March 24, 2012

Air Force’s top instructors train Red Flag 12-3 participants

Capt. Teresa Sullivan

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. “” U.S. Air Force Weapons School instructor pilots served as “tactical mentors” to Red Flag 12-3 participants, providing advanced knowledge and instruction during the exercise, held Feb. 27 through March 16.

The instructors who design and lead six months of the most advanced flying training in the U.S. military at the Weapons School are now helping Red Flag increase the level of execution for the training they provide, and thereby helping operational Combat Air Force squadrons, joint and coalition partners to prepare for more capable adversaries.

Red Flag exercises are challenging, and involving subject matter experts from the Weapons School is meant to steepen the learning curve for participating units to help them fully exploit the training opportunities provided in the Nevada Test and Training Range.

“Today the United States Air Force operates in both contested and uncontested combat arenas; however, in the future, airpower, space and cyber domains will be both contested and denied and we must be prepared,” said Col. Robert Garland, U.S. Air Force Weapons School Commandant. “Through the Weapons School’s support of Red Flag and our tactical mentoring program, we are able to help build, teach and lead participants, training at the highest level ensuring victory against any competitor.”

For the first time, the CAF is getting exposure to cross-domain capabilities provided by the joint-force and specifically, Air Force capabilities, to defeat a near-peer adversary in the contested operations, degraded systems, and operational limitation arenas, according to Lt. Col. Scott Jobe, USAFWS deputy commandant.

“The importance of this training cannot be over emphasized,” said Jobe. “In the day of constrained resources, often times we undervalue the contributions training events provide in favor of investing in future weapons systems. More visibility into how much more capable your fighting force is while integrating across multiple domains and service capabilities is required.”

Instructors with graduate-level proficiency from multiple platforms such as F-16, F-15C, F-15E, A-10, RC-135, EC-130H and F-22 aircraft are on hand daily to provide their expertise.

“My role is to help the mission commander during the mission planning phase, observe execution of the mission with the air boss, sit in on the de-brief and help guide them through it providing lessons learned,” said Capt. Bryan Dalton, 16th Weapons Squadron F-16 instructor pilot, who serves as a subject matter expert for the Red Flag global strike mission, which is the integration of conventional and stealth assets, as well as Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses.

The tactical mentor program is designed to provide Weapons School instructor experiences and credibility while acquainting Red Flag participants with what is possible with a highly-integrated joint force, employing advanced tactics against a seemingly insurmountable problem, but one that potential adversaries are capable of presenting.

Instructors at the Weapons School have seen difficult scenarios like those presented at Red Flag many times, and by having them involved, the Red Flag participants can avoid common mistakes and increase their success on the first attempt, and then build on that success.

“The experience weapons school instructors have with LFE [Large Force Employment] and integration is the key to this exchange,” Dalton explained. “We train to that daily at the Weapons School, so we can provide them with tactical mentoring on the subject.”

Garland explained that this type of training is critical for future, large-scale conflict capitalizing on the resources and training environment possible only at Nellis AFB.

“We’re in a unique and fortunate environment here at Nellis because we have the Weapons School, our Service’s professional adversary force [64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons] and the Nevada Test and Training Range. This affords us the opportunity to train and practice current and future combat scenarios, such as Red Flag large force exercises, to instill the confidence that our Nation’s fighting forces are combat ready and can answer the call anytime and anywhere around the world,” said Garland.

Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving joint and coalition forces training over the NTTR, the U.S. Air Force’s premier “peacetime battlefield,” providing combat air forces with the ability to train to fly, fight and win together. The Weapons School has provided tactical mentors for the past two exercises and plans on continuing the program. 

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