NASIC rocks Red Flag

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Justyn Freeman
  • National Air and Space Intelligence Center

For two weeks, Airmen from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center played their part in the quarterly Red Flag exercise based out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Red Flag, hosted by the 414th Combat Training Squadron, presents a realistic combat training exercise for U.S. and ally forces, at the boundless bombing and ordnance Nevada Test and Training Range. 


“Red Flag is America’s premier flying exercise," said Maj. Karson, Integrated Air Defense Systems director of operations. "NASIC has a long heritage of partnering with Red Flag going back to the very beginning with our primary mission."


Red Flag was created in 1975 as a directive by Gen. Robert J. Dixon, previous commander of Tactical Air Command, to better prepare U.S. forces for combat. The NASIC Airmen, while providing around-the-clock mission support, contributed real-time documentation and intelligence during the exercise.

“We are there to help them replicate the threat,” Karson said. “Our team has the threat knowledge of the enemy air defenses and we pass that information onto the 507th Air Defense Aggressor Squadron so they can replicate the threat. They’re using our subject matter experts to put the best threat forward for our pilots to get their first 10 sorties in.”

A small portion of the NASIC Airmen’s role during the exercise was to document the activity of the pre-1980’s surface to air missile systems and their effectiveness against the strategic maneuvers by pilots conducting their missions.

“When we send our guys out there, NASIC is a scientific intelligence center, not necessarily an operational intelligence center," Karson said. "So when our guys are interacting with the cutting edge of the operational warfighter, we are learning how they do business and what their intelligence needs are. We are learning how those guys do business and what their intelligence needs are so that when we come back to the center we can then produce more intelligence that’s relevant to the warfighter.”

NASIC Airmen are put in with a group known as the “White” force during the Red Flag exercise. During the exercise Airmen use the Nellis Air Combat Training System monitor the mock combat which is taking place.

According to the Nellis AFB homepage, “NACTS is one of the world’s most sophisticated tracking systems for combat training exercises and allows commanders, safety observers and exercise directors to monitor the mission and keep score of simulated 'kills' while viewing the simulated air battle as it occurs.”

Service members from all four U.S. military services and coalition forces participate in Red Flag exercises designed to increase the combat capability of armed forces in combat situation.

“Red Flag is a huge component of our on-the-job training," Karson added. "It’s a great exercise for our fighter pilots, and it’s also a great exercise for our intelligence personnel to know what goes into supporting a combat operation in a large flying event,” Karson added.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Red Flag.