NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — More than 150 Airmen and several B-1 Lancers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., are among the more than 2,300 personnel, 116 aircraft, 20 units and two coalition partners to converge on Nellis to participate in the world’s largest combat exercise, Red Flag 14-3.
The 28th Bomb Wing is the lead wing for the large force exercise, established in 1975. Directing an operation of this scale poses unique challenges for those leading the distinct mission.
“As the lead wing, our primary task is to quickly integrate squadrons from across the U.S. Air Force and those participating from our coalition partners so we are ready to employ on the first day [of the exercise], “ said Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th BW commander and Air Expeditionary Wing commander for Red Flag. “In combat, we must be lethal and ready for the first engagement, the first bomb run — the very instant we start combat operations.
“Over the course of the two weeks, we will increase our proficiency as an AEW, and by the final week we will have reached that level of readiness,” the colonel added.
Red Flag is the premier joint aerial combat training exercise aimed to prepare warfighters for real world contingencies. Elite combat aviators will continually test their mental and physical abilities throughout the course of the two week exercise. The event provides realistic training in a combined air, ground, space and electronic threat environment while providing for a free exchange of ideas between forces.
Units and aircraft from across the world arrived at Nellis throughout July 9 to 11, and spent the following weekend preparing for the official start of the exercise July 14.
In addition to the B-1 Lancers involved in this joint combat exercise, the B-52 Stratofortress, F-22 Raptor, F-15 Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, E-3 Sentry, CH-47 Chinook and HH-60 Pave Hawk will all join the fight over the vast Nevada Test and Training Range encompassing 2.9 million acres. Officials note that the large-scale aerial combat training exercise wouldn’t be possible without the meticulous planning and expert maintenance from support and ground crew elements incorporated within these flying units.
“All of our Airmen are highly trained and qualified to perform sound maintenance on all our aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Brandon Klask, 79th Aircraft Maintenance Unit expediter with the 20th Fighter Wing out of Shaw AFB, S.C., “To us, it’s business as usual – we train how we fight. Our job is to provide mission ready aircraft so our pilots can find the enemy and destroy them.”
As flight operations begin and the first week continues in full gear, the participating units provide diverse mission elements to train in multiple scenarios, fostering interoperability and ensuring the many facets that build the nation’s Air Force are ready to apply their experience and knowledge in real world conflicts.
“My objective is to increase the combat readiness of each participant of Red Flag and to demonstrate in the toughest possible training scenarios that the combination of the U.S. Air Force and our allies is truly a world class fighting force that is second to none,” Kennedy said.
Red Flag will conclude July 25.