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News | Nov. 22, 2023

STARCOM Aggressors enhance communication resilience in HEAVY RAIN 23 exercise

By 1st Lt. Charles Rivezzo Space Training and Readiness Command Public Affairs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- In an era where modern warfare increasingly hinges on command over the electromagnetic spectrum, the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (SAS) has stepped up to the challenge.

In the recent iteration of exercise HEAVY RAIN 23 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, from Nov. 6-18, the 527th SAS played a crucial role in training communications professionals, predominantly Airmen assigned to the 1st Combat Communications Squadron, to effectively operate in contested and degraded environments.

HEAVY RAIN is a U.S. Air Forces in Europe-led command and control exercise that tests and evaluates communication and data-sharing capabilities among the joint force, NATO Allies, and partners.

According to Capt. Angela Luft of the 527th SAS, HEAVY RAIN 23 is an essential platform for U.S. and NATO forces to hone their skills in electromagnetic interference (EMI) management.

“With roughly 20 USAFE units and NATO partners, the exercise simulates real-world conditions, ensuring that communications personnel are prepared for the challenges of modern battlefields,” Luft said.

Before the execution of HEAVY RAIN, the 527th SAS provided comprehensive, intel-informed adversary threat academics. Their role as Aggressors offered a realistic threat simulation for the ‘blue’ players.

This simulation is critical for training communicators in identifying and countering EMI, a growing concern in contemporary military operations, Luft added.

“One of the primary objectives of HEAVY RAIN 23 was to immerse communicators in a realistic, contested communication environment,” Luft said. “The Aggressors, alongside other ‘red force’ units, layered the effects of EMI, pushing participants to adapt and overcome. This collaboration mirrors real-world scenarios, ensuring that the training is as practical as it is intensive.”

The Aggressors' expertise extended beyond mere opposition. They also played a vital educational role, instructing participants in EMI detection, mitigation, characterization, and reporting procedures. Their insights into SATCOM threats and adversary tactics provided invaluable learning opportunities for all involved.

One significant takeaway from HEAVY RAIN 23 was the opportunity for the Aggressors to work directly with blue communicators.

Luft said this interaction allowed the Aggressors to analyze blue team methods with an adversary perspective, identifying potential gaps and vulnerabilities.

“Such insights are crucial for enhancing future communication strategies and technologies,” she said.

U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Gene Adams, 527th SAS commander, noted that the exercise's focus on EMI and the strategic application of electronic warfare tactics underscores the evolving nature of combat and the need for continuous adaptation and learning.

Adams added, “The 527th SAS, in their role as both educators and adversaries, significantly contribute to the readiness and resilience of today's communicators, paving the way for more secure and effective military operations.”

This exercise concludes as the U.S. Space Force aims to enhance its presence in the European theater with the establishment of a dedicated service component for U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command in early December.

Chief of Space Operations, Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, stated in his keynote address at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference that the establishment of a service component in the region will “help integration, collaboration, and cooperation with our joint teammates, partners, and allies in the region,” reinforcing the service’s commitment to strengthening security and readiness in the European theater.