Australia has wrapped up its involvement with the Red Flag 16-1 combat training exercise as the Royal Australian Air Force continues to strive to transform itself for the information age under Plan Jericho.
Red Flag is a large force employment air combat exercise that provides a complex and highly advanced threat environment in which to practise high-end coalition warfighting skills, Defence stated.
More than 130 aircraft and 3,000 aircrew, air battle managers, and intelligence and support staff from the US, UK and Australia worked together to overcome a “determined adversary” in a challenging tactical scenario during the exercise that began on January 25 and concluded with the last flight on February 12 at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
“Exercise Red Flag provides the most realistic replication of airborne and surface-to-air threats, enabling highly effective training and validation of our tactics,” said Group Captain Phil Gordon, who led the Australian contingent as well as being the vice-commander of the Coalition Air Expeditionary Wing for the exercise. “Short of actual combat, this is the ultimate test of coalition interoperability.”
The Australian Task Group consisted of F/A-18F Super Hornets from 1 Squadron and F/A-18A Hornets from 75 Squadron, an E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C platform from 2 Squadron, and an AP-3C Orion from 10 Squadron; air battle managers from 41 Wing, and specialist personnel including intelligence, space and cyber experts embedded in the Combined Air Operations Centre.
It was the first international exercise to see the ‘classic’ Hornets and Super Hornets working together in integrated operations.
“There were assets playing in this exercise that we either don’t have in Australia or that we are soon to introduce,” GPCAPT 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.”
The EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft, 12 of which are expected to be based at RAAF Base Amberley, also participated. “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,” GPCAPT 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 using its C-17 heavy transport and KC-30 tanker transport aircraft.