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Bamboo Eagle, first-ever US, UK, AUS C2-driven, live-fly, simultaneous LVC exercise

  • Published
  • By Deb Henley, 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs
  • 505th Command and Control Wing

Airmen from the 505th Command and Control Wing at Hurlburt Field, Nellis Air Force Base, and Kirtland AFB executed the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center's first-ever C2-driven, live-fly and simultaneous live, virtual, and constructive exercise Bamboo Eagle for more than 3,000 U.S. service members and nearly 300 allied partners from the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force.

The first iteration of Bamboo Eagle 24-1, an 8-day event set in the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility, commenced with live-fly operations and 24-hour LVC rolling scenarios in the week following Red Flag.

Bamboo Eagle is setting a new standard for future joint and combined exercises; there’s a lot more to warfare than the tactical fight. Bamboo Eagle is layering the tactical fight with the operational fight, tyranny of distance, logistical and sustainment challenges, communications degradation, and distributed C2.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Carl Plonk, 505th CCW director of operations/A3

Bamboo Eagle 24-1 provided advanced expeditionary airbase training in a combat-representative environment utilizing distributed squadrons, or spokes, along the West Coast of the United States. Red Flag units were dispersed into spokes while maintaining sortie generation utilizing a centralized C2 force element, or FE.  Agile Combat Employment concepts were incorporated into the exercise to provide full spectrum movement and maneuver and multi-hub operations under a singular operational C2 structure.

"Bamboo Eagle took some of the Red Flag players and put units into an advanced 400-level training exercise, showing them what real conflict looks like, then walked backwards to address the toughest operational and tactical problems we expect to see in an actual fight in the Indo-Pacific," said U.S. Air Force Col. Ryan Hayde, 505th CCW commander, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The exercise delivered robust training, providing reps and sets for the entire C2 battle management enterprise, including aircrew flying strike aircraft and C2 platforms within a realistic setting at the highest fidelity possible.

“Exercise Bamboo Eagle is moving toward an infused LVC exercise where live and virtual assets play together, and what is happening in the virtual world has effects on the live, and the live is affecting what is happening in the virtual space,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Andrew Metz, 705th Combat Training Squadron Bamboo Eagle 24-1 exercise director. “While the live-fly portion is an important part of the exercise, you are never going to be able to get the sheer mass of distance and terrain just inside that one section of live airspace.”



The 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing’s C2 FE acted as the wing-level mission command center for four geographically separated fighter units and one airlift unit. At the same time, the exercise’s second AEW, the 4th Fighter Wing, participated as the 4th AEW, launching F-15Es from their forward operating sites during the live-fly missions while concurrently participating in the ACE-focused exercise, Agile Flag 24-1. The 505th Combat Training Squadron drove the constructive scenario for both Agile Flag and Bamboo Eagle from Hurlburt Field, while the 505th Training Squadron and 705th Training Squadron’s senior mentors supported the 3rd and 4th AEWs at Nellis and McClellan AFB, and 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron members accomplished C2 operational test and experimentation from multiple exercise locations throughout the event.

“The 4th AEW Agile Flag scenario aligned with the Bamboo Eagle scenario as one of the two AEWs the 505th CCW and 505th CTS’s ACRC [air component replication cell] supported,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Carl Plonk, 505th CCW director of operations/A3, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “The wing supported the constructive scenario for both exercises seamlessly, driving events that led the AEWs to decision points in logistics and maneuver actions.” 

The 726th Air Control Squadron trained at the tactical-C2 level against a ‘robust, integrated air and maritime competitor in a contested and degraded environment;’ the 3rd and 4th AEWs and 726th ACS used the 505th CCW’s connected LVC environments which provided a replicated realistic AOR.

“The Bamboo Eagle LVC backbone was an entire 505th Combat Training Group effort; the ShOC-N’s [Shadow Operations Center-Nellis] access to live data, data sharing agreements, and tactical datalink infrastructure allowed the 705th CTS’s Distributed Mission Operations Center virtual and constructive environments and the 505th CTS’s constructive environments to integrate into a single COP [common operational picture],” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn Finney, 805th Combat Training Squadron/ShOC-N director of operations, Nellis AFB, Nevada.  “The ACRC was supported by the 505th Communications Squadron, whose experts leveraged an air operations center weapons system for accurate replication.”

