Training for the Real Thing

US and allied aircraft and personnel from both sides of the Pacific are engaged in 10 days of realistic and demanding air combat exercises at Eielson AFB, Alaska, as part of Red Flag-Alaska 16-3. More than 80 aircraft and about 1,000 personnel—including from Misawa AB, Japan; Kunsan AB, South Korea; Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.; MacDill AFB, Fla.; Schriever AFB, Colo.; JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Fort Wainwright, Alaska; and the Royal Canadian Air Force 409th Tactical Fighter Squadron—will take part in the exercise that kicked off August 4, according to a 354th Fighter Wing release. “RED Flag-Alaska enables joint and international units to sharpen their combat skills by flying simulated combat sorties in a realistic threat environment,” said Lt. Col. Travis Ruhl, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron commander, according to the release. The focus of the exercise is “to train combat avionics in stressful advanced threat scenarios against near-peer adversaries by integrating a diverse set of joint and coalition capabilities.” The 67,000-square mile Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex contains three bombing ranges with 510 different types of targets and 45 threat simulators, manned and unmanned. The vast training area “forces pilots to figure out the logistical problem of working in such a large scale, similar to an entire theater of operations” and allows pilots to “go faster here than any blue force has ever trained, almost to Mach 2,” said Lt. Col. Julio Rodriguez, commander of the 18th Aggressor Squadron, according to the release.