6th AMW refuels Red Flag

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ashley Perdue
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Airmen and aircraft from the 6th Air Mobility Wing MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, teamed up with U.S. and allied air forces during combat training exercise Red Flag 19-1 here Jan. 29 - Feb. 15, 2019.

Red Flag is a three-week exercise designed to train and prepare participants on combat readiness and survivability, while integrating the five core functions of the U.S. Air Force: intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, air superiority, strike and personnel recovery.

Close to 2,900 personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Royal Air Force, and Royal Australian Air Force participated in this exercise. One MacDill KC-135 Stratotanker and numerous Airmen, including two aircrews from the 6th AMW, supported the exercise at Nellis AFB and over the Nevada Test and Training Range north of Las Vegas. 

“MacDill’s refueling made it possible for the fighters to be able to participate in their specific exercises, whether they’re strike missions, personnel recovery, air superiority, or to accomplish their desired learning objectives,” said Maj. Paul Seal, detachment commander for the Red Flag Tanker Task Force and 50th Air Refueling Squadron pilot at MacDill AFB. “MacDill has the primary role of mission planning, getting the crews where they need to go out and execute the mission.”

With multiple targets, realistic threat systems and an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world, Nellis AFB and the NTTR are the home of a simulated battlefield, providing combat air forces with the ability to train and fight together in a peacetime environment, and to survive and win together.

MacDill’s KC-135 accumulated 130 flying hours across 12 flying days and offloaded a total of 1.5 million pounds of fuel during the exercise to hundreds of aircraft including the B-52 Stratofortress, E-3 Sentry, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II.

According to Seal, MacDill had members supporting the mission from the ground to the sky. Maintainers kept the aircraft running and aircrew took care of the equipment on the jet.

“When it comes to the operations support personnel, they’re making sure the squadron aviation resource managers are cutting our orders and making sure we’re flying the way we need to be,” Seal explained. “We have the communications crew who take care of all of our computer security and our intel personnel who are getting us mission prepared.”

With Red Flag held multiple times a year at Nellis, each exercise is different than its predecessor to ensure the U.S., its allies, and coalition partners are prepared to combat adversaries anytime, anywhere in the world.

“The training here is specifically tailored to simulate the deployed environment and to teach units repetition in scenarios they may encounter during their deployments,” Seal continued. “Red Flag takes inputs from individual units on direct learning objectives they would like to achieve and they provide a scenario for the units to be tested.”

Red Flag’s continued success can be attributed to the partnerships that are not only happening between the different U.S. units, but through the allies and other nations to ensure success of future conflicts.

“I think this training is great for many different crews to come together and practice how we employ our capabilities and support the bigger Air Force,” added Tech. Sgt. Marcus Hudson, chief boom operator for the RFTTF and 50th ARS boom operator. “We are in a controlled environment that allows us to practice techniques, tactics and procedures, and meet up afterwards to discuss what went right and what we can improve on.”

Red Flag was established in 1975 as the brain child of Col. Richard “Moody” Suter and one of the initiatives directed by Gen. Robert J. Dixon, then commander of Tactical Air Command, to better prepare our forces for combat. Lessons from Vietnam showed that if a pilot survived his first 10 combat missions, his probability of survival for remaining missions increased substantially. Red Flag was designed to expose each pilot to his first 10 simulated combat missions here at Nellis, allowing them to be more confident and effective in actual combat.

This same principle continues to guide Red Flag today, with the goal of preparing Air Force, joint, and coalition pilots, aircrew and operators to fight against a peer-level adversary in any combat environment.