Red Flag 17-3 Report

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The first of two summer Red Flag exercises was held at Nellis Air Force Base in the Nevada desert from July 10th to 28th. This iteration of Flag (RF 17-3) is the one RF training event of the year to have no foreign participation. One of the biggest take-aways from this exercise was the ability to integrate four different fifth-generation platforms into a Red Flag exercise.

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For the first time, F-35As from the 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin AFB, F-35Bs from VMFA-211, MCAS Yuma, F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, and B-2s from the 393rd Bomber Squadron, Whiteman AFB, all shared the airspace and executed missions simultaneously over the Nevada Test and Training Range. Joining them in the skies were a variety of other assets including fighters, bombers, command and control, refueling tankers, reconnaissance, and rescue aircraft. Here is a list of participants that launched from Nellis AFB:

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34th Bomber Squadron(BS)- B-1 Ellsworth AFB
55th Fighter Squadron(FS)- F-16CJ Shaw AFB
494th Fighter Squadron(FS)- F-15E RAF Lakenheath, England

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41st Rescue Squadron(RQS)- HH-60 Moody AFB
79th Rescue Squadron(RQS)- HC-130J Davis Monthan AFB

Electronic Attack Squadron(VAQ)-134- E/A-18G, NAS Whidbey Island
41st Electronic Combat Squadron(ECS)- EC-130 Davis Monthan AFB

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Fleet Air Recon Squadron(VQ)-1- EP-3E NAS Whidbey Island
16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron(ACCS)- E-8C Robbins AFB
965th Airborne Air Control Squadron(AACS) E-3 Tinker AFB

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Tanker Support- KC-135- March AFB, Fairchild AFB, McConnell AFB

The mission sets included air interdiction, suppression of enemy air defense, airlift, insertion/extraction, air refueling, reconnaissance, and strike/attack missions.

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As these aircraft converged on the range, they were met with the most sophisticated enemy threat replication anywhere in the world. F-16Cs from the 64th Aggressor Squadron, as well as A-4s and L-159s from Draken International, provided a seemingly endless air threat, while aircrews had to simultaneously avoid being detected or engaged by incredibly advanced and realistic surface-to-air missile threat systems.

Being able to utilize the NTTR’s 2.9 million acres of land, and over 12,000 square-nautical miles of airspace, allows our forces to train on the most advanced tactics and systems so that we may continue to dominate future battlespaces.

I’d like to thank SSgt. Young and the entire 99th Air Base Wing’s Public Affairs Office for their hospitality and providing access to bring you this article.

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Steve Lewis

Steve is a Southern California based photographer living in the Los Angeles area.

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