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Multi-national air force training exercise big success

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
The 414th Combat Training Squadron recently wrapped up Red Flag 09-1 that took place Oct. 20 through Nov. 1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. 

Approximately 1,600 military members and 80 aircraft from the United States, Greece, Spain and Singapore trained together for two weeks in a realistic combat training exercise on the 15,000 square-mile Nevada Test and Training Range, north of Las Vegas. 

"The United States takes the notion of building a partnership with our Allied forces seriously," said Col. Ronald Banks, Air Expeditionary Wing commander for Red Flag-Nellis 09-1. "We take several avenues to improve the military employment and combat capability of the United States and our Allies. Red Flag is one avenue in which we can integrate these diverse forces into one cohesive fighting unit." 

Flying in this Red Flag were F-16 Fighting Falcons from Greece and Singapore, EF-18 Hornets from Spain, F-15 Eagles, A-10 Thunderbolts, KC-135 Stratotankers and several command and control aircraft. 

Exercise participants flew air-to-air and air-to-ground simulated combat missions against simulated hostile forces from Nellis' 64th and 65th Aggressor Squadrons. Friendly forces also had to endure ground threats from electronically-simulated surface-to-air missiles and communications and global positioning system jamming. 

"Red Flags are a little different from the current fight in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Colonel Banks. "Red Flag is focused more on the large force employment of aircraft similar to what we saw in Desert Storm and the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom where you have to integrate a lot of assets together and go into enemy air space and strike key military targets in order to take them down." 

Pilots faced many obstacles while flying simulated combat missions during Red Flag. Learning to communicate with Allied forces while planning a mission was among them. Others included adjusting to flying in a different airspace with more rugged terrain and fighting off "Aggressors" whose sole purpose is to prevent them from achieving their objectives. 

"During the first week, pilots are faced with different scenarios each day in an effort to teach them how to overcome different challenges," Colonel Banks said. "Sometimes it is an air-to-air threat and sometimes it is a surface-to-air threat. They roll the 'lessons learned' from the first week into an air campaign the second week where there are specific military objectives." 

One exercise participant said the Aggressors were a tough opponent to face. His unit wasn't the only one that sustained shortfalls or made mistakes in the first week; several other units were affected by their prowess. 

"We've learned that we've had some shortfalls and made some mistakes," said Lt. Col. Robert Novotny, 67th FS commander from Kadena Air Base, Japan. "We've learned that flying against enemy aircraft while avoiding being shot down by ground threats is very challenging and as a result we adjusted our tactics and saw improvement, which is good." 

The AEW commander said intelligence plays an important role in Red Flag. After each mission, pilots are required to debrief their mission results. Intel gathers and assesses this information and in turn, assists the units with modifying their campaign efforts to achieve victory. 

"Having fought with coalition forces many times, it never ceases to amaze me how I learn something new and different every time," Colonel Banks said. "It's been a real pleasure fighting alongside our coalition partners [at Red Flag]. I would jump at the opportunity to come back here in any capacity again."