Airmen from the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., traveled from Washington to Nevada to participate in a two-week combat scenario exercise called Red Flag 18-2 with units from other bases.
Red Flag is an exercise organized at Nellis Air Force Base and hosted north of Las Vegas on the Nevada Test and Training Range, the U.S. Air Force’s premier military training area. It provides realistic combat training in a contested, degraded and operationally limited environment while also testing units’ abilities against some of the military’s premier aircraft.
In-air refueling is an integral part of the exercise as KC-135 Stratotankers from Fairchild and MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., enable other aircraft and jets to remain airborne while fighting the fight.
“Fairchild’s role is to provide gas to fighter jets whenever it’s needed,” said Capt. Sarah Spies, 92nd Operations Support Squadron Red Flag 18-2 assistant detachment commander and weapons officer. “In addition, we are working alongside Airmen from MacDill with their KC-135 crew and maintenance Airmen.”
In order to keep air refueling operative, Airmen from the 92nd Air Refueling Squadron, 93rd ARS, 384th ARS, 92nd Operations Support Squadron, 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron and 92nd Maintenance Group work tirelessly together to ensure every aspect of the tanker mission is outfitted to accomplish the mission.
“Each unit from Fairchild plays a vital role in the exercise. The 92nd MXG and 92nd LRS work together to ensure our aircraft are always ready and have enough fuel to accomplish the mission while the 92nd OG supports us with the whole tactics piece of the tanker mission,” Spies added. “It’s a good opportunity for all of us to learn about integration and understand the capabilities that we have; to help us move closer to the fight that enables us to offload over thousands of pounds of fuel so the aircraft that are participating in the exercise can get back to the fight quicker.”
Without KC-135s, Red Flag’s fast-paced mission would not be accomplished in an effective and timely manner. If the crews are low on fuel, it is assured that KC-135s can offload fuel to help other aircraft.
“Fighters are very limited to accomplishing the mission in a timely manner without ‘the flying fuel depot’ in the air. They can only stay airborne through so much amount of time,” Spies said, highlighting the fact that tankers extend the amount of time fighters can stay in the air and in the fight.
Red Flag is known across the globe as the most challenging air-to-air combat exercise and Fairchild is the staff package at least once a year. Red Flag has always been an exercise of fusion amongst all units in the Air Force and coalition partners. It is a true full integration to train Airmen, Spies added.
“It takes a village to accomplish the tanker mission; from maintaining and scheduling to piloting and refueling other aircraft, all of it is vital,” Spies said. “One cannot be done without the others.”