Red Flag 12-2 Media Day

On Tuesday, January 31, 2012, fifty photojournalist from around the world gathered at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. They were here to photograph aircraft that were participating in the current Red Flag exercise.

Simply stated, Red Flag is an exercise that involves the majority of aircraft types in the United States Air Force, air assets from the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and foreign air forces. The purpose of Red Flag is to improve combat effectiveness and efficiency through simulated air combat. Red Flag is held at Nellis AFB because of the incredible range facilities. In the desert outside of Nellis are almost 3 million acres of land and 5,000 square miles of airspace.

Of the many nations that have trained at Red Flag since it’s inception in 1975, Red Flag 12-2 would be no different. Participating in the exercise would be the Royal Saudi Air Force flying their F-15 Eagles and the Republic of South Korean Air Force flying their F-15K Slam Eagles. The Korean F-15’s were unique is that they were brand new aircraft. And when I say they were brand new, I mean they started operating at this Red Flag with 10+ hours on each airframe. The Koreans had picked them up from the Boeing Plant in Missouri and then flew them straight to Nellis for Red Flag.

At 9:30am, Nellis Public Affairs First Lieutenant Ken Lustig briefed the photojournalists on the media day schedule. During the briefing we learned that we would be able to take photos from in between Nellis’ two main active runways. After the briefing, the fifty photojournalist were taken by bus to the active runways. Once there, we were given another briefing that identified to us where we could and where we couldn’t take photographs. This area was roughly the size of several football fields and was plenty of space for fifty photographers. The designated area allowed us to float between each runway and catch any aircraft departure and/or arrivals.

My first photograph of the day, turned out one of my favorites of the day and it wasn’t even an aircraft participating in the Red Flag exercise. The aircraft – the S-3B Viking assigned to VX-30 “Bloodhounds.” The Viking, painted in a vintage Battle of Midway paint scheme (for the Naval Centennial) did a single touch and go pass, and then departed. What a great way to start the day!

The Red Flag launches started at 11:50am and continued for almost an hour. Aircraft that launched included an E-3 Sentry, F-15’s (including USAF, ROKAF, and RSAF), F-16’s, B-1B’s, and KC-135’s. Several hours later, the recoveries started.

A thank you goes to the Public Affairs staff at Nellis Air Force Base, including Captain Jessica Martin, First Lieutenant Ken Lustig and Ben Newell. Once again, they out did themselves with organizing an exceptional media day.

Phil Myers

Phil Myers, a military aviation photojournalist with a passion for telling stories and documenting the history of military aviation. In addition to his website publications, Phil’s articles and photographs have been published in several magazines. Phil resides in Southern California.

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