A New Kind of Red Flag

Instead of the traditional two-week Red Flag, the Air Force’s premier combat training exercise hosted at Nellis AFB, Nev., several times a year, Red Flag 09-3, which starts today, will extend an additional week as the US Air Force Air Warfare Center tests whether its feasible and effective to focus some training on close air support and combat search and rescue training. Today’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has placed new emphasis on airpower support to ground forces, including “sometimes dropping weapons within a few hundred feet of friendly troops,” explained Maj. Keith Lowman, Red Flag 09-3 team chief. He said, “The additional training will better prepare our airmen for combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other locations around the world.” Participating aircraft include USAF F-22, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter and attack aircraft and Navy F-18 fighters, as well as British F-3 Tornados and Australian F-111s. Supporting the fighter force will be a variety of CSAR, command and control, and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance platforms and aerial refuelers. (Aircraft list as of Feb. 20) (Nellis report by Mike Estrada)