Red Flag 17-2… Alaska Style

Red Flag Alaska 17-2 Detail Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Flag 17-2 was conducted from June 8th to 23rd 2017 involving approximately 1,700 personnel and more than 100 aircrafts from the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Denmark, Thailand and other nations. The table below breakdown all the participating units, aircraft types and home base in both Eielson AFB and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER)

Red Flag 17-2 Participating Units

Units Base Aircraft Type
18th Aggressors ( Blue Foxes) Eielson AFB 12x F-16C Blk 30
14th FS (Samurais) Misawa AB, Japan 15x F-16CJ Blk 50
36th FS ( Flying Fiends ) Osan AB, Korea 12x F-16CJ Blk 40
25th FS ( Assam Draggins) Osan AB, Korea 12x A-10C
107th FS ( Red Devils ) Selfridges ANGB 12x A-10C
20th Fighter Wing ( ROKAF) Seosan AB, Korea 6x KF-16D
201st Tactical Fighter Squadron ( JASDF) Chitose AB, Japan 6x F-15MJ
JASDF Aerial Refueling Unit Japan 2x KC-767
TTF AMC Lead 6x KC-135R
168th ARS Eielson AFB 1 KC135R
210 RQS 1x HH-60
116/3 ASOS JTAC
Denmark JTAC
962 AACS JBER 1X E-3
961 AACS Kadena AB 1x E-3
517/249 AS JBER 2x C-17
204 AS Hickam AFB 1x C-17
JASDF Japan 3x C-130H
JASDF Japan 1x E767
RTAF Thailand 1x C-130H
VMFA-251 (Tbolts) MCAS Beaufort 10x F/A-18C

Deployment

Airwingspotter was fortunate to have coverage of the deployment of 25th FS A-10C units from OSAN AB, Korea to Yokota AB, Japan and then to Eielson AFB, AK. According to our sources, The Korean Air Force KF-16D, 36th FS also made the same route while deploying to Red Flag Alaska 17-2. According to CPT Sean Knowles of 25th FS, the A-10C took about 11 hours and numerous air refueling to ferry all the 12x A-10C to Eielson AFB.  These deployment involves KC-135R and KC-10 refueling tankers. As we can see from the pictures, the A-10C was fitted with 2x 600 gallon external fuel tanks and MXU-648 baggage pod that we don’t get to see very often unless they’re on ferry flights. All pictures were taken in Yokota AB, Japan.

Fighter Squadrons

18th Aggressors

The 18th Aggressor Fighter Squadron base in Eielson AFB also known as the Blue Foxes. The 18th Aggressors take the role of “Red Air” as an aggressor asset employ the flying styles, doctrine and tactics of the enemy air forces in order to train our pilots and allies to fight with realistic opposition. Currently, they fly the F-16C Blk 30 which are painted in Eastern bloc style camouflage patterns and Bord numbers. These aircraft have brought a lot of interest to the aviation community due to their colorful camouflage patterns. They come in different schemes like the Arctic, Lizard, Blue Flanker and the newly painted Arctic Splinter scheme (only 2 jets are painted in this scheme).

Arctic Splinter Scheme

This year we have also observed several jets with the AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pod mounted, and according to CPT Robert Glenn of the 18th Aggressor squadron, he indicated that the Sniper pod gives the 18th Aggressors a much more robust and real world threat to our training units.

13th Fighter Squadron and 14th Fighter Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

 

35th Fighter Wing is part of the Pacific Air Force’s (PACAF) 5th Air force base in Misawa AB, Japan. They wear the WW (Wild Weasel) tail code and consists of the 13th FS (Black Panthers) and the 14th FS (Samurais) wearing Red and Yellow tail fin flashes respectively.  Both squadrons fly the Lockheed Martin F-16CJ Blk 50.   Carrying on the heritage of “Wild Weasel” they specialize in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) and Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (DEAD) missions.  Typical loadout found on these late bloc F-16 includes the Sniper targeting pod, AN/ASQ-213 Harm targeting systems (HTS) and AGM-88 Anti-radiation missiles, ALQ 184 or 131 ECM pod  For this particular exercise, the 14th FS was the participating unit, however, both 13th FS and 14th FS jets were being flown in the Exercise.

14th FS started as the 14th Reconnaissance Squadron back in Colorado Springs flying P-51 and Spitfire back in 1942 and was deactivated after WW2.   In 1966, the unit was being reactivated in Bergstrom AFB, TX flying the RF-4C Phantom II doing reconnaissance missions. 14th Reconnaissance Squadron serve proudly in the Vietnam War era until 1987 when the unit is activated in Misawa, Japan flying the new F-16 fighter. Her unit was renamed 14th Tactical Fighter nicknamed the “Fightin’ Samurai” for their warrior spirit, the unit became the 14th Fighter Squadron in late 1991 wearing the WW “ Wild Weasel” tail code specializing on SEAD and DEAD missions.

