Combat air forces squadrons from across the world joined Tyndall Air Force Base’s Checkertails at Nellis AFB, Nevada, this week for the joint-training, full-spectrum, readiness exercise, Red Flag 16-1.
The 325th Fighter Wing takes point as it leads Red Flag for the first time from Jan. 25 to Feb. 12. More than 130 aircraft and 3,000 personnel from more than 30 units including squadrons from Australia and the United Kingdom have arrived here to participate in advanced, realistic combat training contested air, space and cyberspace.
Col. Derek C. France, 325th FW commander, is tasked with commanding the Red Flag 16-1, Air Expeditionary Wing, which consists of squadrons from different military branches and coalition nations from around the world.
“The whole reason we bring air forces from around the globe to meet here for three weeks of Red Flag is to prepare aircrew and combat support Airmen for high end combat situations,” France said. “The goal is to be integrated, survivable and lethal from the very first engagement, whenever and wherever that may be.”
By gathering this multitude of diverse units together, the exercise facilitates readiness training on a higher level. Each unit involved brings their specific expertise and talents to the table. Red Flag teaches them to work together as they would in the field, possibly for the first time, before facing an actual threat.
Tyndall AFB’s F-22 Raptors bring a lot into the mix. The jet’s advanced sensory capabilities enhance the abilities of allied aircraft to detect and track their adversaries much more effectively.
“It’s one of the biggest Red Flags ever, and anytime we can train at this large of a scale, and make ourselves better for when we deploy, it is a great opportunity,” said Senior Master Sgt. Richard McCorkle, 95th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent. “It’s a good feeling to be here, we’re eager to showcase our abilities and what the F-22 Raptor really can do.”
Red Flag pulls in the aspects of command, control, intelligence and electronic warfare, to provide a full-spectrum of threat training. With all of these pieces in place, each of the more than 3,000 people involved become vital to the success of the exercise.
“Everyone at Red Flag plays an important role,” France said. “The professional adversary force, world-class Nevada Training and Test Range and the high-fidelity debriefing systems all add up to the best air combat training in the world. All of us in the 325th Fighter Wing are excited to be here and to get our warfighters the training that’ll make us all better. At the end of three demanding weeks, we’ll have a stronger and better-integrated Air Force.”