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Red Flag: A month of global defence cooperation

The addition of a long range sensor in the F/A-18 aircraft would ensure longer service life for operators."

Just recently, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) announced that 14 aircraft had been sent across the Pacific to attend Exercise Red Flag in the United States, held at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Running from January 19 to February 13, this event is designed to allow air force crews - including pilots, commanders and engineers - the opportunity to hone their skills and practice working together as a team. Importantly, Red Flag also brings together a number of air force groups from different allied countries, meaning there's ample time to hone formation flying and strike patterns.

Exercise Red Flag is one of the most prominent air force exercises, having a long history. Given the volatile nature of many areas of the globe, the exercise will likely continue to prove useful for both Australia and the other participating countries.

Why Exercise Red Flag is so important

As of this moment, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has personnel, vehicles and equipment spread across the Middle East, regional waters, the Sudan and the Southern Indian Ocean. In the Middle East alone, Australia has more than 1,600 individuals placed to conduct a number of important operations in support of allied countries.

Such massive deployments require Australian aircraft on station throughout many parts of the year, whether strike aircraft, reconnaissance jets or even transport planes. While ground personnel can quite easily conduct training sessions to drill possible scenarios, what can these air crews do?

The answer lies with exercises like Red Flag.

For the event this year, the RAAF sent 6 F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft, 6 F/A-18 A/B Hornet aircraft, an E7A Wedgetail AEW&C and one AP-3C Orion. To provide surveillance and monitoring capabilities, the RAAF also allocated a contingent of Air Battle Management individuals.

Officer Commanding No. 81 Wing and Exercise Director, Group Captain Phil Gordon, explained that Red Flag is important for the Air Force and personnel. He outlined the nature of the event, demonstrating how the various air combat scenarios test air and ground crews to an extremely high level. In effect, it's the chance to put years of training and drilling into practice alongside other crews from across the globe.

Red Flag is quite different from other training exercises, especially those the RAAF is able to conduct at home. For example, there are both day and night missions held over the course of the event, which serve as realistic representations of the modern combat space.

There are simulated surface-to-air missile attacks, simulated aggressor aircraft and even electronic warfare attacks.

Interestingly, certain crews from Australia are bringing no small amount of experience to Red Flag this year, having been involved in real operations in the skies over Afghanistan.

The history of Exercise Red Flag

This exercise has been around for some time, having been established in 1975, according to Nellis Air Force Base. US General Robert J. Dixon founded the event in order to ensure the combat readiness of armed forces. Since then, it has grown significantly to cover air, ground, space and electronic training. There's also now an open exchange of ideas and strategies, something that can prove especially useful in preparing forces for combat.

As part of the exercise, two groups form up to act as the two sides in a conflict. Firstly, there are the "Blue" forces, forming under the Air Expeditionary Force concept. The crews here conduct specific missions including close air support and defensive counter air.

The "Red" forces, on the other hand, act as the aggressors, aligning under the 57th Adversary Tactics Group. This group replicates the tactics of potential adversaries, providing a simulated threat for the "Blue" group.

Since formation in 1975, 28 countries have come together to join the US as part of Red Flag. The event has provided training for more than 440,000 personnel, with over 660,000 hours of flying time.

Year after year

Exercise Red Flag is one of the most useful events for the RAAF and air forces across the globe. Certainly, it helps to foster collaboration and communication among combat and support wings that usually wouldn't communicate. Eventually, when it's time to deploy as part of a real operation, crews have drilled how to best approach different scenarios.

Interconnect Systems has a comprehensive background in aerospace and defence engineering, being an industry leader for more than 20 years. It provides electrical interconnect products and solutions, including cable and wire harness manufacture. For more information on the backshells and cable harness solutions, contact Interconnect Systems today on 1800 812 214 FREE.

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