After a nearly 5,000-mile trip across the world, 150 members of the German air force recently arrived at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, with eight German Eurofighter Typhoons.
It is the first time the German airframe has deployed overseas, according to German officials. In fact, it is the very first of the Eurofighter’s participation in any U.S. exercise.
German air force Col. Andreas Pfeiffer, the commander of Fighter Wing 74, at Neuburg air base, Germany, said training here is a completely different experience for the German air force, specifically because Alaska provides more air space and accommodates high-caliber coalition training. Most importantly, though, it is host to the 18th Aggressor Squadron.
“The (18th) Aggressor Squadron, which provides us with the best training on Earth, is unique – there is no other training partner like the Aggressors,” Pfeiffer said. “If you put all of the factors together, this is probably the highest quality training you could possibly get in modern air combat.”
One of the most valuable aspects the 18th AGRS provides is dedicated adversary support that the German air force might not find back home, giving a new perspective for German flying and tactics, said Capt. Cory Farrer, an 18th AGRS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot.
“It allows us to fly with another ally and integrate with them as well as giving them a large piece of airspace to train in,” Farrer said. “The Eurofighter is a very capable and formidable airframe, and it’s a great and valuable asset (for our allies).”
The German air force’s aim with Red Flag was to bring the Eurofighter into an environment in which its pilots could show their proficiency with the aircraft while being able to learn and enhance their experience level, Pfeiffer said.
“The goals we have for this Red Flag exercise are focused on our wing capabilities, both in terms of logistics as well as techniques, to prove that the Eurofighter is capable of coping with all of the challenges of modern air combat,” said Pfeiffer. “At the same time, it’s for us to increase our own technical performance and capabilities.”
In addition to months of training in Europe, the Germans arrived in May to participate in Distant Frontier in order to prepare for Red Flag. Since then, Pfeiffer said his forces have learned valuable lessons.
“We are learning that we are flying and fighting on a common tactical basis,” he said. “Although we are flying alongside coalition forces on a regular basis (in Europe), what we learn here is a completely different dimension … and we are able to prepare ourselves for possible future operations anywhere.”
While the German air force has participated in previous exercises like Maple Flag in Canada and other Red Flags at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., the Eurofighters have never participated in such a large-scale exercise.
“We have some really experienced pilots, but this is a huge challenge for most of them – it’s the first time they’ve done something like this,” Pfeiffer said. “Even so, I’m surprised about the performance of both our jets and our crews. Our guys and our systems are ready to face the challenges ahead.”
Keeping the future in sight, Pfeiffer is eager to return to Alaska for future Red Flags, attributing the success of his forces to the hospitality and support of Eielson Air Force Base.
“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to participate with my wing and with a new jet in such an outstanding exercise,” said Pfeiffer. “This is the highest quality training you could get worldwide; it is unique and simply a privilege.”