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RED FLAG-Alaska 20-3 kicks off, draws 5th generation crowd

  • Published
  • By BY: Senior Airman Beaux Hebert
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


RED FLAG-Alaska 20-3, a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored exercise designed to provide realistic training in a simulated combat environment, began today and is slated to run until Aug. 14.


The 18th Aggressor Squadron and its F-16 Fighting Falcons will be playing the bad guys, also known as ‘Red Air’, during air-to-air scenarios with the new F-35A Lightning II also joining the home team. Most of the participating aircraft are based out of Eielson AFB and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, however, this year will also include flying operations originating from other bases around the Air Force.


“This is the first large-force exercise since this pandemic began,” said Lt. Col. Randy Kinsey, the 18th Aggressor Squadron commander. “We have to start somewhere, so why not here on a little bit smaller scale.”


RED FLAG-Alaska serves as an ideal platform for international engagement, and the exercise has a long history of including allies and partners, ultimately enabling all involved to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures while improving interoperability.


“This will be the first RF-A 20-3 with F-35s participating,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Hunger, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron commander. “In addition to that, this will be the first time the 356th Fighter Squadron will participate with their F-35s.”


RED FLAG-Alaska is always held at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex and provides a realistic training environment, allowing Airmen to train for full-spectrum engagements ranging from individual skills to complex, large-scale joint engagements. The JPARC offers various training opportunities on all fronts; land, air, space and cyberspace.


“The great benefit of the airspace here is that we are able to have almost 77,000 square miles of exercise airspace and we will utilize all of it,” Hunger said.


The exercise allows the U.S. Air Force and its allies to become a more effective fighting force in the Indo-Pacific region.


Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, this year’s RF-A will look a little different with extra precautions put into place to protect Airmen and the Fairbanks North Star Borough. 


“Our visiting RF-A 20-3 personnel are prohibited from leaving base for the first 14 days of their stay in Alaska and will only have very limited to no interactions with our base population, which will help to protect our community as well as our base,” said Maj. Karen Rupp, 354th Medical Group chief of Aerospace Medicine. “After the first 14 days, if the Airmen have no symptoms, they will be allowed off base and will follow Eielson AFB guidance and directives regarding allowable activities on and off base.”