Exercise Red Flag

Red Flag Alaska 16-1, which was an advanced aerial combat training exercise hosted at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska (a successor to the previous COPE THUNDER exercise series) held in the Alaska region, concluded on May 14. The main phase of the exercise had commenced on April 28 with a mix of combat and support elements participating from Indian Air Force (IAF), United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Navy (USN). Over the last decade, IAF has been actively participating in various operational exercises hosted by various countries wherein its capabilities has been pitted against the best air forces in the world. While referring to the overall exercise plan and objective Red Flag Alaska 16-1 the Team Leader Gp Capt H Assudani said, “(the) Objective of this inter-continental deployment was not only to showcase IAF capability in undertaking Integrated Air Ops but also to imbibe operational lessons from the exercise engagements which will help us add more teeth to our overall war waging capabilities”.

The Exercise saw the IAF’s potent Su-30 MKI aircraft participating in Offensive Counter Air Ops in which they provided Escort cover to the strike elements. Apart from this, the IAF Jaguars DARIN II undertook integrated strike missions dropping practice bombs over the world renowned JPARC Air to Ground Range. Both these fleets performed their roles exceptionally well. There were three missions commanded by IAF in this exercise. Mission commanders of both the Jaguars and Su 30s were involved in planning, execution and conduct of debrief. One of the missions was commanded by Sqn Ldr Sidhu, who while speaking on the mission said, “It was a great opportunity to lead all the coalition forces. It gives one an immense satisfaction when all the participants execute the briefed plan which becomes a success”.


While talking about the IAF in the red flag exercise Lt Col Brian Toth, chief operations officer of 354 operations group said, “The IAF’s participation has been extremely good from my perspective. For most nations it takes an exercise or two to step up to meet the requirements of a Mission commander. The IAF has been mission commander three times and also performed the package commander roles and they have done a tremendous job”.

The temperatures were sub-zero during a large part of the exercise which posed a challenge to the maintenance team. The team kept all the aircraft fully serviceable and mission capable at all times. It is noteworthy that despite the challenging environment, the maintenance team ensured 100 percent serviceability of all platforms throughout the four weeks. Wg Cdr Pratyush Anand, SEO of SU-30 Sqn said, “Out-of-box thinking of the technicians has earned praise from all quarters. The participating airmen got an opportunity to see a variety of aircraft and this exposure and interaction with other fleets will go a long way in evolving our own practices”.

In the closing address Col William Culver 354th Fighter Wing Vice Cdr said, ”This was one of the best Red flags I have seen. I compliment the exceptional standards displayed by the IAF and am amazed to see all the 10 aircraft IAF had brought (4 Su30s, 4 Jaguars and 2 IL-78s) maintaining 100 percent serviceability for the entire four weeks and their aircraft flying on all days as per plan”.





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