 

36th Fighter Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

 

36th FS is part of the 51st Operational Group based in Osan Airbase, Korea. The unit’s nick name is known as “Flying Fiends” and a unique squadron motto of “Check Six! Harrumph!”.  36th FS flew the F-16C Blk 40 and recent upgrades have expanded their traditional role of Air to Air and Air to ground missions to SEAD and DEAD operations.  In this Exercise we have observed a loaner F-16C from 4th FS “Fightin’ Fuujins” carrying the HL tail code from Hill AFB.

Fairchild A-10C

 

 

 

 

 

The Mighty Warthog A-10 gets a major facelift in 2005 putting all Hogs into the C model configuration. The 360 million dollars upgrades includes:

  • Hands on the stick and throttle HOTAS controls of weapons
  • Targeting pod ( Sniper XR and Lightening II )
  • Battlefield Datalink
  • Precision Engagement package include JDAM, other smart weapon delivery systems
  • Cockpit Enhancements
  • Engine Enhancements
  • Full Mission Trainer ( FMT) high fidelity flight simulator with 360 degree full field of vision displays for the A-10 community
  • Thales SCorpion®Helmet Mounted Cueing System

Visual external differences of the A-10C

The Addition of targeting pods like the Lightening II or Sniper XR targeting pod, either mounted onto stations 2/10 or 3/9. A significant A-10C improvement is the ability to carry this pod also on stations 2 and 10, thus once again freeing up stations 3 and 9 for the AGM-65 Maverick Missile.

The A-10C also receive a new “glass” cockpit. Two large 5 x 5 inch MFCDs (Multi-Function Color Displays) are installed either side of the primary flight instruments and the original Armament Control Panel has given way to a new design. As we can see from the picture below

A-10C Cockpit. Photo by Ben Bloker / Stars and Stripes

 

The A-10C also added a couple of Antennas that is visible from the external view of the aircraft.

25th Fighter Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RFA-17-2 was “Hog” heavy since two full squadrons of 24x A-10C participated in this exercise. 25th FS is part of the 51st Operations Group base at Osan Air Base, Korea known as the “Assam Draggins”. They got this name from basing in Assam, India flying escort missions in World War 2 protecting our transports over the Himalayan Mountain. 25th FS have a very unique motto “PILSUNG!” meaning certain victory, gratitude, as a greeting or salutation in Korean. It is customary/mandatory that any time the number 25 ( Unit’s designation)  or any variation of 25 (2.5, .25, etc.) is said within the squadron, every person assigned to the 25th will shout a hearty “PILSUNG!” under any circumstance, regardless of who said it or who was briefing. Within the Draggins, finding ways to insert the squadron’s numbers into normal conversation is considered a demonstration of keen intelligence and wit. Innocent bystanders or outsiders may find this tradition amusing or obnoxious. The “Pil Sung!” war cry is also a powerful component of esprit de corps, and serves to connect members of the 25th Fighter Squadron The 25th FS utilizes the unique capabilities of the A-10C to provide Close Air Support (CAS), Forward Air Control (FAC), strike and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) for the various forces on the Korean peninsula.

107th Fighter Squadron (Michigan Air National Guard)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

107th Fighter Squadron (107 FS) is a unit of the Michigan Air National Guard 127th Wing. It based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, MI currently flying the A-10C and is known as “red devils”. It is not common to see National Guard unit participating in Red Flag and especially up north in Alaska.  They do fly similar missions as the 25th FS providing CAS, FAC and CSAR missions. For this exercise we saw A-10C loadouts to be 2x AIM-9M  AAM, 1x AN/ALQ-184 ECM pod, AN/AAQ-28 Lightening II targeting pod, LAU-10 rocket pod, AGM-65, Mk82 bombs.

201st Tactical Fighter Squadron (201st Hiko-tai)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

201 Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS)of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) was originally founded in 1963, as the first F-104J fighter squadron base at Chitose Air Base. As the F-4EJ Phantom was introduced to JASDF, 201FS was disbanded in 1974, due to the reorganization of fighter squadrons. 201FS was reactivated in 1986 as the F-15J/DJ fighter squadron, in Chitose Air Base once again, to defend Japanese air space from Soviet Air Force during the peak of cold war. Together with 203FS (also operates F-15J/DJ Eagle) 201FS kept defending the northern airspace for over 30 years.

