Exercise Red Flag 16-1 wrapped up with the last flight on Friday 12 February at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas in Nevada, the Australian Defence Force PR machine announced today, 22 February.
Exercise Red Flag is a large-force employment air-combat exercise that provides a complex and highly advanced threat environment in which to practice high-end coalition war-fighting skills.
Over 130 aircraft and 3000 aircrew, Air Battle Managers, Intelligence and support staff from the US, UK and Australia worked together to overcome a determined adversary in a challenging tactical scenario during the three-week exercise.
Group Captain Phil Gordon led the Australian contingent as well as being the Vice Commander of the Coalition Air Expeditionary Wing for Red Flag 16-1.
“Exercise Red Flag provides the most realistic replication of airborne and surface-to-air threats enabling highly effective training and validation of our tactics,” Group Captain Gordon said.
“Short of actual combat, this is the ultimate test of coalition interoperability.”
The Australian Task Group consisted of F/A-18F Super Hornets from Number 1 Squadron, F/A-18A Hornets from Number 75 Squadron, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft from Number 2 Squadron, an AP-3C Orion from Number 10 Squadron, Air Battle Managers from Number 41 Wing and a host of specialist personnel including intelligence, space and cyber experts embedded in the Combined Air Operations Centre.
The exercise scenario covered a variety of missions including defending against enemy air attacks, dynamic targeting against fleeting ground targets and traditional offensive strike roles.
“The ground players and systems on the range really exercised our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and Command and Control assets to build a picture of the battle space, and enabled us to communicate the threats and strike targets,” Group Captain Gordon said.
“The exercise was a great success and we took away some excellent lessons.”
This was the first international exercise that saw the classic Hornets and Super Hornets working together in integrated operations.
“We combined the strengths of both aircraft to deliver an optimum outcome,” Group Captain Gordon said.
Red Flag directly complements Plan Jericho by allowing Air Force to understand how to better integrate advanced capabilities into our force structure.
“There were assets playing in this exercise that we either don’t have in Australia, or that we are soon to introduce,” Group Captain Gordon said.
“We were flying alongside the F-22A Raptor which gives us valuable fifth generation integration experience as we prepare to introduce the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter”.
The EA-18G Growler Airborne Electronic Attack aircraft also participated in the exercise.
“It was pleasing to see one of the key package leads for the Growler was an Aussie Electronic Warfare Officer on exchange with the US Navy,” Group Captain Gordon said.
“This was an excellent opportunity to understand how to work with the Growlers effectively in what has been the largest and most successful Australian contribution to Exercise Red Flag to date.”
The RAAF deployed about 400 people, 14 aircraft and tonnes of equipment half way around the world using C-17A heavy airlift and KC-30A air-to-air refuelling aircraft.
“Not many Air Forces can project airpower over that distance so successfully,” Group Captain Gordon said.
“Our people performed admirably and earned the respect of the US and UK participants while operating in a highly integrated and networked battlespace that will set us in good stead for future operations.”