The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has deployed 14 aircraft and approximately 410 personnel to Exercise Red Flag 16-1 in the United States.

Held at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada from January 19 until February 13, Exercise Red Flag 16-1 will involve 6 F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft from RAAF Base Amberley, 6 F/A-18 A/B Hornet aircraft from RAAF Base Tindal; a single AP-3C Orion from RAAF Base Edinburgh, and an E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C from RAAF Base Williamtown. It will also include a contingent of Air Battle Management element from No. 41 Wing, conducting surveillance and battlespace management of coalition forces inside the exercise area.

Officer Commanding No. 81 Wing and Exercise Director, Group Captain Phil Gordon, highlighted the importance of Exercise Red Flag for Air Force and its personnel.

“Exercise Red Flag involves a series of air combat scenarios that test operational air and ground crews to the highest level. For members of RAAF, this exercise is the culmination of years of training; it is incredibly challenging and the ultimate test of coalition interoperability.”

There are very few training environments in the world that recreate the complexity and dangers of a modern battlespace like Exercise Red Flag.

“Day and night-time missions at Red Flag will require large numbers of aircraft to work together to complete the assigned mission across a variety of roles. The threats they face range from aggressor F-15 and F-16 fighters and simulated surface to air missile engagements, through to electronic warfare and cyberspace attacks”, Group Captain Gordon said.

“It provides the ultimate environment in which our Air Force personnel can showcase their extraordinary abilities in a deployed scenario.”

From RAAF Base Edinburgh’s No. 10 Squadron, Wing Commander Jason Begley will lead the AP-3C Orion Detachment in conducting overland surveillance in the exercise area.

“The Orion, together with the Wedgetail AEW&C will help build ‘the big picture’ of what’s happening on the ground and in the air within the exercise area at Exercise Red Flag,” Wing Commander Begley said.

“We’re coming to this exercise with considerable experience in this role, especially from Operation Slipper over Afghanistan, where we regularly provided support to combat personnel on the ground. The scale and complexity of Exercise Red Flag makes it quite unique, so we stand to gain a lot of experience in working with allied partners.”