180th Fighter Wing to Participate in Red Flag
By Airman Hope Geiger, 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard
/ Published August 10, 2017
180TH FIGHTER WING, Ohio -- 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard is scheduled to participate in Red Flag, an advanced aerial combat exercise in August at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
“Red Flag is an exercise that allows the pilots to experience their first couple simulated combat missions,” said Capt. Justin Guinther, an F-16 Fighting Falcon Pilot for the 180FW. “It’s a large force exercise that incorporates different air frames and career fields into one exercise, which lets us all work together to figure out what a real war scenario would be like.”
The exercise is a requirement for the 180FW before the Theater Security Package to Europe next year.
“It lets us exercise the whole system,” said Lt. Col. Evans Boeve, an F-16 pilot for the 180FW and Red Flag project officer. “How we pack up, making sure when we get to someplace very far away we have everything we need, and how to start protecting the country we are in or departing from that country to attack.”
This exercise recreates a combat situation as realistically as possible, in order for personnel to get experience before going into real combat.
“Rather than putting a new pilot into combat and hoping they’ve got enough experience and are able to survive, we try to recreate that environment in training,” Boeve said. “The pilots can figure out how combat works, so when they do go into combat they have more experience.”
The exercise is two weeks long, consisting of 10 days of flying where the 180FW will get to work alongside Saudi Arabia, Singapore, North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, multiple countries represented in the Airborne Warning and Control System platform and normal contingents of United States Forces.
“We do not want to do everything ourselves in every major battle and conflict we are involved with,” said Boeve. “We need allies. The 180FW wouldn’t typically integrate with allied countries unless we had training like Red Flag.”
“At training, we will spend entire days, about eight to 12 hours, mission planning,” said Boeve. “We figure out our game plan for each mission, when we are going to start, how the timing is going to work, making sure good guys don’t run into other good guys and how we are going to survive.”
These specific missions include air interdiction, combat search and rescue, close air support, dynamic targeting and defensive counter air. Deployed personnel use various tactics to attack the Nevada Test and Training Range targets such as mock airfields, vehicle convoys, tanks, parked aircraft, bunkered defensive positions and missile sites.
“We will be going against Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) on the ground that are not actually shooting missiles at us but they have their radar work like they do,” Boeve said. “We’ll be integrating with other forces to keep us safe against red air, or the bad guys. We fight our way in, survive against all the SAMs that are trying to shoot us while we try to bomb targets and potentially try to fight our way back out.”
The 180FW will be dropping live ordinances during a couple of days during the exercise.
“We will have real bombs that really explode, dropping on real targets which isn’t something we can do a whole lot at the 180FW,” said Boeve. “We cannot load live bombs because we are at an international airport and not an Air Force Base, so just going to this exercise gives us that opportunity.”
Pilots are not the only personnel to get practice during this exercise.
“We will have our whole system from when our ammo personnel builds a bomb and then the weapons personnel get them loaded up on the jet,” Boeve said. “They have to be able to do that in a quick, timely manner.”
Not only dropping bombs, this exercise will allow personnel to get involved in missions that are unique to what they would normally train to.
“We will practice personnel recovery,” said Boeve. "For this particular scenario there is a downed aircrew that maybe someone ejected out of an aircraft, got shot down or had an engine failure in enemy territory. The mission then becomes getting all the recovery assets to effectively pull that person out of enemy territory and get them back to base.”
The pilots will also practice a Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance, or SCAR, mission.
“Rather than starting the plan with known targets we want to go destroy a known enemy capability that we are trying to degrade, we are going on a hunting mission,” Boeve said. “A lot of times this scenario revolves around a scud missile. We know the enemy has a scud missile, they’ve been threatening to launch it, it’s mobile, and we have to find it and make sure it’s the bad thing we think it is before we destroy it to avoid killing innocent people.”
The 180FW trains in realistic environments, under realistic circumstances, to ensure our Airmen maintain the highest levels of proficiency and readiness for worldwide missions.