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NEWS | July 21, 2014

Red Flag Alaska 14-2 Develops Realistic and Robust Readiness

By Capt. Tamara Fischer-Carter 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 36th and 25th Fighter Squadrons traveled to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in support of the Red Flag Alaska 14-2 exercise, May 28.

Twelve F-16 Fighting Falcons, 12 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and a combined total of more than 345 personnel participated in the training events.

"These two exercises combined give us much needed access to the phenomenal weapons ranges, electronic warfare emitters, and airspace that Eielson has to offer," said Lt Col Nicholas Evans, 36th Fighter Squadron Commander. "We also had the opportunity to work with other units from across PACAF (Pacific Air Forces) and ACC (Air Combat Command), the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, and Air National Guard, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force."

Red Flag Alaska is a PACAF-sponsored, Joint National Training Capability-accredited exercise that allows participating units to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures as well as improve interoperability. The exercise is considered by many as the most intense training opportunity available to combat flying units.

The exercise was designed in the 1970s to simulate a pilot's first ten combat missions, and it is still a critical component in developing realistic and robust readiness today.

"During the two weeks of Red Flag 14-2, the 36th Aircraft Maintenance Unit generated a phenomenal 180 of 190 sorties - 95 percent of the tasking and more than any other participating unit," Evans said. "This enabled 41 F-16 pilots to gain critical experience in challenging, large-force missions, including nine pilots that had never been to Red Flag due to sequestration. 36th Fighter Squadron pilots served as the mission commander in eight of the 19 missions."

The Draggins would also categorize the training as a success.

"I am now comfortable picking up missed targeting data, comprehending threat calls from command and control agencies, and reacting appropriately to the numerous threats we saw during our missions there," said Capt Ridge Flick, 25th Fighter Squadron Electronic Combat Pilot.

Participants said one of the most challenging facets of Red Flag was trying to maintain situational awareness on more than 25 aircraft at any point in time.

"Normally, in a close air support mission, a forward air controller airborne mission, or a combat search and rescue mission we are able to keep tabs on where all the aircraft are in the airspace, while keeping track of friendly movements, target locations and artillery gun-to-target lines," Flick said. "However, at Red Flag, the airspace is extremely large, there are dozens of aircraft in the fight airspace, and the enemy tactics are extremely diverse, which forces reactive maneuvering. It was exciting to see our guys get better and better at keeping track of the battle space as Red Flag went on."

Although it was only an exercise, both flying squadrons were able to sharpen the skills needed for successful real-world contingency operations.

"By all accounts, the deployment was extremely successful, and while there is no way to replicate the actual stresses of combat aviation, the Fiends certainly returned to the peninsula a far more capable fighter squadron," Evans said.


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