RF-A 21-1 focuses on joint integration

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

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.”