Red Flag: RAF Training for War in Europe
Exercise Red Flag 2019 Sees RAF Combat and ISTAR Aircraft Training for War
Personnel and aircraft from across the Royal Air Force have started to leave the UK for Exercise Red Flag, the most challenging warfighting exercise of the year.
Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth, Sentry and Rivet Joint from RAF Waddington, and personnel from units stationed across the country will train at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada alongside counterparts from across the US Armed Forces and the Royal Australian Air Force.
The RAF’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance Force (ISTAR) is deploying a Sentinel R1 from V(AC), an RC-135 Rivet Joint from 51 Squadron and Sentry AEW 1 (E-3D) from 8 Squadron. Each provides a complementary capability and for the first time on exercise will operate with No. 1 Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing.
Red Flag: Training for a European War
With a scenario designed to replicate the issues NATO faces today in the European Theatre, and which will become increasingly complex and challenging over its three-week duration, the exercise provides an unrivalled level of training.
“The unique capability which 51 Squadron offers has seen us very busy of late on operations. Red Flag affords us the ability not only to participate in the best air combat exercise in the world but also to do so with other complimentary RAF ISTAR platforms in an exercise scenario representative of the issues NATO and Europe face today. It’s a great opportunity which we are very much looking forward to.”
Wing Commander Phil McConnell
Officer Commanding 51 Squadron
Based at RAF Waddington, 51 Squadron is the RAF’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance fleet. Developed from the 1960s as a specialist in collecting electronic intelligence, previously flying Whitley II, Lincoln, Canberra B2 and Nimrod R1 aircraft. 51 Squadron is currently providing key support to Coalition efforts on Operation SHADER against the Islamic State.
The E-3D Sentry AEW Mk 1 is an airborne early warning (AEW) and command and control aircraft, or AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System). 8 Squadron will be flying the E-3D Sentry on Exercise Red Flag.
RC-135W Rivet Joint is a dedicated electronic surveillance aircraft that can be employed in all theatres on strategic and tactical missions. No. 51 Squadron took delivery of the UK’s first Rivet Joint on 12 November 2013, operating its maiden operational sortie on May 23, 2014. The second aircraft arrived in August 2015 and the third on 8 June 2017. For the purposes of sensor and system upgrades, the trio are considered an extension of the USAF Rivet Joint fleet, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of capability. Rivet Joint has been deployed extensively on Operation SHADER and other operations.
Air Battlespace Training Centre (ABTC) Preps for Red Flag
Prior to deployment of the Air Battlespace Training Centre (ABTC) at RAF Waddington provided dedicated work-up training for both the ISTAR Force and Battlespace Management Force.
The synthetic training delivered by the ABTC was aimed at preparing 8 Squadron and BM Force personnel for deployment on the foremost coalition air power exercise in the world. A full synthetic replica of the Nellis Tactics and Training Range was created at Waddington. Focusing on the air command and control capability provided by the E-3D and BM Force, the ABTC put personnel through the paces across a range of missions likely to be encountered on the exercise.
An Air Warfare Centre unit, the ABTC specialises in the provision of the synthetic team and collective training, enabled by a professional White Force (WF), comprised of current military and Inzpire contracted subject matter experts, across the range of air power roles.
Wing Commander Mark Rendall is Officer Commanding ABTC. He said:
“The ABTC is an invaluable tool for mission crew preparation and training. The experienced White Force generate rich scenarios which are highly-immersive.
“The safe training environment allows, in this particular instance, mission crews to hit Ex-Red Flag at pace. This will enable better learning and higher levels of enjoyment, but more importantly, it will effect better force generation outcomes.”
Exercise Red Flag begins 28 January.
Image: an RAF Typhoon – RAF Typhoons will be taking part in Exercise Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada (Crown Copyright, 2018).