Air Force deploys to Nevada for Exercise Red Flag 2017

Air Force personnel have deployed to Nevada for Exercise Red Flag 17-1, where they will train in the world’s most complex air combat environment.

Alongside counterparts from United States and United Kingdom, approximately 200 RAAF personnel will support and participate in missions involving up to 100 aircraft flying over 31,000 square kilometres of Nevada desert.

RAAF Contingent Commander and Director of the Exercise Red Flag 17-1 Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, Group Captain Stuart Bellingham, said the Red Flag training environment was unmatched in its complexity and realism.

“Since the RAAF first participated in Exercise Red Flag in 1980, this exercise has informed both how we train our people and develop our air power,” Group Captain Bellingham said.

“Modern air operations must overcome not only ground and airborne threats, but also attacks in the electronic spectrum and within the cyberspace domain.”

“Exercise Red Flag was established by the United States Air Force to provide personnel with an experience of modern combat operations, and show them how to overcome the threats they might face.”

For Exercise Red Flag 17-1, the RAAF has deployed an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, as well as a C-130J Hercules transport. An essential aspect of the training focuses on personnel who are embedded within the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, with RAAF personnel leading this key Command and Control node. This is significant as it is the first time a coalition nation has performed this role during a Red Flag exercise. Also participating are Air Battlespace Managers from the RAAF’s No. 41 Wing, who will control missions with up to 100 aircraft at a time in the exercise; and a Combat Control Team from No. 4 Squadron, whose job it is to ensure aircraft can seamlessly deliver support to ground forces in the exercise.

“Australia’s participation in Exercise Red Flag will enable Coalition partners to better understand how we operate, and likewise consolidates our strong working relationships,” Group Captain Bellingham said.

“Each Red Flag mission involves a large number of aircraft and systems having to work as a cohesive network in order to overcome a range of threats, requiring a deep understanding of each other’s roles and capabilities.”

Exercise Red Flag 17-1 will involve the United States Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II, and the United States Navy’s E/A-18G Growler – both types about to enter Australian service.

“This exercise is an ideal environment for our personnel to experience how the Growler and F-35A are integrated within a larger mission,” Group Captain Bellingham said.

“Both provide capabilities that are entirely new to the Australian Defence Force, and will be important pieces to how Air Force conducts operations into the future.”