NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — After 12 intense days of relentless aerial, ground and cyber space operations, Red Flag 14-3 concludes July 25.
During the exercise, U.S. military units from across the globe joined flying units from the French and Singapore air forces under the ‘Blue’ force flag to wage ‘war’ against Nellis’ 57th Adversary Tactics Group, whose units are specially trained to replicate tactics and techniques of potential adversaries.
The 57th ATG, which played the ‘Red’ or opposing force, was charged with defending the many red-force assets throughout the Nevada Test and Training Range, and engaged blue forces during various missions over the NTTR’s mock airfields, vehicle convoys, tanks, parked aircraft, bunkered defensive positions and missile sites.
These mock battles gives inexperienced pilots, air and ground crews realistic mission training in a simulated war, which will increase the combat capability of our armed forces for any future combat situation, explained Lt. Col. Jordan Grant, 414th Combat Training Squadron deputy commander.
“Red Flag exercises ultimately give us the ability to win,” Grant said. “It continues to develop and become a more inclusive exercise as we integrate and fight alongside all of our partners around the [Department of Defense] and the world, which will make future Red Flags more realistic.”
As part of the third and final Red Flag of Fiscal Year 2014, exercise participants – specifically maintenance personnel – furthered their education on how to accomplish the mission in a fully-contested environment.
“This was the third flag of a series of three in the new program that entailed — for our maintainers — very detailed academics of emerging threats and vulnerabilities to maintenance and how that plays into overall operations,” said Maj. Christopher Vance, 414th CTS maintenance division chief. “Big picture [our maintainers are] essentially learning how to control information in an environment where the electromagnetic spectrum are contested.”
Red Flag exercises also offer participants a different take on training, compared to a phase one operational readiness exercise, which may have a single focus point, Grant said.
“The real value of Red Flag here is not just operating and getting the airplanes airborne, but learning how to work with allied forces to use the pieces that you have on your team to accomplish whatever mission that might be; and in Red Flag that typically involves striking areas that are heavily defended, surviving the effort to do that, and if not, conducting search and rescue operations,” Grant said.
Red Flag training began out of the necessity to provide pilots and weapon systems officers more realistic training after the Vietnam War because the U.S.’s overall exchange ratio [kill-to-death ratio] dropped from 10:1 in the Korean Conflict to about 2:1 in Vietnam. A study investigating the drop, called Project Red Baron II, showed that a pilot’s chance of survival in combat dramatically increased after the pilot had flown in and completed 10 combat missions.
To this day, Red Flag training remains as important as ever, Grant said.
“A year ago we didn’t have the summer flag and that directly translated to less readiness and less training for the aircrews that otherwise would’ve come to Red Flag,” Grant said. “We’ve had our full three flags this year, and the value of it is such that the Air Force has decided to put on four flags next year because we recognize how important it is that we keep doing this on a regular basis. Everyone who has never been to a Red Flag before will leave here twice as good as when they came.”