F-22s make mark at Red Flag

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs
The F-22 Raptor flew in its first Red Flag exercise that started Feb. 3 here, showcasing its stealth, super cruise and other advantages absent in legacy fighters.

Pilots from the 94th Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va., are flying F-22s against Red Flag aggressors, with pilots from the Royal Australian Air Force of Australia, and the Royal Air Force of England. 

The 94th FS deployed 14 Raptors and 197 Airmen to participate in the Red Flag exercise. Including the F-22s, more than 200 aircraft are participating. Among the foreign aircraft involved are the RAF's GR-4 Tornados and RAAF's F-111 Aardvark. In addition, the F-22s are flying with the B-2 Spirit, F-117 Nighthawk, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and more.

The F-22 pilots are experiencing tremendous success flying against the aircraft representing the enemy -- most of which are F-16s and F-15s, said Lt. Col. Dirk Smith, the 94th FS commander. The aggressor forces represent the most lethal threat friendly forces would ever face.

"The training provided by the Red Flag adversaries is like no other on earth," Colonel Smith said. "Our pilots are experiencing a tremendous learning curve."

The F-22's debut at the prominent Red Flag exercise is a significant milestone for the jet, Colonel Smith said. Red Flag is an advanced, realistic combat training exercise designed for fighter pilots, conducted over the Nellis Range Complex which measures 60 by 100 nautical miles. The exercise was established in 1975 because aerial-combat statistics suggested a pilot's survival and success increased significantly after the first 10 sorties. In Red Flag exercises, the Blue Forces represent friendly forces, while Red Forces simulate the enemy.

In addition to aerial combat, Blue Forces also train in various tactics to engage ground targets such as mock airfields, convoys, and other ground defensive positions. However, exercises at Red Flag often provide other unique training opportunities. Training with the B-2 and F-117 is "unprecedented" because the F-22 enhances the lethality of other Air Force aircraft, Colonel Smith said. The same principles apply with Air Force pilots who are practicing engagement with U.S. allies.

Because the United States usually doesn't engage in combat without coalition forces, Colonel Smith said training with the RAF and RAAF at Red Flag provided valuable experience for all involved.

"This exercise is a great chance for us to learn what (sister and coalition forces) can do, and for them to learn what we're capable of," he said. The addition of RAF and RAAF players makes the training more diverse and valuable for all pilots involved. The main idea is not just about the F-22, but how it enhances the overall Air Force package.

But the overall expected result for the F-22s' involvement at Red Flag is to foster and maintain an "unfair advantage" over the enemies of the United States, said Maj. Jack Miller, a Langley AFB spokesman. "Our joint forces don't want a fair fight, we want every fight we enter to be patently unfair -- to the other guy."

Despite the F-22s' "unfair advantage," Colonel Smith said flying against the Red Force aggressors of the 414th Combat Training Squadron is not an easy task. Aggressor pilots are made up of F-16 and F-15 pilots specially trained to replicate tactics and techniques of potential adversaries according to the 414th CTS/Red Flag fact sheet.

"These scenarios are not made to be easy," Colonel Smith said. "These (Red Forces) pilots are well trained and good at their job."

In addition, Red Forces aren't limited to aggressor pilots. There is no shortage of ground threats at Red Flag. These include electronically simulated surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, and communications jamming, according to 414th CTS officials. 

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