Red Flag 18-1- Fighting With Close Allies
All content by Peter Boschert, except where noted.
Red Flag 18-1 took place at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada from 26th of January to the 16th of February 2018. Next to the more or less usual aviation units of the United States Air Force further participants came from the close American allies with the Royal Air Force sending their multi-role aircraft Typhoon and the Royal Australian Air Force participated with their new EA-18G Growler. The RAAF bought twelve of these aircraft for electronic combat. Next to all these flying units it was significant to see that a number of non-aviation units from Space Command, the Marines Corps, the RAF and RAAF participated in various roles, ranging from Range Control to Special Forces and their support.
The 4th Wing from Seymour-Johnson AFB, NC provided the over-all Exercise Commander, however, the daily mission leader is rotated between the participating units. But the most interesting participants were the four Australian Growlers, including a jet in 100 anniversary colors of the Squadron.
More than ninety aircraft participated this time, usually each day two missions were flown, one during day in the afternoon, the second in the night. The 12.000 square mile training area north of Las Vegas provides about 1,900 targets, so even after weeks of training, there are still new areas and targets – and with them new challenges for the crews. Responsible for all that is the 414th Combat Training Squadron, which was praised during the media panel. It became clear that this unit had done a good job once more.
During this Red Flag some new things were tried and new challenges for the participating crews, especially in electronic warfare (e.g. jamming GPS and IFF) were provided. The missions were quite complex and to be able to brief and de-brief all the aspects of the demanding and for the crews challenging missions, time consuming briefings were conducted. All this was known and expected before so the usual fortnight long exercise was increased to last three weeks. During the excellent and informative media panel it was also pointed out that even some days were scheduled as nonflying days to get as much lesson-learned out of the flown missions as possible. This was also to give especially the night-flying crews some well-earned rest and time for their debriefings.
It was pointed out that not only the well-known F-16s of the 64th Aggressor Squadron acted as aggressors, but in some kind of rotating system, most of the participants acted as “red air“in the missions. Also present, acting as aggressors, were T-38Cs of the 435th FTS/12th FTW from Randolph AFB, TX.
The following units participated in Red Flag 18/1:
-57th W/64th AGRS Nellis AFB/Nevada F-16C
-12th FTW/435th FTS Randolph AFB, Texas T-38C
-7th BW/9th BS Dyess AFB/Texas B-1B
-55thECG/43rd ECS Davis-Monthan AFB/Arizona EC-130H
-347th RG/71st RQS Moody AFB/Georgia HC-130J
-552nd ACW/964th AACS Tinker AFB/Oklahoma E-3G
-461st ACW/12th Robins AFB/Georgia E-8C
-VAQ-138 Whidbey Island/Washington EA-18G
-142nd FW/123rd FS Portland ANGB/Oregon F-15C
-4th FW/335th FS Seymour Johnson AFB/North Carolina F-15E
-20th FW/55th FS Shaw AFB/Georgia F-16C
-158th FW/134th FS Burlington IAP/Vermont F-16C/D
-1st FW/27th FS Langley AFB/Virginia F-22A
-XI(F) Sqn RAF Coningsby/UK Typhoon FGR4
-55th RQS Davis-Monthan AFB/Arizona HH-60G
-55th W/343rd RS Offut AFB/Nebraska RC-135
-22nd ARW/931st ARG McConnel AFB/Kansas KC-135R
-No 2 Sqn RAAF Boeing 737-7ES AEW&C
-10th/101st Sqn Brize Norton/UK Voyager KC3
-24th/30th/47th sq RAF Brize Norton/UK C-130J
-No 82W/No 6 Sqn RAAF Base Amberley/Australia EA-18G
We would like to thank the PAO of the 99th ABW for their preparations and their support in providing this article.