Red Flag Alaska started at Clark AB, Philippines in 1976. Upon its closure this Air Exercise has moved to Eielson AFB, Alaska and renamed Cope Thunder. In 2006 it was again renamed, this time Red Flag Alaska (RFA) which still stands today. This multi-service and multinational exercise has hosted various USAF units from the US Navy, US Marines and International Air Forces like Japan, Korea, Singapore, India and our NATO allies.
RFA 16-3 was the last exercise at Eielson AFB for fiscal year 2016. It was held from Aug 4th to Aug 19th. . Compared to the Red Flag Exercises held at Nellis AFB, NV, this was smaller and comprised of about 80+ combat and supporting aircraft as well as hundreds of participants to include the local 18th Aggressor Squadron, pilots, service members and aircraft from 13th FW, Misawa Air Base, 35th FS, Kunsan AB, 336th FS, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, 409th TFS, Royal Canadian Air Force 409th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cold Lake, Canada, MacDill AFB, the local 168th Air Refueling Squadron, VAQ-135, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Schriever AFB, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
According to Major Riley (353 CTS), RFA provides participating units with threat scenarios that could sharpen their combat skills by flying simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment. RFA also provides much larger training areas and ranges that dwarfs other bases. 67,000 sq. miles of training area that is five times the size of Nellis AFB training area.
Unit Specific reports for RFA-16-3
18th Aggressor Squadron
Flying the F-16 Block 30, the 18th Aggressors are the “red force”. Their aircraft are painted in our “Opposing forces” camouflage colors. We spotted three different kinds of camouflage schemes; namely the Arctic, Blue Flanker and Lizard schemes. Major Riley (353 CTS) mentioned that RFA is unique whereby all aggressors are flown by local 18th Aggressor Squadron pilots compared to Red Flag , Nellis where some “red force” threats use Civilian contractors like Draken International or ATAC. The 18th Aggressors also employ advanced jamming on the F-16 to replicate more realistic threat environments for our RFA participants. RFA 16-3 also introduced localized GPS signal jamming from 427th SAS.
( I have included list of Aircrafts by Serial or Bu number photograph during the Exercise)
|86-282||Blue Grey Blue|
|86-293||Blue Grey Blue|
|86-351||Blue Grey Blue|
|86-335||Blue 354th OG|
35th Fighter Squadron, Kunsan AB Pantons
Pantons carried the famous Wolfpack Emblem on the F-16C Blk 40 tail with a blue tail fin. According to Capt Mayfield (35th FS) most of their missions lie on strike and air-to-ground like what they will do in Korea, while they also engage in some DCA ( Air to air engagement). During our visit to the base we saw the 35th FS launching with full Air to ground packages like GBU-24, GBU-12, JDAM and other air to ground ordnance. Some were launching in Air to air packages with AIM-120 and AIM9x.
13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa AB (Panthers)
They are part of the 35th Fighter Wing which houses both the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons. Both units fly the F-16C Block 50 with the CCIP which started back in 1998. The CCIP configuration includes the following systems: Modular Mission Computer, Color Multifunction Display Set, Common Data Entry Electronics Unit, Electronic Horizontal Situation Indicator, Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), Link 16 Multifunction Information Distribution System (MIDS), and Low Volume Terminal with TACAN. The Panthers sport the red tail stripe while we did catch a single 14th FS (Samurais) having the yellow striped tail . Most aircraft launched were of SEAD( Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) and DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defense) load-outs. We also spotted some of the F-16s in full air-to-air, or DCA load-outs .
|WW 13th FS Panthers|
|91-346||yellow band Samurais|
336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson AFB (Rocketeers)
Rocketeers fly the F-15E Strike Eagle affectionately known by the aviators as “Mud hens”.
336th FS flies the F-15E equipped with LANTIRN pod , Sniper XR pod and the ASQ-236 radar pod. Some aircraft from their sister squadron 335th FS Chiefs were spotted with no colored tail stripes while the Rocketeers have the yellow stripes. The F-15Es assigned to both of these units are equipped with P&W F-100 220 engines.
|F15E 336th FS|
|89-471||chief no tail|
|87-76||chief no tail|
|89-488||336th FS yellow|
409th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Cold Lake AB, Canada.
The Canadian Air Force participated in this Red flag with 8 CF-188. The CF-188 uses F-18A and F-18B airframes but have been heavily upgraded to C+ configuration. These aircraft were mounted with a Sniper XR pod on the port side which greatly enhances the weapon delivery capability on strike missions. According to LTC William Radiff (CO 409th TFS), their mission is multirole on both Strike and DCA air to air missions. The objective is to better coordinate with Canada’s allies like USAF and other NATO assets and train Canadian pilots on handling larger force structured exercise.
|749-188749||A model 410 sqdrn|
VAQ-135 Black Ravens , NAS Whibely Island
The US Navy participated with 4x EA-18G Growler supporting and training SEAD and DEAD missions. The US Navy transitioned from the EA-6B Prowler over to the Growler which increased the capability of the Navy’s Electronic warfare and SEAD missions. EA-18G’s carried the unique ALQ-99 and ALQ-218 jamming pods for as part of the electronic warfare package. These combinations form a full spectrum electronic warfare suite that is able to provide detection and jamming against all known surface-to-air threats.
KC-135 Tanker 927 ARS, 168 ARS.
All fighter jets cannot function without the proper support of tankers. These are the KC-135 doing the behind the scenes work of the flying “Texaco”
210 RQS Air Force Rescue.
Flying the HH-60 pave hawk helicopter rescuing down crew in combat.
The Men and women behind the scenes making these machines combat ready are the re-fueler, crew chiefs, weapon loaders, maintainers and the little people that are sometimes forgotten. Our tribute to their hard work and dedication to keep our country free.
I would like to thank the 354th FW/Public Affairs Office for extending their great hospitality to Airwingspotter. The exposure and amount of coverage they allowed us was second to none. A very special thank you to Master Sgt Karen Tomasik for hosting this event both on the runways and the interview panel and for accommodating us photographers in getting the best picture possible.
CPT Zani Elias
LT Luke Nimmo
Staff Sgt Ashley Taylor
Master Sgt. Karen Tomasik
We would like to thank the following units participated in the Media Day Interview panel
Sr Airman Wall 35th ARW/80 MRS
1LT Moron 336th FS
CPT Eden 336th FS
LTC Radiff 409 TFS
CPT Mayfield 35th FS
Ssgt Huls 93 ARS
LT Trimble 93 ARS
CPT Davis 93 ARS
MAJ Riley 353 CTS
MAJ Harrigan 527 SAS
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