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Spanish aircrews train with US at Red Flag 16-4

A Spanish air force EF-18M prepares for take-off during Red Flag 16-4 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Aug. 17, 2016. Red Flag is a realistic combat exercise involving U.S. and allied air forces conducting training operations on the 15,000 square mile Nevada Test and Training Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A Spanish Air Force EF-18M prepares for takeoff during Red Flag 16-4 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Aug. 17, 2016. Red Flag is a realistic combat exercise involving U.S. and allied air forces conducting training operations on the 15,000-square-mile Nevada Test and Training Range. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum)

Spanish air force EF-18Ms sit on the runway at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. during Red Flag 16-4, Aug. 17, 2016. Red Flag was established in 1975 as one of the initiatives directed by General Robert J. Dixon, then commander of Tactical Air Command, to better prepare our forces for combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Spanish Air Force EF-18Ms sit on the runway at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. during Red Flag 16-4, Aug. 17, 2016. Red Flag was established in 1975 as one of the initiatives directed by Gen. Robert J. Dixon, then commander of Tactical Air Command, to better prepare forces for combat. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum)

A Spanish air force pilot climbs the ladder of an EF-18M before participating in Red Flag 16-4 at Nellis Air Force Base, Aug. 17, 2016. This joint, full-spectrum exercise provides the most realistic combat training available. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A Spanish Air Force pilot climbs a ladder to get in an EF-18M during Red Flag 16-4 at Nellis Air Force Base, Aug. 17, 2016. The joint, full-spectrum exercise provided the most realistic combat training available. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum)

Aircrew from the Spanish air force assigned to the 121st Squadron, go through preflight checks on Aug. 18, 2016. All four branches of the U.S. military and air forces from allied nations participate in Red Flag. The training is conducted to familiarize forces to work together in future operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Byrnes/Released)

Aircrew from the Spanish Air Force go through preflight checks Aug. 18, 2016, during Red Flag 16-4 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.The training was conducted to familiarize forces to work together in future operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nathan Byrnes)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Since its inception in 1975, Red Flag has served as the pinnacle of air-to-air combat training for the Air Force and its allies.

For the Spanish Air Force, Red Flag 16-4 has been the perfect avenue to receive the best training for their aircrews and support personnel, as well as an avenue for overcoming unique challenges that aren’t always experienced in European exercises.

“With most of our experience coming from European exercises, we have mostly a European outlook,” said Spanish Air Force Capt. Dario Perez, an EF-18M pilot. “Working with the United States Air Force aircraft and its allies serves as a great chance to train in a non-European venue, and broaden our views.”

In order to expand their views, communication between allies can be a challenge for Spanish Air Forces, but at Red Flag this has not turned out to be a roadblock.

“As we are standardized with NATO everyone speaks the same language while we train,” said Spanish Air Force Capt. Esteve Ferran, a pilot. “With the NATO documents we use, everyone is on the same page and on the same sheet of music at all times. Like last time we were here in 2008 the exercise proved to be difficult at first, but once we got rolling it was excellent.”

Once settled in, Red Flag 16-4 offered unique trials for Spanish Air Force pilots and crews to overcome.

“While the Red Flag exercise here is similar to the exercises that we encounter in Europe, the surface-to-air threats that are part of Red Flag are top notch and always serve as a challenge,” Perez said.

While the surface-to-air threats that pilots face here at Red Flag 16-4 serve as a valuable aspect of training, they aren’t the only facet of Red Flag valuable for aircrews.

“Tactically speaking, the surface-to-air threats are top notch,” Ferran said. “Also, the ability to use live ordnance in training is something that we don’t always get access to when we participate in European exercises.”

With all of these benefits of Red Flag’s training there are also multiple challenges that aircrews have had to face.

“One of the most difficult things about this exercise has been the act of deploying all of our assets here,” Ferran said. “It has been difficult, and staging out of Nellis was the first challenge we faced. Then, the night operations of Red Flag have also been a challenge. There is a nine-hour difference between the time zones and so when we finish operations we then have briefings at 3 a.m. It gets tiring and becomes a challenge and is something that we don’t see in European exercises.”

While these challenges, coupled with the tests of the monsoon weather that Las Vegas has brought to Red Flag 16-4, have presented Spanish air force with obstacles, they haven’t stopped pilots and aircrews from overcoming them.

Taking these obstacles in stride, the Spanish Air Force has used one of the premier air-to-air exercises that the Air Force offers to gain excellent training experience for aircrews.

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