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Red Flag aerial combat begins over Las Vegas Valley

Australian, American and United Kingdom aircraft will boom out over the desert sands of Nevada for the first Red Flag 23-1 advanced aerial combat training exercise of 2023.

Australian, American and United Kingdom aircraft will boom out over the desert sands of Nevada for the first Red Flag 23-1 advanced aerial combat training exercise of 2023.

Nellis Air Force Base will welcome almost 100 aircraft and 3,000 participants for the two-week event held by the United States Air Force in Las Vegas Valley from 23 January to 10 February.

Aircraft will depart the base twice a day and could remain airborne for up to five hours during the exercise. There will also be night-time combat operations with night aircraft launches.


The event will feature participating aircraft such as the F-35 Lightning II stealth multi-role combat aircraft, F-22 Raptor stealth tactical fighter, B-52 Stratofortress long-range strategic bomber, and the Australian E-7 Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft.

The Royal Australian Air Force will deploy up to five EA-18G Growler aircraft from No. 6 Squadron and approximately 100 aviators in support of the exercise to enhance Australia’s air power interoperability with partner nations.

There will be more than 300 personnel and aircraft including Eurofighter Typhoon multirole fighters and Airbus Voyager air-to-air refuelling tanker aircraft from the UK Royal Air Force.

Personnel from 355th Wing Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, all branches of the US military service, U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines, Space Force and Air National Guard will also take part.

RAAF Director General Air, Air Commodore John Haly said combined force training between the three nations provides a critical opportunity for partner nations to enhance their skills.

“Exercises like Red Flag Nellis are an opportunity to advance relationships and interoperability with the United States and United Kingdom,” AIRCDRE Haly said.

“Although Australia conducts similar training activities domestically, the scope and scale of Red Flag Nellis cannot be replicated within Australia.”

The realistic training environment will feature more than 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land.

Nellis has hosted the Red Flag event since 1975 to provide aircrews with the experience of “multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment”.

RAAF exercise detachment commander, Wing Commander Steven Thornton said Exercise Red Flag Nellis would provide complex and advanced aerial training against simulated targets and realistic threat systems.

“This training helps ensure RAAF remains ready to deploy aircraft and personnel away from their home base and sustain high-tempo operations,” WGCDR Thornton said.

“It also provides the necessary environment for testing and development of new work practices, systems or role expansion.”

This year there will be focus on the Indo-Pacific Theatre and the challenge alongside allied partners for the large force air combat training exercise.

414th Combat Training Squadron commander Col. Jared Hutchinson said training will be centered on readiness and interoperability between joint and allied forces through high-end, realistic scenarios to increase interoperability of the joint force.

“In our 48th year Red Flag, participants will build confidence under fire, integrated leadership, and a warfighter culture that will win our nation’s fights,” Col Hutchinson said.

“Each flag pushes state of the art to a new level by building on the efforts of previous Red Flags.

“In this iteration, the allied force will be presented with many new and emerging real-world tactical problems.

“Our allies are one of the greatest strategic assets we have in protecting our nations.”

“This year is expected to be challenging as it prioritizes young operators,” said Hutchinson, “it enables them to learn in the world’s best combat training environment while writing the next chapter of our resilient heritage.”


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