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May 24, 2022

USAF’s 53rd Wing and RAAF conduct joint test exercise Black Flag 22-1

The iteration allowed the USAF to test the operational integration capabilities of the E-7 aircraft.

The US Air Force’s (USAF) 53rd Wing has conducted a joint test exercise, Black Flag 22-1, with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

The test exercise provided the USAF wing with a coalition test environment to identify enhancements to night-one capabilities.

Black Flag is aimed to develop force integration techniques and identify new capabilities, using the existing material and emerging technologies.

In the latest iteration, one of the participants was RAAF’s E-7 Wedgetail. It is the first time RAAF’s Wedgetail participated in a test exercise with USAF.

Wedgetail’s participation allowed the USAF to test the operational integration capabilities of the E-7 aircraft, which has been selected by the USAF to replace the E-3 Sentry fleet.

Delivery of the first E-7 prototype for USAF is expected in fiscal year (FY) 2027.

Black Flag director major Theodore Ellis said: “This integration is more than just a test; we are developing the backbone that will drive our tactics and communication capabilities in a wartime scenario.”

One of the key objectives of this Black Flag iteration was aimed to address automated long-range kill-chains and related technologies.

Earlier this year, major Ridge Flick and his team presented two powerful data translation and routing tools- Watchbox and Tactical Radio Application eXtension, or Trax, at the 2021 Weapons and Tactics Conference.

The technologies were incorporated in Black Flag 22-1. The team used Watchbox to test automated intelligence reporting and then disseminated it to six separate ground nodes and two Link-16 networks using TRAX.

The testing demonstrated that the integration of machine-to-machine communication and automated intelligence reporting leads to shorter kill chains.

During the exercise, the USAF 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron’s Command and Control (C2) division employed the first mobile tactical C2 element.

The squadron equipped an SUV with commercial and ‘off-the-shelf’ technology to assemble the C2 element.

The test validated that the C2 element can be equipped in different types of vehicles, which will lead to better integration among the forces.

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