Space Force Conducts Its Biggest Electronic Warfare Exercise Ever

The Space Force wrapped up its largest-ever exercise focused on electromagnetic warfare, Black Skies 23-3, on Sept. 23, with more than 170 participants.

Introduced last year, Black Skies is an electronic warfare-focused evolution of the Space Flag exercises. Organized by Space Training and Readiness Command, it prepares participants to safeguard critical parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as those that can disrupt GPS and communication signals. The exercise also allows tactical units to grasp the complexities between operational planning and tasks.

The inaugural edition of the exercise was held in September 2022, followed by its second iteration in March this year in Peterson Space Force Base, Colo.

Lt. Col. Scott Nakatani, commander of 392nd Combat Training Squadron, called electronic warfare an “integral piece” to the joint environment and emphasized the need to practice teamwork among units from various branches, especially in challenging conditions.  

 “It is inevitable that the U.S. Space Force should continue to integrate, communicate, and coordinate with other services in the EW environment to ensure combat capability of our forces in a contested, degraded, and operationally-limited (CDO) environment,” Nakatani said in a statement released Oct. 4.

The electromagnetic spectrum is a key domain that involves everything from radar to communication waveforms. It plays a crucial role in ensuring communication within the U.S. military, allowing for the transmission of imagery, coordinates, and messages across the joint force, For units such as the 4th Space Control Squadron stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, it serves as an essential tool to prohibit an adversary from doing the same.

Black Skies 23-3 offered the Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC) a chance to coordinate and control various multi-service units in open air. This involved live-fire exercises and closed-loop operations.

In live-fire scenarios, space operators transmit signals from Earth to satellites. These exercises enable participants to engage with operational space systems and better prepare for combat situations.

On the other hand, closed-loop operations occur in a controlled environment without any impact on space assets.

The drill also included staged threat scenarios led by the Air Force’s 26th Weapons Squadron. These scenarios were designed to simulate potential risks to Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) operations. The Army’s 1st Space Brigade demonstrated its ability to handle data from various sensors.

Nakatani said that the previous installment, Black Skies 23-1, sparked interest in integrated domain warfare and invited partnerships. As a result, Black Skies 23-3 tripled in size, including over 170 individuals from a broad range of units including:

  • Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC)
  • 16th Electronic Warfare Squadron
  • 3rd Combat Training Squadron
  • 25th Space Range Squadron
  • 527th Space Aggressor Squadron
  • Air Force Reserve Command’s 428th Electromagnetic Warfare Flight
  • Air National Guard’s 138th Electronic Warfare Squadron
  • Air National Guard’s 138th Space Control Squadron
  • Air National Guard’s 114th Electronic Warfare

“Black Skies has been a massive success in training our forces and testing warfighting readiness,” Nakatani said. “We will continue to evolve the delivery of realistic combat training to space warfighters.”