RAAF reflects on Red Flag lessons learned

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.”

Red FlagThe 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.

Red Flag 2


  1. Tomcat Terry says

    Great to see the RAAF working with the Raptors and getting ready for the F35’s with this great opportunity to test and hone their skills in Red Flag.
    Does anyone in AA know if the RAAF may be interested working with the Japanese on their FX 2 stealth aircraft program for obvious reasons? Particularly if the Sub contract goes their way too.
    What an opportunity this “closer ties” would bring if that were the case 😉

  2. Harry says

    The Japanese can in no way afford to proceed alone with their FX2 demonstrator, as things stand presently, so if they did it would be in partnership with other nations. I am sure Japan would consult with us over whether we would want to join the further development of the Shinshin. Its too early to tell about RAAF interest, outside of general interest, but on face value the plane is quite interesting.

  3. Jason says

    Noting this has nothing to do with Red Flag – Shinshin is a technology demonstrator only, and may or may not form the basis of a production fighter.

    The RAAF keeps a watching brief of what is happening in other countries and in industry at to what may constitute a future ‘6th gen’ capability, but is otherwise ‘all-in’ on F-35.

  4. mick181 says

    Japan as a strange take on fighter devolopment turning the F-16 into the ulta expensive F-2. Israel & South Korea could be interested in a co-development of a genuine air superiority fighter to replace the F-15. Although SK would have to get over WW2 first. Australia doesn’t have the aviation industrial base to get into a project other than as a very junior partner. Although i doubt Australia would be interested.