Exercise Red Flag 17-3 Commences in Nevada
(Source: US Air Force; issued July 11, 2017)
NELLIS AFB, Nev. --- Red Flag 17-3, a three-week air-to-air combat joint training exercise, commenced here yesterday, Air Force officials said.

Officials said Red Flag consists of a variety of attack, fighter and bomber aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, airlift support, search-and-rescue aircraft, aerial refueling aircraft and ground-based command and control, space and cyber forces.

The exercise concludes July 28.

Base leadership reminds southern Nevada residents they may notice increased military aircraft activity during the exercise.

Aircraft will depart here twice daily to participate in combat training missions on the Nevada Test and Training Range north of Las Vegas in one of the Air Force's largest joint exercises.

Joint Warfighting Exercise

"For Red Flag, we bring in our joint warfighters with their capabilities and their equipment," said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Sadler, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander. "We come together and fight as a team. And, we get to learn from each other as we do that."

Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II fighter jets will participate alongside the Air Force's F-35A's for the first time in Red Flag history.

"We get to learn in a realistic training environment as we continue to progress down the road with this platform and other fifth-generation or fourth-generation aircraft," Sadler said.

Having two F-35 units at Red Flag provides a team-building opportunity, he said.

'We're Not Going to War Alone'

"We're not going to go to war alone," Sadler said. "The more we can do joint exercises like Red Flag -- where we get everybody together and learn from each other -- the more we can better use each other's tactics, techniques and procedures to successfully go after whatever the problem set is."

More than 2,500 joint warfighters will participate in Red Flag 17-3, officials said.

"Red Flag gives our joint warfighters the opportunity to promote their readiness through innovation," Sadler said. "They may have to go outside their comfort zone and take risks with their innovation. But at the end of the day if they see positive, successful outcomes toward the objectives, then that's immediate positive feedback on readiness we're looking for here at Red Flag."

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Avengers Assemble: Marine Corps, Air Force F-35s Come Together for Ground-Breaking Exercise
(Source: US Marine Corps; issued July 11, 2017)
NELLIS AFB, Nv. --- Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 “Wake Island Avengers,” 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, began participating in Red Flag 17-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 10.

During the exercise, which will continue until July 28, VMFA-211 will conduct a variety of mission sets alongside the other services: defensive counter air (DCA); offensive counter air (OCA); suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD); destruction of enemy air defense; dynamic taskings, which involve finding a time-sensitive target or series of targets and eliminating them; electronic warfare (EW); preplanned strikes; and combat search and rescue (CSAR).

“Red Flag 17-3 is designed to be a venue for U.S. forces to integrate on a scale that’s not possible anywhere else -- so Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Army assets come from all over the United States and participate in advanced mission sets together,” said Maj. Paul Holst, VMFA-211’s executive officer. “It’s ... important to practice integrating assets from all across the [Armed Forces’] inventory because if we go to conflict, we don’t want that to be the first time we all integrate with each other.”

Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier realistic combat training exercise involving the air, ground, space and cyber forces of the United States -- sometimes including assets from allied nations. This iteration includes only the U.S. Armed Forces and will focus on improving individual performance as well as interoperability between the services.

According to Holst, this is the first time the F-35A Lightning II, used by the Air Force, and F-35B Lightning II, the short-takeoff vertical landing (STOVL) variant used by the Marine Corps, will participate in the same exercise as well as the Avenger’s first time attending Red Flag.

“This is the first time we’ve deployed on this scale ... we brought 10 F-35s here with all of our maintenance equipment, all of our support equipment and personnel,” said Holst. “For the pilots, the opportunity to participate in these exercises prepares us for combat … and the opportunity to integrate and plan with the rest of the force is something you just don’t get anywhere else.”

Maj. Chris Brandt, a pilot and administration and logistics officer in charge with VMFA-211, said Red Flag’s large-scale missions, which often involve upwards of 50 aircraft working in concert, prepare pilots for combat operations and prepare maintenance personnel for a deployed operational tempo.

“A lot of times at home station, we’re basically working just with each other or we’re doing things that are [smaller in] scale and only focusing on our specific mission sets that we do,” said Brandt. “When we actually deploy, we’re most likely going to be part of a joint force so coming here you get that experience. It’s not until you come to exercises like these that you get to train across services and [train] with platforms that you typically would not work with at your home station.”

Throughout the exercise, more than 50 units and more than 80 aircraft will participate in Red Flag, conducting missions in the Nevada Test and Training Range -- the U.S. Air Force's premier military training area. It has more than 12,000 square miles of airspace, 2.9 million acres of land and has 1,900 possible targets, realistic threat systems and an opposing enemy force, a training environment that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.

According to Holst, Red Flag allows each service and subordinate unit to demonstrate their capabilities as well as understand the capabilities of other services, units and their equipment.

“For example, the E-18G exists in the Navy and the Air Force doesn’t really have a comparable asset to that. There may be situations where the only F-35s in theater are Marine Corps F-35s ... and you have to integrate the F-35s into the entire package,” said Holst. “It’s always going to be necessary to bring everyone’s assets together and practicing that is really important.”

From the different services to subordinate units and even to individual service members, Red Flag is an opportunity for them to experience advanced, relevant and realistic combat situations in a controlled environment, increasing their ability to complete missions and safely return home.

“I think we’ll gain a lot. We learn from them, they learn from us and at the end we come out with better tactics, better knowledge of the airplane and how to employ it,” said Brandt. “The missions that we’ll fly here are things that many of us haven’t done in this aircraft before, especially with the number of airplanes that are out there. That will be good from a tactical and aviation perspective. It’s going to be interesting to see how everybody from all of the services work together.”

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