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USAF 'Red Flag' exercises turn to combat problem-solving

USAF 'Red Flag' exercises turn to combat problem-solving
Military aircraft from across the United States and nine countries gathered at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for the Red Flag 21-2 exercises. Photo by Senior Airman JaNae Capuno/U.S. Air Force

March 29 (UPI) -- The "Red Flag 21-2" combat scenario training exercise brought aircraft from seven NATO nations and detachments from across the U.S. Air Force together, the branch said.

Over 100 aircraft were involved in the weeklong event at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., held earlier this month, notably including F-16 Fighting Falcons and a NATO E-3A AWACS surveillance plane stationed at Geilenkirschen NATO Air Base, Germany.

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The exercises were designed to provide aircrew experience in realistic situations.

"Red Flag is aligned with our National Defense Strategy," Col. William Reese, 414th Combat Training Squad commander, said in an Air Force press release on Sunday.

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"Using complex mission scenarios against a powerful and unrestricted aggressor team, participants get the best high-end training available," Reese said.

The event involved 2,500 participants from 12 states and nine countries, including non-NATO allies Singapore and Sweden. F-35, F-16, EA-18G, B-1, KC-135, AWACs, and HH-60 aircraft were among those represented.

The focus was on aerial combat, with tactics simulating what the Air Force statement called "great power competition problem sets" and involving input relating to space and cyber threats.

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"In order to ensure we challenge our participants even further, we concealed our targets and forced scenarios, driving Red Flag participants to think critically during the fight, including potentially re-attacking targets that were struck but desired weapons effects were not met," Reese said.

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First held in 1975, Red Flag exercises bring together aircrews from U.S. service branches and those of allies.

The exercises are typically presented four to six times per year at Nellis Air Force Base, with up to four more -- Red Flag-Alaska, for example, in August 2020 -- in other locations.

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