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News | Dec. 22, 2023

Inaugural Exercise RED SKIES elevates USSF readiness

Space Training and Readiness Command Public Affairs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Exercise RED SKIES 24 achieved success during its inaugural execution from Dec. 11-15. RED SKIES represents the U.S. Space Force's latest service exercise, emphasizing the orbital warfare (OW) discipline, which applies orbital dynamics and satellite flight to Space Force operations.

Hosted by the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) through the 392d Combat Training Squadron (CTS), the OW-focused exercise provided training for Guardians from Space Operations Command (SpOC).

The overarching objective of the RED SKIES exercise series aims to equip Guardians with the skills necessary to respond to potential attacks on U.S. satellite systems.

U.S. Space Force Brig. Gen. Todd Moore, STARCOM deputy commander, described RED SKIES as the first advanced training event enabling Guardians to employ operationally-representative tactics in a dynamic, threat-representative orbital domain, securing the nation's interests in space.

“I can confidently say that this ‘first-ever’ will become a mainstay in how SpOC and STARCOM partner to ensure we achieve the true goals and objectives of advanced training,” Moore said. “There is a lot more to come as we iterate on a capability like this and will drive to include every SpOC Delta that wants to prove they are ready.”

RED SKIES initially took the form of a simulation-based exercise, with plans to transition to live on-orbit operations via satellites in the future, according to U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Scott Nakatani, 392d CTS commander.

“Exercise RED SKIES is breaking ground for the U.S. Space Force, creating the environment to practice the skills and planning necessary to protect and defend the space domain,” said Nakatani. “RED SKIES will grow from here, expanding to include more units under realistic command and control scenarios with an emphasis on executing coordinated, integrated space sorites. We are building service orbital warfare experience in simulation with an eye on transitioning RED SKIES into the live-fly on-orbit exercise we need as a service.”

The first RED SKIES exercise centered on tactical command and control of multiple satellites, with Guardian operators engaging Aggressors to achieve layered space effects.

This experience led to the identification of requirements for enhancing the realism of orbital warfare simulations and refining integrated sortie planning processes.

These lessons will be incorporated into future RED SKIES exercises and shared across U.S. Space Force service exercises, marking a significant advancement for the U.S. Space Force, said Nakatani.

U.S. Space Force Capt. DeShawna Moore, 392d CTS lead exercise planner, noted the exercise's success and highlighted the integration among multiple Deltas to tackle challenging on-orbit scenarios.

“As the lead planner and exercise director for RED SKIES, the exercise was extremely successful,” she said. “Integration among multiple Deltas to plan through and execute some of the toughest on-orbit problems for layered effects accomplished the exercise’s primary objective. We will take the lessons to make the next execution better.”

The initiation of on-orbit exercises like RED SKIES underscores the evolving nature of military space operations. As the space domain continues to gain importance for national security, these exercises demonstrate the commitment to developing combat-ready forces capable of operating effectively in space.

General Moore emphasized the significance of these exercises, stating, “Realistic simulation like this allows us to refine tactical skills that drive us towards tactically relevant thinking … more towards what it means to ensure space superiority – as General Saltzman noted in C-Note #14, we are a service and not a ‘combat support agency’ because when directed, the U.S. Space Force may need to control our domain by force.”

“This SKIES event is also helping us define clearer requirements in the future to ensure that the space industry develops the training tools to compete and prevail in our domain,” Moore added. “Competition and combat in space is new and current space capabilities are vulnerable. We need to be equipped and ready for any conflict in, from, or through space. During RED SKIES, these Guardians achieved more for OW readiness than anything else we’ve done to date as a combined STARCOM/SPOC team.”