Red Flag 21-2 creates agile, multi-domain problem-solvers

“Nested within the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and 57th Wing priorities, Red Flag is aligned with our National Defense Strategy,” said Col. William Reese, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander. “Using complex mission scenarios against a powerful and unrestricted aggressor team, participants get the best high-end training available.”

This iteration focused on unleashing the F-16 Fighting Falcon, more known to participants as the ‘Red Team’ or aggressors, to expand their horizons into multi-domain operations. Teams functioned side-by-side in planning, staging and execution throughout the exercise to learn how to work together seamlessly.

“They also gained valuable relationships, so when they meet again in deployed locations, they already have familiarity with key mission leaders and can solve hard problems in accordance with the joint force commander’s guidance and intent,” Reese added.

These tactics mimicked great power competition problem sets, preparing joint and allied partners for the future of aerial combat. Though aerial adversary tactics continue to be a key focus in Red Flag scenarios, space and cyberspace threats are interwoven to ensure participants are prepared to react to and overcome the full array of adversary impediments to mission success.

“In order to ensure we challenge our participants even further, we concealed our targets and forced scenarios, driving Red Flag participants to think critically during the fight, including potentially re-attacking targets that were struck but desired weapons effects were not met,” Reese said.

These concepts of warfighting will remain constant throughout training Department of Defense and NATO partners, and allow each partner component to pool their resources and complement their counterparts while deployed.

“Red Flag 21-2 tested our ability to win against a near-peer threat while fighting alongside our joint and coalition partners,” said Col. Robert T. Raymond, 20th Operations Group commander and RF 21-2 Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “Our Airmen executed with the creativity, interoperability and discipline we need to win tomorrow’s wars. I couldn’t be more proud of the team, including our maintainers on the line who gave us the jets we needed every day for a successful exercise.”

plane in the air

A pilot assigned to the 64th Aggressors Squadron flies an F-16 Fighting Falcon with the ‘Wraith’ paint scheme, which is part of the Red Team during Red Flag 21-2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., March 17, 2021. Red Flag at Nellis AFB is the premier training exercise that allows participants to work with joint and allied partners in 2.9 million acres of land and airspace to advance interoperability. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Plane refueling in Air

Tech. Sgt. Jakob Kime, boom operator assigned to 912th Air Refueling Squadron from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., looks out the window of a KC-135 Stratotanker while a A B-1B Lancer assigned the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth AFB, S.D., approaches for fuel over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., March 18, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Zachary Rufus)

Plane on airfield

The U.S. Thunderbirds fly in the background of F-15SG Strike Eagles assigned to the 428th Fighter Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., March 17, 2021. The 428th FS participated in Red Flag 21-2, an exercise which is designed to provide aircrew experience in a realistic combat training scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman JaNae Capuno)

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