Fight as a team, train as a team
By Senior Airman Malissa Armstrong, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 11, 2017
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- RED FLAG-Alaska 17-3 is one of the premier large-force exercises of the United States Air Force, giving participants the opportunity to train with coalition partners.
Over the two week period, players from units within the United States Air Force and Navy along with the Royal Australian and Canadian Air Forces trained in combat simulated scenarios.
“We’ve been here every day force packaging with our Air Force assets the way we would in a real war,” said Lt. Col. Robert Olvis, 391st Fighter Squadron commander.
Participants had the opportunity to drop live and inert ordinances, which included laser and GPS-guided munitions.
“It’s one of the few opportunities we get as an Air Force that’s not a combat situation that we can practice all of our real go-to-war tactics as a group,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Warner, 80th Fighter Squadron deputy operations group commander. “So it's really one of the few places we can actually press our training as far as we possibly can and still keep it safe.”
Various exercises included rescuing downed airmen, bombing highly-defended targets and dropping off special operations forces on the ground in simulated defended areas, according to Warner.
“What’s hugely important is that the Gunfighters are here to integrate with the Pacific Air Forces brethren so they can truly see what we bring to the fight, also understand our limitations and see how we fit into the integrated war fight,” Olvis said.
The exercise gave participants the chance to see how they would train and fight with other forces.
“For us its very important for our Air Force to integrate with coalition assets, in particular the United States,” said Royal Canadian Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Woods, 424 Squadron commanding officer. “The United States is our closest ally so anytime they're going to exercise in a coalition environment we want to be a part of it to make sure we are integrating effectively.”
When in a deployed environment, every part of the coalition force must be able to smoothly integrate with each other to form one fighting force.
“One of the things were doing is checking to make sure our equipment works with their equipment, that it integrates well,” Woods said. “Also, that we’re using similar tactics and we know similar nomenclature, we operate using similar lines of command and to make sure, again, that we fit in as seamlessly as possible.”
Originally COPE THUNDER, this exercise was initiated in 1976 to give aircrew an idea of their deployed role.
“What we’re gaining from this RED FLAG is exactly what was intended back in the Vietnam era when it was stood up, which is to give young airmen their first taste of combat and to see what the grind of 24-hour operations is like,” Olvis said.
The combat scenarios aircrew face are designed to test their ability to react and rely on each other to accomplish the mission.
“I would say that the Flag exercises, from my experiences in combat, are what prepared me the most,” Woods said. “Because you’re learning how you’re going to integrate with other assets that aren't in your particular unit for instance, suppression of enemy air defenses, sweep or what we call offensive counter air, the E-3 Sentry (AWACS) and central coordination agencies.”
RED FLAG is one of the best simulated, combat environments that coalition forces can train in.
“So learning how you fit into that piece and exercising it in this capacity is surely what prepares us the best for the first days of combat,” Woods said.