E3 Sentry plays critical role in Red Flag, Bamboo Eagle exercises

  • Published
  • By Clayton Cummins and Kimberly Woodruff

The 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron and approximately 30 units from across the U.S. Department of Defense, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force gathered at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada for Red Flag 24-1 and the first iteration of Bamboo Eagle.

Red Flag provides realistic training that imitates the pacing threat’s investment in hyper sonics, artificial intelligence and counter space capabilities. The training provides Airmen and Guardians operating in air, space and cyber domains with real-time war scenarios to test their readiness and capabilities.

Following two weeks of Red Flag exercises, the first-ever iteration of Bamboo Eagle, a U.S. Air Force Warfare Center-led exercise, kicked off in earnest at Nellis AFB and various locations across the southwestern United States and parts of the eastern Pacific Ocean and airspace
Jan. 26.

Red Flag was a tactical build up to operational implementation during Bamboo Eagle.

“Bamboo Eagle is designed to provide advanced training in a disaggregated, multi-domain scenario in order to sustain and strengthen the ability of the joint and coalition force to prevail in conflict when necessary,” said Maj. Gen. Case Cunningham, commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center.

Bamboo Eagle is the first of its kind from the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, which conducts warfighter-centric live and virtual operational test and evaluation, tactics development and advanced training to optimize Air Force capabilities and prepare Airmen for joint, all-domain combat operations.

“Red Flag and now Bamboo Eagle exercises provide unique opportunities for advancing the way we develop and train our Airmen, while also providing a deeper understanding of our competitors’ and how to anticipate their next moves,” said Col. Kenneth Voigt, Jr., commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing. “The training is very realistic and working alongside our allies and partners increases interoperability between partner nations.”  

The 964th AACS played a critical role in each exercise, conducting airborne command and control. The E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System assisted in air surveillance and communications throughout packages that were flying during training scenarios.

In addition, ground crews from the 726th Air Control Squadron participated in Bamboo Eagle.

Red Flag 24-1 concluded immediately before the start of Bamboo Eagle and serves as the tactical build up to the operational implementation of multi-domain, combat readiness training. The inclusion of a maritime training zone over the Pacific allows for combat warfighters to train in a combat representative environment and will incorporate scenarios in the joint maritime domain.

“The 726 Air Control Squadron provided tactical command and control for three weeks during Red Flag & Bamboo Eagle; this challenging scenario allowed us to train against a robust, integrated air and maritime competitor in a contested and degraded environment,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Mendel, director of operations with the 726 ACS. “It was a lot of hard work, I couldn’t be more proud of the team’s exemplary execution as they planned and employed together with our allies, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force, and with the United States Navy 3rd Fleet, space and cyber forces.”  

The 552 ACW’s 726th Air Control Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base is a Control and Reporting Center responsible for mobile, decentralized command and control of joint operations by conducting threat warnings, battle management, theater missile defense, among other things. 

Bamboo Eagle synchronizes with the AFFORGEN model and optimizes exercise events and supporting plans to include timing, scale and mission focus ensure force capabilities are optimally mission ready when tasked to support Combatant Commanders.

“The E-3 provides a top down, gods eye view of wide area surveillance,” said air battle manager, Capt. Casey Dart. “We are able to detect airplanes or airborne objects at greater ranges than other assets may be able to cover organically themselves, we provide stop gap with a wide area surveillance.

Day to day training prepare Airmen for what to expect on missions, however, exercises such as Red Flag and Bamboo Eagle take that training to the next level. Working together at a moments’ notice, at any given time, is key.

“We come out here and learn how to use our platform more efficiently,” said Dart. “We have the ability to integrate and focus on interoperability with other U.S. Air Force assets. We also work with the Navy, Marine Corp. or Army units that participate, organizations and assets that we don’t typically get to on the day-to-day training back home.”

Collaborating with assets, both domestic and internationally, has allowed for the integration of strengths of different nations in advanced training scenarios. This collaboration aims to enhance lethality, improve survivability and foster effective integration with coalition partners.

“You’ve got to be able to adapt, overcome and adjust to those things that can change at any moment,” said Dart.

The 552 ACW provides combat-ready theater battle management forces and mobile command, control, and communications at the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It deploys, operates and supports these forces worldwide ensuring combat capability for all peacetime and contingency operations.