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RF-A blue forces
Pilots of the 124th Fighter Squadron, Des Moines, Iowa, step to their F-16 Fighting Falcons during RED FLAG-Alaska 09-2, April 24, 2009, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. This exercise enables aviation units to sharpen their skills by flying 10 simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Senior Airman Jonathan Snyder) (Released)
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Fly, fight, win: Red Flag-Alaska pilots

Posted 4/28/2009   Updated 4/29/2009 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Tia Wilson
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/28/2009 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The flight plans have been filed; the mission briefs have been completed. Now it's time for the key players in a multi-national force to come together and fly, fight and win.

During Red Flag-Alaska, United States military pilots and coalition forces are provided the opportunity to train jointly over 26,000 feet above the Alaskan tundra.

These exercises provide joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.

"This is my first time at Red Flag-Alaska," said Lt. Christian Dumlao, U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler pilot, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. "Being given the opportunity to work and train with our NATO allies and Air Force pilots has provided my peers and I invaluable training." 

RF-A allows pilots to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures to improve interoperability.

"From the moment I stepped off the plane at Eielson it's been a non-stop learning experience," said 1st Lt. Jared Sonderman, F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, 35th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. "I'm learning new stuff every second and every day that I'm here."

RF-A provides pilots with over 67,000 square miles of airspace and one conventional, and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets and more than 30 simulators, both manned and unmanned. 

"The Joint Pacific-Alaskan Range Complex is a very good training area because the air space is enormous," said Deputy Commander, Lt. Col. Le Saint Jean-Patrice a navigator with the French Air Force. "We're used to flying at higher altitudes in France with all the noise restriction requirements, but here in Alaska, the altitudes are different and we can fly slightly lower--an enhancement to our training."

The French Air Force travels to the United States for one training exercise each year.

"The procedures, tactics and techniques here are similar to our's in France," said Lt. Col. Jean-Patrice. "It's interesting how our country can come together with the Americans and train without any major difficulty."

One key element to Red Flag is the permanent 18th Aggressor Squadron, who play the role of Red Forces during the exercises. The Aggressor's job is to know, teach and replicate the threat as an enemy pilot to the other pilots, who are called the Blue Forces.

"The sole reason for the aggressor pilot's existence is to help us train and make us more combat capable pilots," said Lieutenant Sonderman. "The fact that they are using enemy tactics, weapons and the way they employ them, gives this exercise a realistic approach to real-world contingencies."

At Red Flag-- regardless of squadron, base or country, every participant is equipped with lessons learned and training that they can use in a battlefield.

"I've wanted to be a pilot since I learned how to walk," said Lieutenant Sonderman. "Being given a chance to train with these professionals and being given the opportunity to fly over Alaskan ranges has been a phenomenal opportunity." 

The Red Flag environment is very diverse with a lot of career fields melding to make it happen. Without the choreography of each of these fields, Red Flag would not be the success it is today. Everyone can walk away at the end of the day knowing that they are part of an integral team that allows pilots to fly, fight and win.

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