Air control: integral in successful execution of Checkered Flag 21-2

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price
  • 325 Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Executing large-scale exercises like Checkered Flag, AGILE FLAG and the Weapon System Evaluation Program can be a daunting task, but the 81st Air Control Squadron assigned to Tyndall Air Force base is up for the challenge.

Senior Airman Bryce Cox, 81st ACS weapons director, originally from Jefferson, Ohio has been at Tyndall since 2018. Unlike many who didn’t or couldn’t choose their career field, Bryce had the opportunity and specifically chose command and control battle management operations.

“It has definitely met the expectation of a great career so far,” said Cox. “I like being in a career field that closely integrates with different command and control (C2) agencies and aircraft from multiple services while working together to execute an air war.”

The 81st ACS plays a large role during air-to-air combat exercises like Checkered Flag 21-2 by enhancing the realism of T-38 and QF-16 aircraft as advanced adversaries with the utilization of KREMLIN control tactics. KREMLIN control was developed as an adversary training tactic and provides the T-38 with radar-like information, enabling it to be a realistic opponent to fifth-generation aircraft during air-to-air exercises and keeping pilots’ skills sharp.

As command and control specialists, Airmen within the 81st ACS run through different scenarios including coordinating with aircraft when they check into the airspace and facilitating tanker communications when aircraft need to refuel.

“Senior Airman Cox was integral during the preparation for Checkered Flag,” said Staff Sgt. Danielle Bradford, 81st ACS noncommissioned officer in charge of weapons and tactics. “He instructed fellow Airmen on how to drive simulations for their specific scenarios as well as made edits to the simulation system itself to enhance the realism for execution.”

As the weapons director, Cox is expected to be the subject matter expert on his position by effectively mission planning with external units for exercises like Checkered Flag and WSEP.

“I sat in multiple live Checkered Flag missions as the check-in controller to provide airspace management and refueling rendezvous for 32 aircraft,” said Cox.

Iteration 21-2 of Checkered Flag incorporated over 115 aircraft and included 11 large-force exercises, seven WSEP missile shoot events and seven combat training events. Out of these events, the 81st ACS controlled 882 sorties to include fifteen different types of aircrafts, 133 WSEP sorties, 23 gunnery sorties and 726 Checkered Flag sorties.

“In partnership with the 53rd Training Support Squadron, we also managed [simulating] advanced jamming effects on the fighters and Airborne Warning and Control System during the exercise to increase [the pilot’s] training in the contested environment,” said Cox.

Checkered Flag is one of the Department of Defense’s largest air-to-air exercises, designed to integrate fourth and fifth-generation airframes to enhance mobility, deployment and employment capabilities of aviators and maintainers.