Red Flag 14-2 Concludes


The second of a planned three Red Flags for 2014 has come to a close as Red Flag 14-2 concluded on March 14th. This Red Flag was dominated by F-15’s and F-16’s from five different countries which included Belgium, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America. I had the privilege of accompanying Nellis Air Force Base’s Public Affairs Office out to the South EOR (end of runway), as well as on a flight in a KC-135 Stratotanker during the course of the exercise. These were two very different and unique perspectives into how today’s warfighter trains for future conflicts.

From the South EOR, I watched as wave after wave of F-15s and F-16s taxied up to the ramp for final pre-flight checks that were conducted by the ground crews in preperation for launch. Once ready for flight, the aircraft patiently waited on the ramp as each unit has a specific launch time so that they can enter the battle space at the appropriate time. When given the go ahead for launch, they eagerly pulled onto the runway and leaped into the sky, ready to get into the fight.

Once on-board the KC-135 Stratotanker, we were given a safety brief and a quick tour of the aircraft by the Boom Operator, Staff Sergeant Bobby Jackson. Meanwhile, our pilot, Captain Nate Delany, and Co-Pilot, First Lieutenant Steve Lee, went through their pre-flight checks and prepared the aircraft for the day’s mission. We buckled in and headed out to the range where we orbited awaiting some thirsty fighters. We were allowed to shoot pictures from the cockpit, as well as down by the boom as SSGT. Jackson refueled the fighters. First up were four F-16CMs from the 388th Fighter Wing, 4th Fighter Squadron, at Hill AFB, Utah. At twenty-eight hundred pounds per minute, it did not take long to fill these jets to capacity. Following them were a pair of F-16AM’s from the Belgian Air Force, and then four F-15E Strike Eagles from the 4th Fighter Wing, 336th Fighter Squadron, out of Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. The Strike Eagles were able to accept fuel at a staggering rate of forty-eight hundred pounds per minute, almost twice the rate the F-16s could. Once filled, they quickly peeled off and rejoined the battle.

After the flight, I asked CAPT. Delany and 1LT Lee how they were selected to participate in a Red Flag exercise. 1LT Lee replied, “You get lucky.” After the couple of opportunities I had just been given by Nellis’ PAO, I was the one feeling “lucky”.

I’d like to thank the crew of our tanker, CPT Delany, 1LT Lee, and SSGT Jackson for an amazing ride on board their aircraft. Id also like to give special thanks to A1C Young, A1C Villacourte, and the entire 99th Air Base Wing public affairs office at Nellis AFB for their hospitality and outstanding work in putting together another series of events showcasing today’s warfighters.

Steve Lewis

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

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