Aug. 24, 2018, marks the ending of another iteration of RED FLAG-Alaska.
During RF-A 18-3, U.S. and partner nation forces from around the globe, including the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force, came together to conduct training in the air and on the ground to help improve interoperability between the U.S. and its allies; and to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures.
Throughout the exercise, participating units had the opportunity to train with various joint and coalition partners in a realistic combat environment throughout the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which is one of the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world.
“RF-A is unique for a couple different reasons; the facilities we have [and] the [JPARC] where we conduct flying and ground operations,” said Maj. Thomas Stengl, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron assistant director of operations. “Normally, training venues have limitations, but here there are very few. Super-sonic flight is allowed and participants are able to execute their techniques tactics and procedures almost to the extent they would in war time.”
While RF-A and the JPARC provide exceptional training to pilots, they aren't the only ones to benefit from the opportunities the exercise creates.
“[RF-A 18-3] provided a chance for more than 100 aircraft and 1,500 personnel to learn to train in a joint, international and increasingly multi-domain environment,” said Lt. Col. John Anderson, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron commander. “They learned to talk the same talk and fight the same fight to solve complex issues.”
One of the unique parts of RF-A is the participation of ground and special operations forces which provides necessary training for combat operations.
“Twenty-first century warfare is getting progressively more complex, so to be able to fully employ in an air combat or special operations scenario participants need to be able to integrate with each other,” said Stengl.
Finally, 18-3 was the first ever exercise to include the RQ-4 Global Hawk, which allows aircrew to see the impact they make during sorties and provides a unique perspective they wouldn’t normally see.
“This is the first RF-A in which the RQ-4 has participated,” said Stengl. “It brings longevity and can stay for an extended period of time to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance which provides a lot of assistance with targeting to aircrew.”