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The second Red Flag training session in 2016 took place at Nellis Air Force Base close to Las Vegas, Nevada between February 29thand March 11th. Participants to the training have been the US Air Force, US Army, US Navy, US Marines and two units from NATO Allies – the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (Italian Air Force) and the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (Turkish Airforce).

The training occurs in the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) with a size of 31.000 square kilometres. 75 aircraft and approx. 1700 women and men took part in the exercise, including eight Eurofighter Typhoons from Italy and six F-16s and two KC-135 tankers from Turkey. The US participants included F-16CMs, F-15Es, F-15Cs, E-3Gs and a variety of Helicopters. For air to air refueling several KC-135Rs where available. Large bombers in form of B-52Hs and B-1Bs joined as well.

As aggressors Nellis-based F-16Cs where supported by AT-38Cs from the 435thFlying Training Squadron (FTS) of Randolph Air Force Based and the 88thFTS From Shepperd Air Force Base from Texas. Colonel A. Bernard, commander of Red Flag 16-2 explains: “As the AT-38C has a very small cross radar section it forms a very challenging opponent”

US Air Force / E3G / 76-1607

Three commando groups coordinated the flying manoeuvers and the exercises during the training. The control from the ground was ensured by the 726thAir Control Squadron. In the air the it was performed by E-3s of the 963rdAirborne Air Control Squadron. The exercise didn’t include airborne electronic aircraft this time.

The Turkish Air Force is using their F-16s as Multi-Role Fighters (Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground) whereas the Italian Air Force is using the Typhoons mainly in the Air-to-Air role. Actually the Typhoon is prepared as well for the Multi-Role concept, but the focus for the Italian Air Force clearly is on Air-to-Air. “The rare chance to train it in that intense way is only possible here” was explained by Commander Col-Bartoli. He added: “Our young pilots need exactly this training in the most challenging environment with the best pilots of the world”.

The B-1Bs trained low altitude attacks whereas the B-52Hs performed targets runs. Captain R. Kearns, a B-1B pilot from the 34thBomb Squadron stated: “´The training missions are not different to what we train normally. But the huge number of aircraft in the air makes the whole exercise very challenging. And we could as well train escorts with F-16s and F-15s for the bombers, which we otherwise can’t do.”

The exercises had a duration between 75 and 90 minutes – depending on set-up. But the air-time is only a small aspect of the training. Very long reviews, briefings and analysis sessions follow every flight. Especially the comprehensibility of the training is a key aspect for Major Bulla of the 414thCombat Training Squadron. “Better data, better training – that it’s a main reason why we are here.” And all participants of the Red Flag agree on the following principle: “Teamwork is the foundation for success in such an exercise”.

Alex Schwarz Juli 2016