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Test Flag Enterprise integrates autonomy into Orange Flag

MQ-20 stationary

A General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger unmanned vehicle prepares to start up at El Mirage Airfield, Calif. June 24, 2021. The Skyborg team conducted a multiple hour flight test of the Skyborg Autonomy Core System aboard the General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger unmanned vehicle during Edwards Air Force Base’s Orange Flag 21-2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tabatha Arellano)

MQ-20 flying near El Mirage, Calif.

A General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger unmanned vehicle returns to El Mirage Airfield, Calif. June 24, 2021. The MQ-20 successfully participated in Edwards Air Force Base’s Orange Flag 21-2 to test the Skyborg Autonomy Core System. (Photo courtesy of General Atomics)(This photo was edited by blurring the tail number for security purposes.)

F-35 Flying with blue sky

An F-35 Lightning II participating in the large-scale test event Orange Flag 21-2 performs a low pass over the runway at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

MQ-20 takes off

A General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger unmanned vehicle prepares for takeoff at El Mirage Airfield, Calif. June 24, 2021. The goal of the MQ-20’s test flight with the Skyborg Autonomy Core System on board and participation in Orange Flag 21-2 is to demonstrate an open, modular architecture which can autonomously aviate, navigate and communicate safely in a manned-unmanned environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tabatha Arellano)

F-35 prepares to take off as a B-1 taxis on the runway behind it

An F-35 Lightning II participating in the large-scale test event Orange Flag 21-2 prepares for take-off as a B-1 Lancer taxis in the background at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Pilot getting in to F-35

Maj. Austin "Butcher" Baker, 461st Flight Test Squadron test pilot, climbs into an F-35 Lightning II participating in the large-scale test event Orange Flag 21-2 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (Lockheed Martin photo/Chad Bellay)

F-16 takes off from Edwards AFB

An F-16 Fighting Falcon participating in the large-scale test event Orange Flag 21-2 takes off at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Airman marshals F-35

A member of the 461st Flight Test Squadron marshals an F-35 Lightning II participating in the large-scale test event Orange Flag 21-2 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (Lockheed Martin photo/Chad Bellay)

Crew chiefs prepare F-35

Members of the 461st Flight Test Squadron perform preflight checks on an F-35 Lightning II participating in the large-scale test event Orange Flag 21-2 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (Lockheed Martin photo/Chad Bellay)

MQ-20 prepares to taxi
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A General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger unmanned vehicle prepares for taxi at El Mirage Airfield, Calif. June 24, 2021. The MQ-20 Avenger was flown during the Edwards Air Force Base’s Orange Flag 21-2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tabatha Arellano)

MQ-20 Avenger flying over desert
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A General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger unmanned vehicle takes off at the El Mirage Airfield, Calif. June 24, 2021. The MQ-20 took off to participate in Edwards Air Force Base’s Orange Flag 21-2 and to test the Skyborg Autonomy Core System aboard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tabatha Arellano)

Airman works at computer in control room
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Lt. Col. Dameion “Booster” Briggs, Orange Flag Air Battle Manager, manages the tactical control and safety of more than 40 airborne assets during Orange Flag 21-2 from the Ridley Mission Control Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Airman works on computer in control room
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Maj. Michael “Orbit” Nayak, Orange Flag Deputy Test Conductor, coordinates Orange Flag 21-2 ground assets on the Electronic Combat Range from the Ridley Mission Control Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Airman works at computer in control room
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Maj Chris “Nacho” Thorn, Orange Flag Test Conductor, orchestrates the overall execution of the Orange Flag 21-2 test event from the Ridley Mission Control Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Airman works on computer with headset
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Maj. Michael “Orbit” Nayak, Orange Flag Deputy Test Conductor, coordinates Orange Flag 21-2 ground assets on the Electronic Combat Range from the Ridley Mission Control Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Airman works on computer in control room
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Capt. Samantha “FIGI” Thorn, Orange Flag Skyborg Integration, synchronizes efforts between the Skyborg autonomous MQ-20 and fighter aircraft during Orange Flag 21-2 test from the Ridley Mission Control Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 24, 2021. Orange Flag 21-2 is the nation’s premier multi-domain test event in combination with Eglin Air Force Base’s Emerald Flag, which brings night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Orange Flag 21-2 brought in two new objectives to the large force test event: autonomy and Emerald Flag collaboration. The test event hosted by Air Force Test Center’s 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, California, occurred June 24, 2021.

In addition to testing “kill web” integration and advanced survivability for aerial platforms against adversaries, Orange Flag 21-2 aimed to provide a large force, multi-domain test environment for autonomy participants.

The autonomy participant included the Air Force Vanguard program Skyborg.

“As the nation’s premier, large force, multi-domain test event, it is critical that we provide the opportunity to test emerging technologies, including autonomy,” said Maj. Brandon Burfeind, Orange Flag Director.  

As a part of Orange Flag, the team conducted a flight test of the Skyborg Autonomy Core System aboard a General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger unmanned vehicle.

“Providing these programs opportunities to look at integration regardless of technical readiness level is incredibly important for future value to the warfighter,” said Burfeind, a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Test Pilot.

The goal of the Skyborg test was to demonstrate an open, modular architecture which can autonomously aviate, navigate and communicate safely in a manned-unmanned environment. Autonomous systems like Skyborg can significantly increase capability and be a force multiplier for the U.S. Air Force.

“This was the first known testing of an unmanned vehicle operated autonomously in a large force test event,” said Maj. Daniel Prudhomme, Orange Flag Operations Director.

Tests occurred in geographically separated locations within the R-2508 complex in California and the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in Florida.

Test flag collaboration included the preparation for Project Convergence, the U.S. Army’s contribution to Joint All Domain Command and Control.

The Program Executive Office Missiles and Space’s Tactical Systems Integration Lab utilized the Integrated Battle Command System to provide dispersed infrastructure, enabling transcontinental connections between geographically separated large force test events.

“This iteration of Orange Flag is a shining example of Test Flag Enterprise collaboration. This event incorporated Skyborg experimentation into the combined Orange and Emerald Flag scenario, consistent with our charter to bring next-generation capability at the speed of relevance,” said Maj. Gen Christopher Azzano, Air Force Test Center commander.

Collaboration among the Test Flag Events makes multi-domain test available to participants who require long-range integration or non-geo-centric locality models.

“Our ability to perform large-force testing in an operationally representative environment is a game changer, and will continue to bring night-one combat advantage to our warriors in the field,” said Azzano.

Emerald Flag is a quarterly event for rapid experimentation of multi-domain kill-web technologies to participants that leverages the unique test and geographic assets of the southeast United States, particularly the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range, hosted by the 96th Test Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida.

Orange Flag is the large force test event carried out three times annually by AFTC’s 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, California.

Orange Flag, Emerald Flag, and Black Flag work in concert as part of the larger Test Flag Enterprise to provide robust test environments geared toward the advancement of Joint All-Domain Operations and the National Defense Strategy.  These Test Flags are key large force test events which support testing of JADC2 and the Advanced Battle Management System to validate new tactics and technologies for warfighting forces.

The next Orange Flag is scheduled for October 2021 and will occur in R-2508 and the Nevada Test and Training Range.  It will include collaboration with Black Flag and Emerald Flag.

As material solutions advance, the distinction between tech and tactics will blur; Orange Flag and Black Flag large force test events are uniquely postured to explore and exploit this environment together.