Red Flag 8-2.2
Nellis AFB

In the present era of intense multi-national combat operations overseas, Red Flag continues to provide essential pre-deployment experience to units scheduled to deploy in support of Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) or Iraqi Freedom.   

Taking place during 4th-15th February, Red Flag 08-2.2 may not have been the largest exercise in the 2008 programme with around 1500 personnel arriving from 16 units, in support of 55 aircraft, but it did however mark the first time visit of the F-15S from the Royal Saudi Air Force. Also participating in the two week exercise were units from the United States Navy and the United States Air Force, who were present with a representation of their 21st Century Air Force in the shape of the veteran B-52H, the stalwart F-15E Strike Eagle and the stealthy F-22A Raptor.

The personnel of the USAF Warfare Center at Nellis host the Red Flag exercises. As a regular series of advanced training programme's, Red Flag is designed to be a realistic combat training exercise providing pilots and aircrew with their first ten combat missions (analysis of past conflicts showed an air crew’s survival rate increased dramatically after they had completed their first ten missions).

The Red Flag Exercises are explained in detail HERE

In addition to hosting Red Flag, Nellis AFB is also home to the F-16 equipped 64th Aggressor Squadron and the F-15 equipped 65th Aggressor Squadron. Both Squadrons fly as the 'Red Force' against the 'Blue Force' aircraft from visiting USAF and Allied Air Force Squadrons. Nellis is also home to the extremely active 53rd Test Evaluation Group and their expanding yet diverse inventory of aircraft, with types such as the A-10, B-2, F-15, F-16, F-22 and HH-60. These aircraft will often be seen flying during the Red Flag sorties, hence their inclusion in this report. 

Nellis is also the home of the USAF Flight Demonstration Team, more commonly known as 'The Thunderbirds' with their distinctively painted F-16s.

Red Flag 8-2.2 was notable for the first time participation of eight Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S Strike Eagles, flown by 6 Squadron crews from Al Kharj/Prince Sultan Air Base. These exotic Eagles flew daily as part of the exercise’s strike component alongside F-15E’s of the RAF Lakenheath based 48th Fighter Wing (FW).

Interestingly, the Saudi element appears to have been restricted from operating with the deployed F-22 Raptors of Langley based 1st FW as the F-22s were often noted on recovery to Nellis before the F-15S had departed Nellis for the ranges.

Other noteworthy participants were seven EA-6B Prowlers of NAS Whidbey Island based VAQ-138 and VAQ-140; both Sqns bringing Block 2 Improved Capability (ICAP III) aircraft to the exercise for the first time. VAQ-138 and VAQ-140 are combat experienced, thus bringing valuable knowledge of the on-going Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom Operations.

VFA-154 'Black Knights' were welcome visitors to Nellis, deploying four F-18 Super Hornets during the exercise. Although not directly involved with Red Flag, the Super Hornets operated against visiting 4th FW F-15Es in support of the US Air Force Weapons School.

The On-Target Correspondents would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff of the Nellis Public Affairs Office for their hospitality, especially the Deputy Chief of Public Affairs, Michael Estrada.




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© On Target Aviation 2008