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Red Flag returns to Nevada

Royal Air Force Corporal Steve Pascoe talks to a pilot about a GR4 Tornado during Red Flag 14-1 Jan. 27, 2014, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag gives aircrew and air support operators from various airframes, military services and allied countries an opportunity to integrate and practice combat operations. Pascoe is an IX (B) Squadron mechanical engineer from RAF Marham, United Kingdom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Matthew Lancaster)

Royal Air Force Corporal Steve Pascoe talks to a pilot about a GR4 Tornado during Red Flag 14-1 Jan. 27, 2014, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag gives aircrew and air support operators from various airframes, military services and allied countries an opportunity to integrate and practice combat operations. Pascoe is an IX (B) Squadron mechanical engineer from RAF Marham, United Kingdom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Matthew Lancaster)

Royal Air Force Senior Air Craftsman Josh Dales performs post-flight checks during Red Flag 14-1 Jan. 27, 2014, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Aircraft and personnel deploy to Nellis for Red Flag under the Air Expeditionary Force concept and make up the exercise's blue forces. Dales is an IX (B) Squadron aircraft maintenance mechanic from RAF Marham, United Kingdom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Matthew Lancaster)

Royal Air Force Senior Air Craftsman Josh Dales performs post-flight checks during Red Flag 14-1 Jan. 27, 2014, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Aircraft and personnel deploy to Nellis for Red Flag under the Air Expeditionary Force concept and make up the exercise's blue forces. Dales is an IX (B) Squadron aircraft maintenance mechanic from RAF Marham, United Kingdom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Matthew Lancaster)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) --

The latest iteration of the Air Force's premier air-to-air combat training exercise kicked off Jan. 27 as allied and U.S aircraft launched to simulate battle in the sky over the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Allied aircrews from Great Britain and Australia joined U.S. warfighters in the continued effort to maximize combat readiness, capability and survivability in a contested and degraded environment during Red Flag 14-1, hosted by the 414th Combat Training Squadron. 

"Red Flag, more than anything else, is an opportunity," said Maj. Nathan Boardman, a Red Flag 14-1 team chief. "It's a time for weapons systems (professionals) from many different platforms to get together and learn to integrate their abilities in a very difficult environment." 

This time around, an increased focus on the seamless integration of space and cyber assets prepares crews for ever-evolving, non-kinetic threats.

Boardman, a space and missile officer by trade, is the first non-pilot team chief in Red Flag history.

"We're always looking for new ways to integrate non-kinetic capabilities into the exercise," Boardman said. "The training we can provide is just second to none."

Since its establishment in 1975, Red Flag participants have used Nellis AFB's 2.9 million acre test range as a one-of-a-kind arena for realistic air combat training. Under the Air Expeditionary Force concept, joint and allied military members deploy to Nellis AFB to make up the exercise's "Blue Force," and engage in a three-week simulated air war against the "Red Force," made up of U.S. Airmen trained in the use of enemy tactics organized by the 57th Adversary Tactics Group.

The scope of the exercise brings an accelerated pace to operations base-wide.

"It's one of those unique challenges that you really look forward to -- a time to shine," said Master Sgt. Ron Eckman, the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. "It's an opportunity to put our best foot forward in representing the Air Force, and make sure our sister forces and joint partners receive the highest quality training."

Approximately 3,200 people, more than 100 aircraft and 66 squadrons will be participating in the first Red Flag since sequestration. Red Flag 14-1 is set to conclude Feb. 14.

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