EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The 80th Fighter Squadron trained in Red Flag-Alaska 21-2 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, from June 14 to 25. The first full-fledged Red Flag exercise following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Red Flag-Alaska is designed to provide realistic training in a simulated combat environment in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which provides more than 77,000 square miles of airspace, one conventional bombing range, and two tactical bombing ranges containing 510 different types of targets and 45 threat simulators.
“The training the pilots get [here] is unlike any other place,” said Chief Master Sgt. Leon Montgomery, 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent. “They’re dropping live ordnance so they’re getting real combat training, and they’re also getting trained with our allied nations.”
RF-A dates back to 1975, when it was called Exercise Cope Thunder, and has been instrumental in developing better pilots, who are prepared for any air-to-air, or air-to-ground conflict.
“It was designed to provide pilots as close to a combat experience as possible,” said Lt. Col. Tyler Young, 80th FS commander. “It is our job to be ready to fight in any environment, whether the weather is good or bad.”
Approximately 1,500 service members flew, maintained and supported more than 100 aircraft from more than 20 different units. Joint and allied forces at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and the Koku Jietai (Japan Air Self Defense Force) also participated.
“It's always been extremely important to do missions, like this, with our allies,” added Young. “I've flown with allies since I [entered] the Air Force, including flying with the JASDF, and I've flown with Air Forces around the world. Now we’re able to interact and fly with them because we now speak the same language, and that [language] is flying and combat.”
RF-A serves as an ideal platform for international engagement, and the exercise has a long history of including allies and partners; ultimately enabling all involved to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures while improving interoperability.
“We are the best in the United States Air Force and we are the best Air Force in the world because of flags like RF-A,” Young said. “I’m extremely proud of the men and women of the 80th FS and everyone that deployed here from Kunsan Air Base. They are putting an extreme amount of effort in every day as we train here, and I’m extremely thankful for the support we received here at Eielson.”