Space Force hosts inaugural ‘orbital warfare’ training exercise

The simulation-based Red Skies exercise allowed guardians to hone skills in orbital mechanics and satellite flight.
(Getty Images)

The Space Force recently held its first-ever Red Skies exercise focused on training guardians how to respond to potential adversary attacks against U.S. space-based assets, the service announced Dec. 22.

Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) hosted the inaugural event Dec. 11-15. Red Skies is envisioned as an annual training experience that emphasizes “orbital warfare” disciplines, according to the Space Force. The simulation-based exercise enabled guardians from Space Operations Command (SPoC) to hone skills in orbital mechanics and satellite flight relevant for Space Force operations.

“Realistic simulation like this allows us to refine tactical skills that drive us towards tactically relevant thinking … more towards what it means to ensure space superiority,” STARCOM Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Todd Moore said in a statement.

During the exercise, guardians trained for tactical command-and-control operations and how to operate multiple satellites, all while engaging opposing forces in a simulated environment, according to a Space Force press release.


While the first event was held entirely through simulations, the service plans to eventually incorporate real-world satellites — similar to the “live-fire” training demonstrated during Black Skies.

“Red Skies will grow from here, expanding to include more units under realistic command and control scenarios with an emphasis on executing coordinated, integrated space sorites,” Lt. Col. Scott Nakatani, commander of the 392nd Combat Training Squadron, said in a statement. “We are building service orbital warfare experience in simulation with an eye on transitioning Red Skies into the live-fly on-orbit exercise we need as a service.”

The inaugural Red Skies exercise was initially slated for summer 2023, but was delayed until the end of the year, according to a July report from Breaking Defense.

“I can confidently say that this ‘first-ever’ will become a mainstay in how SpOC and STARCOM partner to ensure we achieve the true goals and objectives of advanced training,” Moore said. “There is a lot more to come as we iterate on a capability like this and will drive to include every SpOC Delta that wants to prove they are ready.”

STARCOM was able to identify requirements that will allow future Red Skies exercises to grow, including ways to improve the orbital warfare simulations and streamline integrated sortie planning processes. Moore noted that those requirements will serve as a cue for the space industry to develop the needed capabilities to train guardians on relevant threats — a key priority for Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman.


“Competition and combat in space is new and current space capabilities are vulnerable. We need to be equipped and ready for any conflict in, from, or through space,” he said in a statement. “During Red Skies, these Guardians achieved more for [orbital warfare] readiness than anything else we’ve done to date as a combined STARCOM/SPOC team.”

Red Skies is part of STARCOM’s series of “Skies” events. The service has already held three Black Skies exercises tailored to electromagnetic warfare operations, and it’s planning to begin another event focused on cyber warfare called Blue Skies.

Mikayla Easley

Written by Mikayla Easley

Mikayla Easley reports on the Pentagon’s acquisition and use of emerging technologies. Prior to joining DefenseScoop, she covered national security and the defense industry for National Defense Magazine. She received a BA in Russian language and literature from the University of Michigan and a MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. You can follow her on Twitter @MikaylaEasley

Latest Podcasts