Finney continued, “The ShOC-N was the digital backbone for the LVC event, ensuring a single COP was displayed for all exercise participants. It was essential for the owner of the COP to ensure accurate data at all times, thus allowing a commander, regardless of echelon, the best possible opportunity to control his or her forces.”

24-hour Operations

For the first time the 705th CTS, also known as the DMOC, executed 24-hour, LVC scenarios for the joint and combined force during Bamboo Eagle.

“This is the first ever 24-hour event for the DMOC, period. That’s a huge step toward designing a more combat representative scenario; we're not going to fight for eight hours, hold a lengthy debrief, and get a 12-hour reprieve. The fight keeps going! We're preparing for 'round-the-clock 24-hour operations in a truly cumulative way,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Barry Tucker, 705th CTS/DMOC director of operations, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

Training through virtual and constructive components capture the tyranny of distance, time, and logistics strain to be played out over longer vulnerability periods or pulses.

“There are thousands and thousands of miles within the INDOPACOM theater, that cannot be covered during  live-fly training events. Warfighters can train in a real theater replication where DMOC scenario designers have layered those thousands of miles within the virtual and constructive arenas. Within the scenario, the training audience can practice resource management to virtually solve their logistics challenges,” said Metz.

During the DMOC’s 24-hour rolling scenario, where each day affected the next day and the day after that, the desired learning objectives challenged the battle management training audience to problem solve with limited resources for missions.

“Red Flag DLOs [desired learning objectives] are more at the tactical level, Bamboo Eagle is scoping beyond the tactical and adds in true operational and strategic end game goals that need to be executed at the tactical level to achieve operational and strategic objectives,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. David Blessman, 705th CTS Bamboo Eagle LVC planner, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. “The DMOC’s whole goal was to create a larger environment that was a realistic representation of INDOPACOM theater for the 3rd and 4th AEWs and future training audiences.”

U.S. and U.K. members executed multi-domain operations at the DMOC during Bamboo Eagle, incorporating air, sea, cyberspace, and space domains to drive tactical and operational situations for all participants.

Integrating Allies

To further enhance understanding amongst the U.S., Australia, and the United Kingdom, representatives from operational and tactical levels came together to provide national expertise, independent/contingency communications, and to further development of tactics, techniques and procedures.

Personnel from the U.K. and the Australian Joint Forces Air Component Commands supported U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy assets and personnel as they operated across dispersed locations on the West Coast of the U.S. They also provided key integration and continency C2 to their participating national aircraft, which included the RAF Typhoon FGR4, RAF Voyager and RAAF F-35A Lightning II.

“The deployed U.K. JFAC contingent at Hurlburt Field who participated in Exercise Bamboo Eagle from the AOC replication cell, highly benefitted from understanding how the U.S. intends to function strategically and operationally in the INDOPACOM theatre,” said U.K. Squadron Leader Michael Browne, U.K. Joint AOC combat operations officer.

A detachment of operational and intelligence subject matter experts from the Australian Air Warfare School and 83 Squadron provided input and observed processes during Bamboo Eagle 24-1 execution at Hurlburt Field. The RAAF Detachment Commander Squadron Leader Simone Batchler and her team were able to integrate fully with U.S. and U.K. allies to understand the intent of the exercise and take those lessons back to Australia.

“A keen focus point for the [RAAF] team was the way the U.S. Air Force conducted Agile Combat Employment, a highly exercised mode of operation, tested through the LVC framework,” said RAAF Squadron Leader Sean Bedford, Australian exchange officer to the 505th CCW.  “The exercise was able to bring together all members of the AUKUS [Australian-U.K.-U.S. enhanced security partnership] community, strengthening the bonds between the three countries.”

Beyond the core AOC replication functions, the RAF also deployed 90 Signals Unit personnel to set up and maintain classified national communications with the deployed assets and personnel operating from March Air Reserve Base, California.

“This exercise was the first step in U.K. participation in the Bamboo Eagle series. We learnt a great deal from what went right and equally from what we collectively need to do better in the future to ensure that these opportunities are maximized amongst allied nations. Exercising together is pivotal to future success,” said U.K. Wing Commander Richard Kinniburgh, U.K. exchange officer to 505th CCW and Bamboo Eagle U.K. detachment commander. “Participation with live assets is important, but it is in the virtual and constructive elements of the exercise that the U.K. C2 elements and tactical units can feature more going forward.” 

Combat Representative Environment

505th CTS Airmen provided both a combat representative operational environment and an ACRC using constructive models, computer-generated forces, manipulated by operators to add complexity to the combined force’s decision environment.

