report by: Thierry Letellier
Red Flag was Created in 1975 as a response to poor fighter pilot performance during the Vietnam War in comparisons to prior conflicts, Red Flag provides the Air Force with a training program designed to give pilots real world experience in air to air combat, ground attack, electronic warfare and aerial refueling. The actual bombing and air-to-air training takes place in the skies over Rachel, Nevada near Area 51. Colonel Richard “Moody” Suter became the driving force with Col P.J. White as the first commander, Lt. Col Marty Mahrt as vice commander, and Lt. Col David Burner as Director of Operations. This small crew under Col White’s leadership undertook the mammoth task of establishing the program. Their hard, imaginative work over the early years would confirm Red Flag’s promise and turn it into the finest training system in aviation history.
The Nellis Ranges provide an area of 60 nautical miles by 100 nautical miles, or half the size of Switzerland, for aerial training. The ranges are located northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada near the towns of Alamo, Ash Springs and Rachel. The surrounding areas are extremely rural and sparsely populated making it ideal for aerial combat training. The typical rythme here are 4 to 6 Red Flags are organised each fiscal year. A key element of Red Flag operations is the Red Flag Measurement and Debriefing System. RFMDS is a computer hardware and software network which provides real-time monitoring, post-mission reconstruction of maneuvers and tactics, participant pairings and integration of range targets and simulated threats. Blue Force commanders objectively assess mission effectiveness and validate lessons learned from data provided by the RFMDS.
The Red Flag exercises are run by splitting the participants into two teams,Red Team(friendly) and Blue Team(hostile). Blue Forces are made up of units from Air Combat Command, United States Air Forces Europe, Pacific Air Forces, the Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force Reserve, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, the Canadian Air Force as well as other allied air forces. They are led by a Blue Forces commander, who coordinates the units in an “employment plan”. Red Forces (adversary) are composed of the 57th Wing’s 57th Adversary Tactics Group, flying F-16s (64th Aggressor Squadron) and F-15s (65th Aggressor Squadron) to provide realistic air threats through the emulation of opposition tactics. The Red Forces are also augmented by U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps units flying in concert with the 507th Air Defense Aggressor Squadron’s electronic ground defenses and communications, and radar jamming equipment. The 527th (Active Duty) and 26th (Reserve) Space Aggressor Squadrons also provide GPS jamming. Additionally, the Red Force command and control organization simulates a realistic manual integrated air defense system.
Exercises such as Red Flag bear a close resemblance to the way modern conflicts are addressed, as coalitions involving integration of a broad number of specialized and international assets. In such cases Red Flag training is critical to prepare for such real world deployments.For this 2010 edition we had the pleasure to see some non common Planes like the the F/A-18A/B from the Royal Australian Air Force. Unfortunately there were no media-day expected for this edition. Another very appreciated by the locals was the Royal Air force With Some Harriers and Tornados. Unfortunately only the Tornado flew when we were there.