Cyber Flag

Cyber Flag exercises sharpen DOD cyber operations and defense

Cyber pros from across the military honed their skills against a realistic adversary on a closed network in an 11-day U.S. Cyber Command exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., last month. 

The Cyber Flag exercise, first conducted in 2011, combines operational command and control (C2) and tactically focused training in a virtual environment. Cyber Flag sets the conditions for force-on-force maneuvers against a realistic enemy — fusing attack and defense across the full spectrum of operations, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency

The exercises are nearly year-round as determined by Cybercom, and take place throughout the United States and around the world.

In the third annual Cyber Flag exercise, joint, combined and interagency forces merged cyber defense and offense skills across a full spectrum of operations, Cybercom officials said. These forces applied new and developing tactics, techniques and procedures for cyber mission force and coalition teams, which officials said will ultimately enable cyberspace operators to rapidly detect, assess, mitigate and respond in real time to cyberthreats to DOD networks.

Cyber Flag also challenged C2 mechanisms to use and support simulated capabilities from air and maritime domains.

A team from Defense Information Systems Agency integrated the Enterprise Operations Center (EOC) into the recent Cyber Flag 14 exercises with the goal of advancing tactical, individual and collective skills through realistic and relevant training. The EOC played a significant role in the exercise.

“Cyber Flag 14 provided an opportunity for DISA to demonstrate capabilities as an enterprise service provider and a leader in operating and defending DOD Information Networks within a Joint Information Environment (JIE),” said Marine Maj. Leonard J. Le Vine, chief of the Exercises Branch at DISA Europe. 

The DISA team also used the exercise to validate tactics, techniques and procedures for the JIE, cyber C2, operational processes, coordination and reporting.

This year’s Cyber Flag marks the first time all components of the cyber mission force — C2 through Joint Force Cyber Headquarters elements and tactical teams — exercised as a cohesive force. The cyber mission force, which is being built over a period of three years, is designed to accomplish  three separate missions, according to Cybercom: 

  • National mission teams defend the nation by seeing foreign adversary cyberactivity, blocking attacks and maneuvering to defeat them.
  • Combat mission teams support combatant commander priorities and missions.
  • Cyber protection teams defend DOD information networks and improve network security.

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