this specialized training includes the use of “enemy” hardware and live ammunition for bombing exercises. In other words, Red Flag is a very real and vigorous training program.
In taking the importance of this training to the next level, the Air Force is giving cyber a full seat at the table during Red Flag.
Cyber first played a part in the Red Flag exercise series in 2007, according to Daryl Crissman, the 318th Cyber Operations Group, Detachment 2 chief of weapons and tactics, and only made up a small portion of the simulated mission. Now, it is a fully integrated component of the exercise.
“Our mission is to train the next generation of cyber warriors and we look at what we call the full spectrum … defensive and offensive operations,” said Michael Homsy, the 24th Air Force exercise planner and cyber range coordinator. “We have several teams that are being developed … teams that are designed to go after the adversary and their infrastructure and degrade their ability to launch their capabilities against us, as well as defend critical infrastructure as it pertains to our country.”
These expanded cyber-training efforts come at a time when cyber is becoming even more critical to our armed forces.
A new Pentagon report showed that the military will need to expand its force of cyber warriors, with the U.S. Cyber Command aiming to create 133 teams of cyber professionals across all branches of the military, and establish continuity in response to vulnerabilities.
In addition to training and recruiting more cyber warriors, organizations like DARPA want to develop mathematically sound programs that are completely unhackable.
The private sector continues to serve as the ideal partner for the U.S. Air Force, and the rest of the Department of Defense, by providing the most innovative products and services that address advanced threats. Industry is making strides in developing solutions that reduce the attack surface, manage vulnerabilities, protect against malware and provide advanced forensics capabilities for mitigation when an attack occurs.
Leveraging these commercial technologies can give DoD the flexibility and agility they require to move their mission forward. The combination of cyber training, innovation and research, as well as industry support, will help strengthen our nation’s cyber stance.
Though the threat landscape is always evolving at a rapid clip, which reinforces how this is only a start, and that cyber is truly the new battlefield.