RIT Air Force cadets host fully integrated multi-domain field training exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman Tyrique Barquet
  • Air University Public Affairs

Rochester Institute of Technology Air Force ROTC Detachment 538 cadets executed a fully integrated multi-domain field training exercise on April 22, 2023, at the RIT Cyber Range and Training Center in Rochester New York.

During the exercise, cadets from RIT's Air Force and Army ROTC programs, along with cadets from six other AFROTC detachments, worked together in a simulated field training setting. The exercise emphasized the integration of cyber, air, and ground operations.

Detachment 538 cadets led the exercise, which involved cadets facing challenges from a mock adversary satellite network, simulated enemy aircraft, integrated air defense systems, and ground forces. The exercise aimed to demonstrate how these different components could work together to achieve a mission objective, such as destroying a mock enemy munitions plant. Real-time coordination was facilitated through a cadet-run operations center at RIT's Cyber Security Center.

“These exercises allow cadets to create their own plans and come up with a solution on their own,” said Cadet Dominic Barbone, exercise director. “Continuing this style gives cadets the sandbox to create their own course of action, empowering them to come up with a solution to the problem, rather than having cadet trainers give them a solution and execute the mission based off what the cadet trainers tell them to do.”

In the cyber domain, cadets disabled 30 mock enemy satellites using various techniques such as buffer overflows, brute force and packet sniffing. The enemy satellites were defended by other cadets that served as enemies. The cyber mission aimed to weaken the enemy's integrated air defenses and enable a kinetic strike on the primary target.

In the air domain, cadets engaged in air combat simulations using four digital combat simulators, including virtual reality. The air team faced off against a simulated enemy force to establish air superiority. According to Lt. Col. Christopher Denzer, the detachment commander, achieving air superiority was crucial to protect ground teams from attacks and ultimately execute the kinetic strike on the primary target.

The ground cadets then had to regroup at a forward operating base that had lost communication. After rescuing a surviving state department worker, their mission shifted to meet up with local nationals and gather intelligence on the location of a compromised enemy command post. They used a provided USB to gain access to the enemy's computer terminal and loaded codes that would enhance the cyber team's access to enemy defenses. The ground team had to clear the area under fire before the kinetic strike on the primary target could take place.

In the command, control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance domain, a team was responsible for coordinating and managing operations across all domains. The team adjusted personnel assignments in the operations center to optimize problem-solving efficiency and refocus the mission as the exercise progressed. Immediate situation reports were required to be sent to the cadre based on critical events and a battle rhythm of Commander’s Update Briefings was due to the CFACC at regular intervals. 

“Giving briefings on a mission, while the mission is still in progress, is a little bit different than a briefing on one specific topic,” said Cadet Jessica Klein, the cadet mission commander. “Being able to give clear and concise information while also presenting it in a timely manner is pertinent to having control of a situation.”

“The Blue Team received excellent evaluation and feedback,” said Denzer. “They gained valuable skills through a two-week mission planning effort, complex communication problem-solving and simulated real-life experiences.”

The exercise demonstrated the capabilities and skills of the participating cadets, and RIT AFROTC plans to share the training exercise with other AFROTC and Navy ROTC detachments in the future.