March 25 (UPI) -- The Colombian Air Force's tanker refueled the entire fleet of the U.S. Air Force's EA-18G Growlers during the air-to-air combat exercise Red Flag 19-2 in Nevada earlier this month.
Colombia's Multi-Mission Transport Tanker Jupiter 767 was the only one to supply the Growlers at the exercise, held March 11-22 at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, because of nations' different systems. The Growlers, which are a specialized version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet, use an air-to-air refueling system, which contracts with boom-operated air-to-air refueling systems.
"We're an expeditionary Growler squadron so that means we're land-based, so most of my pilots' experience is based off tanking off of other F-18s or Air Force assets," Navy Cmdr. Chris Nesset, of Electronic Attack Squadron 134, said in a U.S. Navy news release on Monday. "In certain theaters of operation that may not always be the case. So the ability to operate with a partner country in a training environment and go slow using a different tanking platform to get that experience prior to any real world operations is fantastic."
Colombia's Air Force previously participated in Red Flag exercise in 2012 and 2018 with Kfir fighter jets and the Jupiter 767.
Colombia is the first and only NATO Global Partner in Latin America.
"We're ready to support these type of exercises, and any other time we can support our partner nations in this capacity," Colombian Air Force Col. Kerly Sanchez, the nation's Red Flag delegation commander, said.
This is the first Red Flag exercise the MMTT Jupiter 767 solely refueled U.S. aircraft -- operating day and night.
"After last year's exercise our leadership decided to stay close by inviting the Colombians back as soon as we could," Mathes said. "The most feasible way to do that was with the tanker visit based on the other forces being engaged in ongoing operations."
Other nations participating in the drills included Australia, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates.
Red Flag is conducted three times per year at Nellis AFB, and the next one is scheduled for summer 2019.
"Nellis is the location everyone talks about," Capt. Kyle Benham, a 62nd Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II fighter jet pilot, said in an Air Force news release. "There's a lot of history and tactics that come out of here. As far as Red Flag itself, it's one of the premiere exercises that a pilot can participate in. If there is any intimidating part of Red Flag, it's that you're going to jam 60 to 70 aircraft in a confined space. Thus, forcing everyone to work as a team to solve whatever tactical problem presented."
Benham, whose grandfather also was a fighter pilot, said with different tactics or the way they communicate they need to be "on the same page so we can execute the mission in a real-life scenario."
"While not directly involved, the fact that we've already built training expectations and interoperability here allows us to stand up coalitions when called because we can't really predict when and where we will fight next," Mathes said.