Air Combat Training: Red Flag-Alaska 15-2

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nathan Wallin
  • 113th Wing Public Affairs
"It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of reward as well."

That's how Col. Mark Valentine described Red Flag-Alaska, a two-week combat air power exercise hosted by Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Valentine, the 113th Wing operations group commander, is deployed here with several others from the D.C. Air National Guard to participate in the joint exercise.

"I like the tempo," said Staff Sgt. Burney Williams, a crew chief with the 113th Maintenance Group. "We fly more jets and the timeframe is quicker."

Inaugurated in 1976 and originally named "Cope Thunder," RF-A takes place in the Joint Pacific Range Complex, an airspace military flight training range totaling 67,000 square miles, a portion of land larger than the state of Florida.

RF-A training mimics a variety of air combat scenarios and puts pilots into stressful and realistic conditions involving a range of combat threats.

"They're robust scenarios with hundreds of airplanes involved," said Valentine.

Studies show that a pilot's first 10 combat missions are the most perilous. The stated goal of RF-A is to "provide each aircrew with these first vital missions, increasing their chances of survival in combat.

113th Wing  pilot, Maj. Wyck Furcron, points to the realism of the RF-A training.

"It's the most realistic thing you're going to see in relation to actual combat," he said. "You experience things (at RF-A) you're not ever going to experience until you get to actual combat."

RF-A is a Total Force and international endeavor. Pairing Air National Guardsmen with Air Force Reservists, the active duty Air Force and Canadian aviators, participants have the opportunity to learn from one another, share solutions, tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Furcron highlights the importance of training with other military personnel.

"You get to see how other units run their tactics in relation to yours," he said. "It's probably the most beneficial thing we do in the exercise."

"It's important that the 113th participates in Red Flag because we're a combat unit and that's what Red Flag is designed to do," said Valentine.