Red Flag is a large force employment combat training exercise that provides a complex and highly advanced threat environment in which to practise high-end coalition war-fighting skills.
The RAAF deployed 200 personnel, a C-130J Hercules tactical airlifter and an E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C platform to the Nellis Air Force Base with US and UK colleagues.
The three-week training exercise also featured the debut of the Lockheed Martin built US Air Force F-35A Lightning II as well as the US Navy EA-18G Growler, allowing the RAAF personnel to see the capabilities of the fifth-generation aircraft.
The missions conducted during this exercise included a combat control team parachuting in freezing conditions to a dry lake bed for an airfield survey, and air battlespace managers who controlled movements and datalinks for more than 70 friendly and enemy aircraft.
Commander of the Australian contingent Group Captain Stuart Bellingham said the missions were "gruelling and rigorous" but that "by coming here, we’re preparing for high-end war fighting, so we can deploy at short-notice on operations, and have confidence that we are going to be successful".
GPCAPT Bellingham said the information and experienced gained from the exercise is invaluable.
"We’ll take information and training back and feed it into our force preparation, and will translate into our current operations," he said.
"In my 30 years of the Air Force, this is one of the highlights; being at the exercise is as realistic as it gets."
The training exercise also incorporated and focused on personnel that were embedded within the Combined Air and Space Operations Centre (CAOC), which was responsible for planning the Red Flag missions and ensuring they were co-ordinated with space and cyber-based efforts, which can be contested by an aggressing force.
GPCAPT Bellingham is the first non-US participant to be Director of the CAOC, leading 250 American, British and Australian personnel. This was the first time a coalition nation has performed this role in such an exercise.