IAF squadrons returned from the wide-scale international training exercise in the USA. For two weeks, IAF forces practiced advanced fighting scenarios with partners from around the world. “The IAF has proven impressive capabilities”
IAF squadrons landed back in Israel earlier today after participating in the international “Red Flag” exercise held in the US for the past few weeks. The event, which is considered one of the world’s most prestigious and challenging war training exercises, included a number of IAF squadrons: the F-15 “Edge of the Spear”, the F-15 “knights of the Orange Tail”, the F-15I “Hammers” and the Boeing 707 “Desert Giants”. The aircraft flew in coalition with the US Army’s Air Forces and other Air Forces from around the world. The IAF last took part in the “Red Flag” in 2009, as the participation of Israeli squadrons in last year’s exercise was cancelled a few weeks before takeoff.
“Returning to ‘Red Flag’ is highly important for us”, says Brig. Gen. Nir Barkan, Head of Air Division. “The exercise is of a very high standard which both enriches us professionally and strengthens our cooperation with air forces from around the world and specifically with the USAF”. Colonel Or, Head of IAF Training Department, says that “it appears that the IAF has proven impressive capabilities and learned a lot from the foreign forces”.
Warfare Scenario and Various Aircraft
For two intensive weeks, the Israeli teams flew with partners from all over the world in the “Nellis” Air Force Base in Nevada while being challenged by the American Aggressor “Red” squadron. The pilots and weapon systems operators practiced alongside some of the most advanced aircraft in the world such as the F-22, F-18 and the F-35. The training sessions included changing scenarios and missions which were completed by dozens of fighter jets, refueling airplanes, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance airplanes.
Dozens of missile batteries, GPS blockers and enemy aircraft stood in the way of the united international force and attempted to prevent it from completing the missions. “The unfamiliar airspace and enemy create a situation much similar to war, which always includes uncertainty and forces you to react to events you didn’t prepare for. This is the best emergency exercise there is”, says Lt. Col. Amit, commander of the “Edge of the Spear” squadron and the delegation commander. “Beyond that, the training fields are unique and of the most advanced in the world”.
The “Red Flag” is the main Israeli-American air forces training exercise. Apart from the advanced aerial training for IAF forces, the aircrews met face to face, lived together for two weeks and shared professional and personal experiences. “The exercise improves the cooperation between the air forces both because of the actual training and also because of the personal acquaintance that was formed throughout it”, says Captain Jason Bond, USAF pilot. “I think that the Israeli F-15s has capabilities we can learn from”.
“Everything is bigger in America”
For the first time, the Boeing 707s took part in the “Red Flag” exercise as refueling airplanes for IAF aircraft. “We simulated a scenario where the fighter jets use extended amounts of fuel”, says Major Nir, commander of the Boeing 707 division in the deployment. “We focused on positioning the refueling airplane close to the fighter jet while being protected from enemy planes and missile batteries. The trainings in Israel are of much smaller scale. Everything is bigger in America”.
Despite the severe heat that welcomed the guests and did not subside throughout the exercise, the technicians worked intensively to prepare the fighter jets and Boeing 707s to the sorties. “Our work peaked in the early morning hours when we readied the planes for the first sortie of the day and again when they came back and we prepared them for the night sorties”, says Sergeant Major Dani from the “Edge of the Spear” squadron.
The Operation Began In Israel
Transferring IAF’s aircraft to the American Air Force Base was a complicated operation by itself. The whole transferring operation was executed by the “Desert Giants” squadron and required a six-month effort. The 6,800 miles between the Israeli and American airbases were covered in several days with stopovers. The fighter jets were refueled during each one of the flights. “We begin preparing for that mission in January. We needed to plan the amount of fuels needed, the routes and altitudes and work in cooperation with the Americans and the airports we visited”, explains Major Nir.
The “Red Flag” exercise is celebrating 40 years to its establishment this year and continues to draw many air forces from around the world. “We can learn a lot about how to conduct an exercise and the Americans sure know how to do it”, concludes Lt. Col. Amit.