Red Flag 21-3 to dominate the sky in route to a stronger force

More than 2,200 Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Guardians across 15 squadrons from 17 different states will participate in Red Flag 21-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 19 through Aug. 6, 2021.

Red Flag is an air combat training exercise organized at Nellis, and hosted on the Nevada Test and Training Range, the U.S. Air Force’s premier military training area with more than 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land.

According to Staff Sgt. Karmyn Allen, 414th Combat Training Squadron Maintenance Division, the NTTR’s large training area allows units to have the air space to face realistic targets and scenarios they would see in combat situations.

Red Flag increases interoperability across the joint force as Airmen and sister services train together in high-end, realistic scenarios.

“This unique and pinnacle event drives readiness in a number of ways but two in particular are integration and confidence, said Col. William Creeden, 1st Fighter Wing commander. “ With regard to integration, this is how we fight, yet home station training and routine taskings can limit the required exposure our Airmen and joint partners need to plan, train and debrief as an integrated force.”

An F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., taxis in preparation for a mission during Red Flag 21-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 21, 2021. Red Flag takes place over the Nevada Test and Training Range and provides the warfighter a flexible, realistic and multidimensional battle space to conduct advanced training of U.S. military services and coalition forces. (Air Force photograph by Tech. Sgt. Robert Hicks)

“As for confidence, this underpins everything,” Creeden said. “History shows that combat is a chaotic endeavor that requires a persistent level of respect and resolve. No matter the situation, Red Flag is controlled chaos by design, offering the most realistic combat environment for our people, our units and joint airpower. Simply put, our Airmen and joint partners should walk away with the confidence required to fly, fight and win in tomorrow’s battlespace.”

Red Flag 21-3 is unlike any previous Red Flags. The 414th CTS team is building upon the most challenging Red Flags in recent history.

“In accordance with the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center’s charter to further develop and prepare Airmen for joint and all domain combat operations, Red Flag 21-3 has expanded the capabilities of opposing forces, area and capabilities of the collective airspace and the overall “blue” force to further drive integration,” Creeden said.

Two F-35 Lightning IIs assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, sit on the flight line during a thunderstorm at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 25, 2021. The 421st Fighter Squadron is participating in Red Flag-Nellis 21-3, an air-to-air combat exercise near Las Vegas that tests participants’ capabilities to synchronize recent command and control enhancements in development between fifth generation fighters and joint partners. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Zachary Rufus)

Throughout the exercise, different aircraft known as the aggressors will mimic U.S. adversaries challenging pilots with different combat tactics and techniques, Allen explained. The goal is to see how our 5th generation fighters hold up to different maneuverability tactics of some of these aircraft.

This iteration of Red Flag will host more than 100 airframes, including 40 5th generation aircraft. The 1st Fighter Wing from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, will take the lead wing position working alongside airframes such as the F-35, F-16, EA-18G, B-52, KC-46 and several other aircraft to participate in complex mission scenarios.

“Achieving Commander of Air Combat Command’s objectives for Red Flag is no small feat, which the 414th CTS and the 57th Wing can attest to,” Creeden said. “However, [the benefits] of Nellis AFB and the NTTR remain the critical advantage for Red Flag. From an integration standpoint, Nellis stands alone as the most impressive aggregation of air power and air power experts in the world, affording our Airmen and joint partners the ability to learn and train to their limits. From a test and training standpoint, the NTTR and surrounding airspace is a national treasure, offering our warfighters the most capable airspace and setting to prepare at the highest level.”

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