Flying in Eurofighter Typhoons and F-16 jets, pilots from the Italian and Turkish air forces joined their U.S. partners in a Red Flag air combat training exercise Tuesday, roaring into partially cloudy skies north of Nellis Air Force Base.
For the Italian Air Force, it’s the first time its fighter pilots and aircraft have flown in Red Flag’s 41-year history, officials said. It also marks the longest overseas deployment for the Typhoon detachment commanded by Col. Marco Bertoli.
“This is by far one of the best combat training environments our pilots can find all over the world,” he said about the exercise that began Feb. 29 and runs through Friday.
Bertoli spoke during a panel discussion at Nellis before dozens of fighter jets, bombers, air-fueling tankers, air-traffic-control aircraft, and Marine helicopters launched for an afternoon session of finding and engaging would-be enemy aggressor aircraft.
The exercise takes place in 15,000 square miles of airspace with 1,900 possible targets at the Nevada Test and Training Range. In all, 76 aircraft from 16 U.S. and coalition units are participating in this the second Red Flag exercise this year.
“Participating in this operation we face many challenges. One, of course, is to bring here eight aircraft and almost 200 people, 6,000 miles away from home,” Bertoli said.
He added that the Italian Air Force selected younger pilots for the journey so they can pass on their experience to the country’s future aviators as well as be ready to participate in future operations with NATO allies.
The Turkish Air Force was more low-key about its participation although a source familiar with the effort who spoke on background said there are a half-dozen of that country’s F-16s flying along with a couple air refueling tankers. This was the fourth time Turkey has participated in the exercises at Nellis. The last time was in 2008. (end of excerpt)
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