April 9, 2008 (by SSgt. Vann Miller) - Just as winter came to a close on the island of Japan, more than 150 Airmen touched down on the frozen flight line of Eielson Air Force base to take part in this year's RED FLAG 08-2 training exercise in April.
Capt. Bryan Spence from Misawa AB signals from an F-16 while moving down the taxi way on April 8th, 2008 at Eielson AFB during Red Flag-Alaska 08-2. [USAF photo by A1C. Jonathan Snyder]
Members from the 14th Fighter Squadron, along with various support personnel, deployed from Misawa Air Base, Japan, to join other services at a very important joint coalition training event.
RED FLAG-Alaska presents air crews and maintainers the chance to hone their skills in a simulated combat environment. With an area that covers more than 67,000 square miles, pilots get to see more capabilities of their weapon systems than they may be able to experience at their home stations, according to Maj. Joe Speed, 14th FS
, assistant duty officer.
"RED FLAG allows us to train with our coalition partners and integrate with multiple weapon systems in an airspace that is very unique," said Major Speed.
While the primary mission of the Misawa's fighters is suppression of enemy air defenses, the major said there are structures in place in the training range that give pilots a chance to practice against simulated surface-to-air missile targets.
Flying along with the members from Misawa are some of the best pilots from Canada, Britain and Australia air forces, fellow American Airmen from Luke AFB
, Ariz., Osan Air Base, Korea, and a variety of aircraft including Naval aircraft from Whidbey Island Oak Harbor, Wash. tankers, AWACS and helicopters as well.
"What we hope to get out of this training is a view of the first few days of war," according to Major Speed. "The level of confusion and chaos that is inherent when you have up to a hundred aircraft flying at once can be enormous. Being able to expose our pilots to that in a training environment that we can accurately reconstruct is invaluable."
Red Flag-Alaska gets its roots from the Cope Thunder exercise which had been scheduled for more than 20 years. The goal of this training is to take coalition forces into simulated air combat conditions where the pilots get to improve in areas such as counter-air, close air support and large force employment, to name a few.
"The way we can employ our jets to the fullest capability is the thing pilots like most," said Major Speed. "And, one of the favorite parts for pilots and maintainers is the chance to integrate with the other weapon systems -- especially the other countries."
Once the members of the 14th FS
finish racking up some new skills at RF-A, they will return to Misawa in time to start preparing for their next deployment. Many of their members will be heading off to Nellis AFB, Nev., before returning to South West Asia and continuing the fight on the Global War on Terror.