Red Flag 18-3 Report

Night 1 (94)

Red Flag 18-3 concluded August 3rd after 2 weeks of intense aerial combat training. Red Flag is the U. S. Air Force’s premier training exercise integrating all areas of air, space, and cyberspace. Several milestones and achievements were completed during this 3rd iteration of Flag for fiscal year ’18.

Aircraft from the Columbian Air Force returned to the Nellis skies for the first time in 6 years after undergoing extensive upgrades to their Kfir fighter aircraft.

In an Air Force interview, U.S. Air Force Maj. Carlos Nivia, U.S. Embassy in Colombia director of operations for the U.S. Air Force, had this to say. “In the last six years they’ve [the Colombian Air Force] made significant modifications to their aircraft hardware and software that has allowed them to have greater capabilities and to participate with greater interoperability.” Another significant event occurred when the Columbian’s 767 Multi-Mission Tanker Transport (MMTT) Jupiter aircraft refueled E/A-18G Growlers from VAQ-129 ‘Scorpions’. This is the first time a Columbian tanker has refueled US aircraft. Also a first was the integration of the 3rd Special Operations Command’s MQ-9 Reaper, which flew its missions from Cannon AFB, New Mexico. Not only a first for the 3rd SOS, but also a first for Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Reapers in general.

Participating aircraft and squadrons for RF 18-3 included:

F/A-18E- VFA-105
CV-22A- 20th SOS
B-52H- 23rd BS
C-17A- 437th AMW
EA-18G- VAQ-132
E-3- 964th AACS
F-16C- 77th FS
F-16C- 64th AGRS
HC-130J- 79th RQS
KC-135- 92nd ARW (RFTTF)
KFIR- 111 Sqn
KC-767 MMTT Jupiter- 811 Sqn
MQ-9- 3rd SOS

Maintainers and ground crews for all participating squadrons had their hands full as well. Between pre and post flight checks, regularly scheduled, (as well as unscheduled) maintenance, loading and unloading ordnance, they also had to deal with Mother Nature. Very high temperatures ruled the days, while lightning ruled several nights during my visit. Crews had to remain very flexible as lightning danced around the hills and across the desert surrounding Nellis AFB. For safety reasons, once the lightning came within 5 miles of the base, all ground activity would pause, sometimes leaving aircrews sitting in their aircraft for quite some time until it was safe for the maintainers to resume their duties.

All in all, every participating individual gained valuable experience that will not only help guide them through their careers, but through the many challenges that lay ahead on the ever changing battlefield. Red Flag gives our Warfighters the most dynamic and realistic combat scenarios on the planet to prepare for future warfare.

I’d like to thank the entire 99th Air Base Wing’s Public Affairs Office for their outstanding hospitality. I’d like to especially thank Staff Sgt. Couillard and MC1 Rizzo for all their time and the effort they put in that allows me to share the story of Red Flag, and the Warfighters it prepares for future conflicts.

Steve Lewis

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

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