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RF-A 21-1 focuses on joint integration

Tech. Sgt. Theodore Crowely, III, a 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-35A Lightning II dedicated crew chief, checks for debris prior to launch during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-1 on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 19, 2020. RED FLAG-Alaska exercises are focused on improving the combat readiness of the U.S. and international forces and providing for units preparing for air and space expeditionary force taskings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

Tech. Sgt. Theodore Crowely, III, a 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-35A Lightning II dedicated crew chief, checks for debris prior to launch during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-1 on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 19, 2020. RED FLAG-Alaska exercises are focused on improving the combat readiness of the U.S. and international forces and providing for units preparing for air and space expeditionary force taskings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

U.S. Marines assigned to the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) stand by for orders during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-1 in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Oct. 15, 2020. The 1st ANGLICO provides direct support to the various joint, allied, coalition and special operations forces working within Marine Corps battlespace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

U.S. Marines assigned to the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) stand by for orders during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-1 in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Oct. 15, 2020. The 1st ANGLICO provides direct support to the various joint, allied, coalition and special operations forces working within Marine Corps battlespace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

U.S. Navy aircraft mechanic assigned to the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132 inspects an EA-18G Growler prior to launch during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-1 on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 13, 2020. RED FLAG-Alaska provides unique opportunities to integrate various forces into joint training from simulated forward operating bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

U.S. Navy aircraft mechanic assigned to the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132 inspects an EA-18G Growler prior to launch during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-1 on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 13, 2020. RED FLAG-Alaska provides unique opportunities to integrate various forces into joint training from simulated forward operating bases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

The National Defense strategy has shifted from fighting insurgents and terrorist organizations to focusing on near-peer adversaries. This iteration of RED FLAG-Alaska is designed to ensure that if the U.S. has to engage or defend against near-peer adversaries, all U.S military branches could work together to project global security.

Units from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps have come together as one to maximize efficiency during the exercise. 

“The joint environment makes things interesting,” said Capt. Ashton Lackey, an 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. “The Aggressors and our 3rd Wing counterparts are good at doing ‘Air Force things’ and including other joint forces complicates things. Basically we are all trying to accomplish the same mission, but we use different words and lingo so being able to decipher what we are trying to communicate is crucial.”

In the air, Navy EA-18G Growlers focus on scrambling and disrupting electrical systems such as radars and jammers while Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets fill the fighter role amongst Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-35A Lightning IIs. However, RF-A is more than just jets ‘dogfighting’ in the air.

On the ground, the Marine Corps and Army units teamed up to execute exercises to add an extra level of reality to this simulated combat exercise.

Marines and Soldiers are conducting close-air-support simulations in which Marine joint terminal attack controllers practice coordinating with aircraft to support troops in combat situations while deployed. 

The Army is also working with the Air Force to conduct a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System rapid infiltration exercise. This training involves a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft delivering and deploying specialized military vehicles with rocket-launching capabilities, unloading rapidly to conduct a fire mission, then reloading and taking off. This type of scenario minimizes the opportunity of detection and counter fire missions against the system.

Joint integration is vital to the future of the U.S. military. Each branch brings different capabilities and strengths to the table, and during RF-A the services must work as one to continue being the world’s strongest fighting force.

“The joint environment at RED FLAG-Alaska is incredibly valuable,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Johnson, an EA-18G Growler pilot assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 132. “It’s incredibly important that we get together in an exercise like this...and go out and execute a full-mission profile to figure out how we are going to operate as a joint force.”