Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel have deployed to Nevada with an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform and a C-130J Hercules tactical airlifter for the Red Flag 17-1 exercise.
Alongside counterparts from the US and the UK, about 200 personnel will support and participate in missions involving up to 100 aircraft, flying over 31,000 square kilometres of desert, Defence stated.
Group Captain Stuart Bellingham, RAAF contingent commander and director of the Exercise Red Flag 17-1 Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, said that the training environment is unmatched in its complexity and realism.
“Since RAAF personnel first participated in Exercise Red Flag in 1980, this exercise has informed both how we train our people and develop our airpower,” GPCAPT Bellingham said.
“Modern air operations must overcome not only ground and airborne threats, but also attacks in the electronic spectrum and the cyberspace domain. Exercise Red Flag was established by the United States Air Force to provide personnel with an experience of modern combat operations and show them how to overcome the threats they might face.”
An important aspect of the training focuses on personnel that are embedded within the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre, with RAAF personnel leading this key command-and-control node, Defence stated; this is significant as it is the first time a coalition nation has performed this role in such an exercise.
Also participating are air battlespace managers from 41 Wing, who will control missions involving up to 100 aircraft at a time, and a combat control team from 4 Squadron that will ensure that aircraft can seamlessly deliver support to ground forces during the exercise, which runs until February 10.
“Australia’s participation in Exercise Red Flag will enable coalition partners to better understand how we operate, and likewise consolidates our strong working relationships,” GPCAPT Bellingham said.
“This exercise is an ideal environment for our personnel to experience how the Growler and F-35A are integrated within a larger mission.”