“The U.S.’s strong alliances are a major strategic strength that not only lends capability but also legitimacy to our international stance,” said Col. Jared Hutchinson, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander.
The Royal Australian Air Force is working closely with its allies to improve interoperability and learn how to better work with the variety of assets at Nellis Air Force Base.
“The number of assets that are provided here at the exercise provides a much more complex and dynamic scenario that we aren’t able to train for back home,” said FLTLT Brayden Whicker, an Air Battle Manager mission crew. “This basically allows us to come here and work with the best of the U.S. and U.K. in a much more complex environment.”
Although Red Flag is aimed at creating realistic training and increasing combat effectiveness for pilots, the values of this integration exercise extend to the maintainers as well. The joint environment equips military members with a new, mutual understanding of operations.
“The benefit of an exercise like Red Flag for the ground crew is to integrate with our coalition forces and understand how they operate for the joint force,” said CPL Corey Seydler, an avionics technician. “It’s providing an amazing product for our air crew because the training benefit they get from an exercise like Red Flag is astronomical and us being able to provide support for that is pretty impressive.”
Red Flag also allows each force to communicate and plan together, which is key in understanding the operation and integration of everyone involved. According to the National Defense Strategy, America’s force posture, alliance and partnership architecture, and Department modernization provide the capabilities and agility required to prevail in conflict and preserve peace through strength.
“Being able to sit down and chat with different assets, learn of what they can do, how we can integrate better and learn from our mistakes from previous trips definitely provides a better product at the end of the exercise,” said Whicker.
The integration of the RAAF E-7A is an opportunity to integrate friendly forces but also a chance to learn more of how the E-7A complements the E-3 Sentry, the U.S. Air Force’s primary airborne command and control platform.
“The E-7A Wedgetail is very similar to the United States E-3 Sentry,” said Seydler. “However, it’s a far newer aircraft with more modern technology, which means we don’t need as many people to do the same kind of effort.”
Compared to the E-3’s rotating radar dome, the E-7’s technology uses a Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar for detection and awareness of friendly, neutral and hostile activity.
“It has no moving parts; it’s all electronically steered,” said Whicker. “Because we’re not waiting for a complete scan cycle of a full rotation, we’re able to electronically steer the beam, which means we’re able to provide faster refresh rates for radar detections on a target.”
All in all, the Wedgetail and its crew produce yet another aspect that makes Red Flag such a diverse and effective combat training exercise.
“Being able to come over here and integrate our platform into such a large warfighting exercise really can help us practice our battle rhythm in case we end up in a larger conflict around the world,” said Seydler. “Being able to integrate our warfighting abilities with our allies is a key ingredient for contributing to the joint force.