A Cyber Mission Defense Team assigned to Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, spent three weeks at Exercise RED FLAG 18-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, building the skills necessary to defend an Air Operations Center.
For RF 18-1, personnel at the Combined Air Operations Center-Nellis provided advanced operational-level command and control of the simulated combat operations. And, as with any Air Operations Center, the success of its mission is highly dependent upon multiple computer and radio networks. Due to the nature of information in the AOC, these networks require added protection. The 375th Communications Group’s Mission Defense Team stepped up to the plate and prevented numerous cyber-attacks from interfering with these networks throughout Red Flag 18-1.
“In my experience with previous RED FLAG scenarios, there was a critical piece missing in defensive cyber operations, and the 375th Communications Group’s Mission Defense Team is filling that gap very effectively,” said Capt. Imad Mohammadi, a 24th Air Force cyber weapons officer.
These skillsets were thoroughly tested at RF 18-1. They played a very specific role in defending this kind of network, Mohammadi said.
“MDTs understand how operations are conducted, what processes are required, why they exist and how they are used,” Mohammadi said. “Once all relevant details are documented, the team shapes how cyber defenders prevent adversaries from impacting the air mission.”
Mohammadi said the team’s ability to rapidly integrate with U.S. and coalition forces was key to training forces across the spectrum of warfighting operations.
For instance, in the final week, the MDT was tested on their overall defensive effort during a cyber-attack during a “Base X” scenario. 2nd Lt Jared Schlak successfully led his team of U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force, and Royal Australian Air Force assets against advanced adversary tactics – a defensive concept previously approved at an Air Force Space Command Weapons and Tactics conference. The team frustrated “aggressor” team actors and ensured the day’s air mission was successful, which earned them recognition.
In addition to Lt Schlak’s team recognition, Senior Airmen Matthew Evans, Devon Overstreet and Christopher Povlich were selected as Superior Performers for RF 18-1, identifying them as the top five percent across all exercise participants.
When they returned to Scott AFB, the Mission Defense Team continued work toward full operational capability certification. The experience they gained at RED FLAG 18-1 will be used as they work with mission owners across the installation to identify the areas of greatest risk and generate defensive measures to reduce that risk to operations.