JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Ak. –
Members of the 1st Fighter Wing and 192nd Wing from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, participated in Red Flag Alaska 21-3 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, from Aug. 12 - 27, 2021.
Red Flag-Alaska 21-3 is a large-scale exercise meant to simulate a real-world combat scenario, hosted by Pacific Air Forces and conducted over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.
“This training builds on what we do back at JBLE. The size and scope along with the integration aspect of this exercise are very different from what we do at home,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Kuntz, 94th Fighter Squadron commander. “For a lot of my pilots, this is the first time they have been able to do fighter integration with other aircraft.”
Red Flag was not just a chance for Airmen to practice simulated surface-to-air and air-to-air scenarios. Coalition partners from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) flew side-by-side U.S. aircraft to help improve interoperability on an international level.
According to U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Bentley Barker, 94th FS F-22 Raptor pilot, who is a native Australian, the chance to fly alongside the Air Force of his native country was a remarkable experience he may not have otherwise.
“This exercise is definitely worthwhile,” said Barker. “Being able to integrate with coalition partners like the RAAF is something we don’t often get to do, and this exercise certainly gives us that opportunity.”
The 18th Aggressor Squadron, based at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, provided the adversary air threat, simulating possible tactics and threats pilots may encounter during combat to improve tactical capabilities for air-to-air combat.
Sometimes, participating squadrons supply their own pilots and aircraft to act as adversarial threats, allowing squadrons to train against fifth-generational fighter aircraft and improve readiness.
“We are trying to take the skills we have learned at home and take them to the next level using a much more complex scenario,” Kuntz said. “Up here, we are as close to a peer-level adversary from both an air-to-air and surface-to-air perspective as we can get.”
According to Kuntz, the biggest takeaway from the Red Flag training exercise is that no one specific unit is responsible for carrying out the U.S. Air Force mission as a whole. Every member of the U.S. Air Force and as a team, we need to rely on each other to help facilitate the success of the mission.
“The combined efforts of the whole team make everybody that much more lethal,” Kuntz said. “At the end of the exercise, we realized even if we could try and go do the mission ourselves, why would we ever want to.”
Roughly 155 personnel made the trip from JBLE to support the eight F-22 Raptors that participated in the exercise. By the end of Red Flag, the pilots for these aircraft flew over 100 sorties and accumulated over 250 hours of total flight time for the 94th FS and 192nd Wing alone.
“Overall, I can’t thank everyone enough for what they have done for us to get up here,” Kuntz said. “You can imagine how hard everyone has been working here at Red Flag, and I hope everyone understands how incredibly important the training we received on the pilot’s side is.”