As more than 150 aircraft from over 20 units in multiple locations converged for live missions at ranges in the Eastern Pacific, the 505th CTS delivered an additional 465 constructive joint airpower missions each day to replicate the scope and scale of conflict in the INDOPACOM AOR.

“Short of real conflict, it is very difficult to replicate the density of traffic and threats across domains in a strictly live environment,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Guest, 505th CTS director of operations, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “Adding a constructive layer to the exercise adds to the fog and friction that we anticipate will be a feature in any engagement with the pacing challenge.”

In addition to supplementing the Bamboo Eagle 24-1 blue forces with constructive aircraft, the 505th CTS also generated constructive red forces throughout the exercise to deliver a combat representative threat representation for warfighters. During the 8-day event, exercise controllers produced over 4,500 adversary sorties, providing a realistic COP for C2 participants.

“The aim of Bamboo Eagle is to provide advanced training in a disaggregated, multi-domain scenario to enable the joint force to prevail in conflict against an aggressive adversary,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Power, 505th CTS commander, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Bamboo Eagle 24-1 was the operational implementation of the tactical buildup of Red Flag 24-1. As such, exercise execution required the support of operational-level C2. 505th CTS Airmen also provided the air component replication necessary for guidance documents and orders that tactical warfighters require to execute individual missions. Throughout Bamboo Eagle, the squadron replicated all outputs of an AOC and Air Force Forces staff, immersing exercise participants into the broader architecture of the air component.

Replicating a complex and contested environment against a challenging pacing threat, the scenarios provided unique training opportunities for integrated force, simulating all planning phases and C2, allowing rehearsal of complex, large-scale military operations.

Importance of Networks

The 505th Communications Squadron was critical in coordinating the connection of systems and data flows to create a consolidated air picture for all Bamboo Eagle participants. Despite the limited preparation time for Bamboo Eagle, the communications planners from 505th CS, in close coordination with the 505th CCW Communication and Information staff, or A6, proved vital in ensuring network connections across distributed locations were properly configured and operationally tested prior to execution.

“Tying a scenario of this magnitude together across so many different locations was a huge feat and was successfully accomplished by the 505th CS,” said Plonk. “Airman across the 505th CCW worked together with the 505th CS to create a robust communications architecture that seamlessly overlayed the constructive and virtual environments with the live environment, creating one wholistic COP and replicating the feel of a real AOR for the training audience.”

The 505th CCW acquired tactical communications kits for each spoke location, leveraging emerging communications technology from Air Force Research Lab for experimentation and evaluated the equipment in a combat representative scenario.

“Cyber systems and data networks have become indispensable to modern-day warfighting, influencing strategic, operational and tactical aspects of military operations,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Alex Botardo, 505th CS commander, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Future of Bamboo Eagle

“Bamboo Eagle is setting a new standard for future joint and combined exercises; there’s a lot more to warfare than the tactical fight. Bamboo Eagle is layering the tactical fight with the operational fight, tyranny of distance, logistical and sustainment challenges, communications degradation, and distributed C2,” said Plonk.

Plonk continued, “We’ve nested the exercise in a continuous synthetic training environment to create a combat representative AOR.  The fight must look and feel real 24-hours a day, for multiple days, for both the live and virtual training audience.  This is how we train at the scope, scale, and complexity required to ensure the combined force is integrated and prepared to fight.” 

The 57th Wing and 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis, the 53d Wing and the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing at Eglin, and 505th CCW personnel at Hurlburt Field, Kirtland and Nellis, continue collaborating with cyber and tactics teams, C2 planners, modeling and simulation teams, and scenario developers for future iterations of Bamboo Eagle to address the Secretary of the Air Force's C2 Operational Imperative to 'improve how we collect, analyze, and share information and make operational decisions more effectively than our potential adversaries.'

“Managing an uncommonly large number of disaggregated joint and allied blue forces against a peer threat requires deliberate and focused C2 at all echelons,” said Hayde. “I didn’t expect Bamboo Eagle 24-1 execution to go perfectly. The scenario was complex and at times felt chaotic, but it turns out that a war against a pacing threat will be complex and chaotic.”

Hayde continued, “The professionals of the 505th CCW led the charge, capturing the good, bad, and ugly of C2 from Bamboo Eagle 24-1, and we will use it to sharpen the skills of the joint and allied force; we must be bold in our planning, execution and follow through to remain the world’s most deadly and dominant airpower.”