Thunderbolts from the 425th Fighter Squadron are scheduled to depart for Canada June 9 to join the anticipated 4,500 military personnel attending Maple Flag 45 at Cold Lake Air Base, Alberta.
â€œWe regularly participate in Maple Flag and other similar exercises in keeping with our squadronâ€™s mission of providing high-end training for our aircrew,â€ said Lt. Col. Joshua Hetsko, 425th FS director of operations. â€œThese exercises provide an excellent venue for combat forces from NATO and other countries to participate in a large-scale, simulated combat environment against a complex adversary.â€
Nine F-16 Fighting Falcons and more than 100 Airmen from the 425th FS will test their knowledge and skills in conjunction with airmen from France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Austria, Holland and the Republic of Singapore, not to mention other U. S. services.
â€œWe have been preparing for Maple Flag for the past 10 weeks,â€ Hetsko said. â€œHowever, we maintain a high readiness level year-round, with two or three squadron deployments a year.â€
Maple Flag is a Canadian variation of the U.S. Air Forceâ€™s Red Flag, which is hosted several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Both exercises were created in response to the Vietnam War when it was determined that 90 percent of aircraft loss took place during the first 10 combat missions. In order to improve the survival rate and performance of aircrews, Red Flag was created and Maple Flag followed.
â€œBoth exercises are designed to provide tactical experience to combat aircrews and prepare them for actual combat missions,â€ Hetsko said. â€œTheyâ€™re in very different locations, with different terrain, climate, etc., but we expect the training value for our squadron to be similar.â€
The Black Widows will engage in a two-week air campaign focused on confronting and dealing with air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, precision and nonprecision strike missions.
Other focal points of Maple Flag include transport, electronic warfare, air refueling, air defiance and airborne early warning control assets from many diverse nations.
Lt. Col. Kevin Cruikshank, 425th FS commander, said he believes his team will perform very well at Maple Flag.
â€œIt is extremely important to put our best foot forward when working together in an international joint environment,â€ Cruikshank said. â€œBy demonstrating our capabilities and sharing our knowledge, it helps foster and strengthen the relationship between our allied air forces. The Airmen of the 425th are the hardest working people Iâ€™ve had the honor to work with. They work extremely hard for a common goal, and I know they will directly contribute to the success of this exercise.â€