Red Flag 15-3 held in Nellis AFB from July 13 to 31. This Exercise, we have 2 US Marine units participated namely VMFA-115 Silver Eagles and VMAQ-4 Seahawks. 15-3 was a unique Red Flag since its an all ” American” exercise with no International participants.
VMFA-115 is a legacy hornet squadrons base in MCAS Beaufort SC. Officially nicknamed the “Silver Eagles” and on occasion Joe’s Jokers after their first commanding officer Major Joe Foss ( WW2 Marine Ace pilot flying Wildcats in Guadalcanal campaign. ) Call Sign ” Blade ” Silver Eagles flies the updated F-18A+ and F-18A++.
F-18A+ involved fitting of improved processors and cockpit displays; GPS navigation capability; support for modern targeting pods ( Lightening, such as the Northrop Grumman / Rafael Litening AT pod; and support for AMRAAM. Major changes come from the new AN/APG-73 radar. The Marine upgrade also added an AN/ARC-111 CIT advanced IFF system. The F-18A++ have implemented a second-phase upgrade program for their F/A-18A/Bs, which features addition of AN/ALE-47 chaff-flare dispensers; the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) to support the new AIM-9X off-boresight Sidewinder AAM; improved cockpit displays with a digital map display system; and the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS / Link 16) datalink. Link 16 permits sharing data between aircraft and other platforms, and provides two secure voice channels as well.
Silver Eagles showed up with the following air-crafts.
F-18A++ VE VMFA-115 200/163167
F-18A++ VE VMFA-115 201/163168
F-18A++ VE VMFA-115 203/163161
F-18A++ VE VMFA-115 204/163171
F-18A++ VE VMFA-115 206/162431
F-18A++ VE VMFA-115 211/163169
F-18A++ VE VMFA-115 212/163142
On the 3 day observation, we see the F-18A+ and A++ carrying Air to air and air to ground loading. Typical setup were 2 AIM9x with 2 gas bags and Litening pod. Air to ground setup have also been spotted with 2 gas bags, targeting pod and mixed of GBU-58 and Mk 82 bombs.
Here are some of the Air actions of VMFA-115 in this Exercise
Action Videos can be seen here with VMFA-115 on the hot ramp and runway