Red Flag Jan/Feb 2023 - Peter Busby
Exercise Red Flag 23-1
Exercise Red Flag (Red Flag - Nellis) is a two-week advanced aerial combat training exercise held several times a year by the United States Air Force (USAF). It offers realistic air-combat training for military pilots and other flight crew members from the United States and allied countries.
Three to six Red Flag exercises are held at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada each year and up to four more held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska (Red Flag - Alaska).
Peter Busby visited Nellis Air Force Base earlier this year (2023) and photographed aircraft participating in 'Red Flag 23-1'. The training exercise started on 23rd January and lasted until 10th February 2023.
Taking part in the Exercise Red Flag 23-1 were the United States Air Force (USAF), United States Navy (USN), United States Marine Corps (USMC), Space Force, Air National Guard as well as partner nations such as the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Red Flag 23-1 included around 100 aircraft and 3,000 coalition service members. The training takes place on the Nevada Test and Training Range which has 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. Aligning with the 2022 National Defense Strategy the theme focused on the Indo-Pacific Theater.
The USAF provided several aircraft types including the E-3 Sentry, RC-135 Rivet Joint, F-22 Raptor, F-35A Lightning II, F-15 Strike Eagle, F-16 Falcon, B-52, A-10, HC-130 Hercules, HH-60 Pave Hawk and KC-135 tanker aircraft. The USN provided EA-18G Growlers and the USMC brought along their F-35B Lightning II aircraft. RAF aircraft included the Typhoon FGR4 and Voyager tanker aircraft and the RAAF aircraft included the EA-18G Growler aircraft.
B-2 'Spirit' stealth bombers were expected at Red Flag 23-1 but were temporarily grounded in December 2022 after a B-2 made an emergency landing at Whiteman
Air Force Base in Missouri and a 'Safety Pause' of the fleet was announced while they inspect the damaged aircraft. Two additional B-52 bombers were included in the Red Flag exercise to make up for the missing B-2 Stealth bombers.
A Red Flag exercise includes Blue Forces (friendly aircraft) and Red Forces who are the hostile aircraft. The Red hostile aircraft consist of F-16s (64th Aggressor Squadron) which are painted in unique schemes as well as F-35A Lightning II stealth aircraft (65th Aggressor Squadron) which provide a modern fifth-generation adversary.
Peter Busby said the following about Red Flag 23-1:
As international travel is slowly, but surely, opening-up, it was time to re-visit, the Nevada desert, Nellis Air Force Base, to be exact, to watch, and photograph (from outside the fence), RED FLAG 23-1.
This large combat (Air Force) exercise, involved not only the United States military, but also their allies, namely RAF Typhoon FGR4s from II (AC) Sqn, Lossiemouth, a Voyager KC2, from RAF Brize Norton, and, EA-18Gs, from 6Sqn, RAAF Amberley.
For the first time, USMC F-35Bs, attended, in the interdiction role. Generally, Red Flag, commenced at 1300hrs, with the tankers and AWACS, plus the B52 departing for the ranges, the red/ blue teams, interdiction, command and control and electronic warfare following.
Time to take a breath ! Recovery of the aircraft, started at about 1630. I might add, that a night sortie usually started at about 2120hrs !! Nellis, hosts three Red Flag Exercises a year, and most details can be found on their internet pages. I also found that dreamlandresort.com, and scramble.nl have a lot of information too.
Article & Photographs by Peter Busby.