STARCOM’s ‘Black Skies’ exercise includes satellite jamming

SpaceFlag 22-3

SPACE FLAG 22-3 participants pose for a group photo at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, Aug. 8, 2022. (U.S. Space Force photo by Judi Tomich)

AFA 2022 — The first of a new series of Space Force exercises aimed at training Guardians in specific skill sets is underway this week, called Black Skies and focused on electronic warfare — including “live fire” in the form of real-world satellite jamming, according to the head of the service’s training command.

“It’s an electronic warfare exercise that Guardians are participating in, particularly the Space Operations Command units,” Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, commander of Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) told reporters here today.

The chromatic “Skies series” of exercises are modeled on the Air Force “Flag” exercises, and are more focused than the annual SPACE FLAG exercises that have been ongoing for many years. This year’s SPACE FLAG 22-3 was held Aug. 8-19 at Shriever SFB in Colorado, and was the first following the exercise’s accreditation as a joint training activity. It involved some 120 participants, including from the Air Force and the Army. The next iteration of Space Flag will be a coalition exercise involving allies among the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing group (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.”

“There was a big Army presence there,” Bratton said.

The ongoing Black Skies exercise includes Guardians and Air National Guard units specializing in space, since the Defense Department has yet to come to a conclusion about the fate of those Guard personnel. Bratton explained that the exercises mixes both “live fire” and “constructive” training, including the use of a satellite “leased” from commercial companies to play the target.

He explained that the key area of EW training for Space Force personnel that is different from that required by Air Force trainees revolves around satellite jamming — a capability that many potential adversaries, including China and Russia, have in spades.

Black Skies will be followed later this year by the Red Skies exercise focused on “orbital warfare,” Bratton said. Next year, he added,…