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100 RAAF aviators join air combat training in Nevada

written by Adam Thorn | January 24, 2023

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes part in Red Flag-Nellis 22-3.

The RAAF has sent five of its Growlers and 100 aviators to take part in a US air combat training exercise in Nevada.

Red Flag Nellis takes place across more than 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land, including both desert and mountains.

First hosted in 1975, this year’s iteration will last until 10 February 2023 and involves close to 100 aircraft and 3,000 coalition service members, including those from the British RAF.

RAAF Air Commodore John Haly said the sheer scale of the program could not be replicated in Australia.

“Exercises like Red Flag Nellis are an opportunity to advance relationships and interoperability with the United States and United Kingdom,” Air Commodore Haly said.


The US’ Col. Jared Hutchinson, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander, said “In our 48th year Red Flag, participants will build confidence under fire, integrated leadership, and a warfighter culture that will win our nation’s fights.

“Each flag pushes state of the art to a new level by building on the efforts of previous Red Flags. In this iteration, the allied force will be presented with many new and emerging real-world tactical problems.

“Our allies are one of the greatest strategic assets we have in protecting our nations.

“This year is expected to be challenging as it prioritizes [sic] young operators. It enables them to learn in the world’s best combat training environment while writing the next chapter of our resilient heritage.”

This year’s training occurs at Nellis AFB and on the Nevada Test and Training Range, the U.S. Air Force’s main military training area.

RAAF’s Exercise Detachment Commander, Wing Commander Steven Thornton, said Exercise Red Flag Nellis would provide complex and advanced aerial training against simulated targets and realistic threat systems.

“This training helps ensure RAAF remains ready to deploy aircraft and personnel away from their home base and sustain high-tempo operations,” Wing Commander Thornton said.

“It also provides the necessary environment for testing and development of new work practices, systems or role expansion.”

The Growler, a variant of the Super Hornet, is an airborne electronic attack aircraft that flies over enemy bases and jams their defences.

The RAAF has a fleet of 11 Growlers, operated by No. 6 Squadron and based at RAAF Base Amberley. The first only arrived in 2017.

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