The U.S. Air Force tested emissions control (EMCON) tactics for the service’s F-35A fighter by Lockheed Martin [LMT] in a combined Orange Flag and Black Flag exercise earlier this month.

“We actually dived into some F-35 EMCON tactics so how do we turn on and off our things to manage our signatures a little better beyond just the radar spectrum,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Mike “Pako” Benitez, director of staff for the Air Force 53rd Wing, the service’s primary operational test wing. “Then we did some deep-end testing for F-16 AESA [active electronically scanned array] radar so we have a target saturated environment to stress test the software and the radar, but also the wave forms for some electronic attack and electronic detection. Then the last thing that we did where we call it non-traditional air-to-air survivability and that was a combined Orange and Black Flag effort because we had some common test objectives that we needed to get out of that.”

Through the F-35’s stealth and EMCON, the F-35 is to be able to remain at stand-off range while detecting threats through passive Electronic Support Measures rather than the aircraft’s on-board AN/APG-81 radar by Northrop Grumman [NOC] and other electronic signatures.

Orange Flag at Edwards AFB, Calif., Emerald Flag at Eglin AFB, Fla., and Black Flag at Nellis AFB, Nevada, are the Air Force’s new “test triad” for Joint All-Domain Operations and the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The three large force test events are to test Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System component, as well as new tactics and technologies for joint forces.

The Orange Flag-specific part of this month’s exercise focused on advanced survivability and “kill web” integration–the latter including Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force sensors and tactical networks, and JADC2 nodes. Benitez said that, in contrast to a five step “kill chain,” a “kill web” can have 243 different ways of generating effects by using three “kill” options from air, sea, and space domains, for example.

While the Orange Flag effort began at Edwards AFB three years ago, this month’s exercise was the first Black Flag exercise since Air Force Gen. Mark Kelly, the head of Air Combat Command, approved Black Flag last December. Black Flag is to test and validate Tactics Improvement Proposals presented annually at the Weapons and Tactics Conference.

The Air Force said that beside the F-35 EMCON tactics development and the evaluation/tactics development for the F-16’s AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar AESA radar by Northrop Grumman, the service also tested air-to-air survivability for the Lockheed Martin HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopter.

Benitez said that the 53rd Wing “accomplished 30 test objectives over 10 scenarios” in the March 2-4 testing and that the tests featured 40 joint platforms, 13 different waveform data links, five land units, five space systems, two cyber capabilities, and a Navy hardware-in-the-loop Aegis system.

Next week’s Emerald Flag exercise will be a “half mix of developmental test from the 96th Test Wing and operational test from the 53rd Wing,” Benitez said, adding that the test will feature integration of fourth-generation platforms and a flying test bed.

As in the past, funds for the flag exercises are coming from non-dedicated Air Force accounts.

“Part of the problem is honestly there’s no line item for these things,” Benitez said of flag exercises. “There’s no line item in the budget for Congress to put more money into our test flags. It’s just absorbed into these other bins of money.”