News story

Royal Air Force playing major role in world's premier air combat exercise

The world's premier air combat exercise is underway in Nevada, USA, with the Royal Air Force training alongside US and Australian counterparts.

RAF Personnel at Exercise Red Flag 2017.
RAF personnel from numerous RAF Stations back in the UK are at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada USA for Exercise RED FLAG 2017.

Based at Nellis Air Force Base, Exercise Red Flag pits ‘Blue’ coalition forces against hostile ‘Red Force’ aggressors, mirroring real-life threats in air-to-air, air-to-ground, space and cyber warfare.

Red Flag’s live element takes place over the US Air Force’s premier military training area in Nevada; over 15,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land – an impossible scale to achieve in Europe.

Speaking about the Exercise, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

The RAF is playing a major role alongside our greatest ally in the world’s leading aerial combat training exercise.

Britain’s pilots and aircrews will receive unparalleled training and an opportunity to sharpen the combat skills they are demonstrating every day in the fight against Daesh.

Training alongside two of our greatest allies in America and Australia shows how the UK is stepping up internationally, ensuring maximum interoperability with our partners, and in doing so helping keep Britain safer and more secure.

Typhoon jets, from 6 Squadron, RAF Lossiemouth, are operating in a swing-role capacity, fighting their way into hostile airspace, launching precision strikes on ground targets and fighting their way out again.

Typhoon jet on Exercise Red Flag 2017.
Typhoons taking on fuel from a RAF Voyager tanker during Exercie Red Flag.

Working with the US Air Force (USAF) F-35A Lightning II for the first time, and with USAF F-22 Raptors; the exercise has been a hugely rewarding exposure to 5th Generation aircraft for RAF crews ahead of the F-35B’s introduction into the RAF’s combat inventory in 2018.

US Air Force aircraft, F35A Lightning II.
US Air Force aircraft on take of at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada USA during Exercise RED FLAG, 2017.

This is also the first time the RAF’s Voyager is taking part in the exercise. The Voyager is providing key air-to-air refuelling capability during the exercise, while a Sentinel and Rivet Joint are gathering intelligence and other mission-critical information.

Speaking from the exercise, Group Captain Graham Pemberton, RAF Detachment Commander said:

Red Flag replicates truly challenging, high-end warfare, from realistic aerial combat to emerging cyber and space threats. It’s as close as we can get to the real thing.

Testing ourselves against highly capable enemy aggressors is hugely beneficial and improves and readies our personnel, from pilots to those in crucial support roles, for real world operations.

It’s a privilege for us to work with our US Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force counterparts and to cement our relationships with them at an exercise of this scale.

The exercise will run until early February and marks the start of three months of RAF Typhoon activity in the USA.

Published 27 January 2017