The U.S. Air Force 53d Test and Evaluation Group planned and executed a $1.4 million Large Force Test Event, August 4-6, 2020, designed to find solutions to Air Force prioritized Tactics Improvement Proposals for Suppression of Enemy Air Defense, low-observable ingress, and 4th-5th generation electronic attack interoperability.
Principally, this LFTE assessed the tactics and viability of the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft to provide enhanced SEAD support to LO platforms, including the B-2 Spirit stealth strategic bomber and RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), within an operationally realistic environment.
“This exercise is primarily focused on demonstrating LO platform effectiveness against advanced threats,” said Maj Theodore Ellis, Chief of 53rd Wing Weapons. “We do this by utilizing emerging technology and tactics to minimize weaknesses and capitalize on joint capabilities.”
Additionally, newer 4th generation platform capabilities were also evaluated in the LFTE. Some scenarios tested 4th and 5th generation Joint and Coalition SEAD integration contacts, while others examined how the latest unique 4th generation electronic attack capabilities can increase 5th generation freedom of maneuver in contested environments and vice versa.
“An event of this size and scope must be heavily supported by Air Force operational leaders, and this LFTE was no exception,” said Col. Bill Creeden, commander, 53rd Test and Evaluation Group. “The investment and trust in our team allowed the 53 Wing to evaluate the interoperability of leading-edge capabilities and develop TTPs that will ultimately strengthen our nation’s air dominance.”
Participants included the F-35A, F-22, and F-15E from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron; the B-2 from the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron; the RQ-170 from the 44th Reconnaissance Squadron; the E/A-18G from the Navy’s VX-9 and Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center; and command and control from the 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron. This unique combination of joint platforms maximized the development and evaluation of a combat-relevant capabilities.
As a result of the LFTE, the Air Force was able to explore unique integration of tactics, techniques, and procedures that have never been tested together in select capabilities and ultimately undertook testing, evaluation and tactics development for four TIPs established at the Air Force’s annual Weapons and Tactics Conference (WEPTAC). These TIPs are #1: 5th Gen SEAD Support Effectiveness for B-2 Operations, #12: Advanced Low Observable Ingress Tactics, #9: 4th and 5th Gen Joint and Coalition SEAD Contracts, and #13: 4th to 5th and 5th to 4th EA Effectiveness.
“Through events like these, we continue to improve our joint 4th and 5th generation tactics, which enhances our abilities in an advanced threat environment,” said Ellis.
LFTEs are Air Combat Command’s principal event for operational test warfighters to evaluate the suitability and effectiveness of emerging capabilities within an integrated and operationally realistic scenario. Unlike joint or multiple-platform exercises that focus on the training and readiness for units with fielded capabilities, such as Red Flag, LFTEs focus on yet to be fielded hardware, software, and tactics. Results from LFTEs inform a wide range of efforts to include capability development and the latest tactics, with a focus on integration.
“We fight as an integrated force which means we need to test and evaluate our latest capabilities as an integrated force,” said Creeden. “Put simply, our job is to inform, develop, and deliver, from idea to premeditated violence, an integrated tactical advantage to the Combat Air Force for both tonight, and tomorrow’s potential fight. LFTEs are a primary enabling effort to make this happen.”