F-15MJ (Modernized J-variant) Modernization of F-15J started in 1997, this program was to counter the threat growing threat in the area of operations. Japanese F-15s comprised of two categories – F-15Js with MSIP updates and without MPIS updates (aircraft purchased before 1985). JASDF decided to apply modernization only to F-15J/DJs with MSIP updates. F-15J/DJ’s modernization has been conducted in two-phases. Phase-1 update covers the update of fire-control radar, central computer, generator and cooling system. Phase-2 update covers the update for new AAM (AAM-4/5 capability), support for head-mounted display (JHMDS), electric-warfare system (IEWS), counter-jamming radio, data-link update, newer ejection seat, etc. Once the modernization complete, four F-15J/DJ squadrons will equip with modernized version of F-15s in the future. First F-15J with modernization update (Phase-1) were delivered to JASDF in 2007. Phase-2 updated F-15J/DJs are started to deliver to squadron since 2014, and Phase-1 updated aircraft will also receive Phase-2 upgrade during the IRAN in MHI(Komaki).

There were some proposal of the F-15MJ programs however, some of the newer changes have been a different IRST sensor that probably be similar to the USAF F-15C Haste pod, AESA radar types and off the shelf modernized equipment for the F-15MJ.

20th Fighter Wing (ROKAF)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) started their F-16 program from the Peace Bridge I, II and III program that put Korea as one of the producer of the F-16C Blk 52 or locally known as the KF-16. Peace Bridge 1 got 36 F-16C Blk 32.  While Peace Bridge II, 120 F-16 was ordered however, under the terms of the agreement, Lockheed Fort Worth will manufacture the first 12 aircraft, the next 36 will be delivered in kit form and assembled in South Korea, whereas the last 72 will be built in South Korea by Samsung Aerospace.. Peace Bridge III calls for another 36 F-16 being ordered.

KF-16 is equipped with the Standard C/D Blk 52 equipment and unique to the Korean F-16 is equipped with the AN/ALQ-165 Airborne Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ) and the ALR-56M radar warning receiver and the ALE-47 chaff/flare dispenser. For RFA 17-2, all fighters that participated were KF-16D 2 seater variant. All aircrafts involved carried the AN/ALQ-200K ECM pod on the centerline with Sniper XR targeting pod on the starboard aft. In December of 2013 the Korean government signed a contract with BAE to upgrade 134 of its F-16 fighters on a comprehensive package of Raytheon RACR AESA radar, Link 16 datalink, JHMS helmet mounted sight and weapon system update. Unfortunately the program came to a halt due to some highly publicized scrutiny which lands Lockheed Martin as the new provider to ROKAF upgrade program. The new APG-83 SABR AESA from Northrop is chosen for this upgrade.

For Red Flag 17-2, ROKAF sent 6x KF-16D from the 20th Fighter Wing base at Seosan Airbase. This air wing consists of 4 active squadrons namely 120th, 121st, 123rd and 157th FS all flying the KF-16C and KF-16D of the Blk 52 variant.  At the Exercise we also caught an KF-16 arm with the GBU-12 Laser guided bomb.

Human Factors

We would like to acknowledge the supporting units and the hard working crewman, crew chiefs and supporting crews that make this complex Red Flag Exercise a reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank 354 FW Public Affair Office CPT Luke Nimo, Lt Kitsana Dounglomchan, Airman Eric Fischer for making this Media day a reality. Thank you all for providing such professionalism and hospitality on our visit.

Furthermore, I would like to thank CPT Kyle Mosses ( 36th FS), CPT Sean Knowles (25th FS), CPT Robert Glenn (18th Aggressors FS), Major Minkyu Baek( 20th FW) for answering Q and A in the interview panel.  And a privilege to work with LT Leon ( PAO ROKAF) and allowing us to visit your unit in the Exercise.

I would like to also thank Mr. Atsu Tayake for providing me information of the Japanese 201st TFW and especially the Japanese F-15MJ upgrade program.

Finally, a special thanks to Mr. Bill Havel my Assistant Editor to Airwingspotter.com on helping me getting this article in place and on time.

Article by Dave Chng

Photograph and Video by

Dave Chng, Chin Lee, Tom Lee, Scott Harris

References:

“APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) AESA for the F-16.” Northrop Grumman. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 July 2017.

Pike, John. “Military.” KF-16 Korea Fighter Program [KFP]. Global Security.org, n.d. Web. 02 July 2017.

“F-16 Fighting Falcon News.” Pentagon Approves BAE’s KF-16 Upgrades for South Korea. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 July 2017.

“South Korea.” F-16 Air Forces – South Korea. F16.net, n.d. Web. 02 July 2017.

Additional Bonus Pictures

Video Segments of Red flag 17-2 showing the sight and sound ( minus the smell) of this Exercise.