January 29, 2019 (by SrA Christopher Maldonado) - U.S. Airmen assigned to the 79th Fighter Squadron and 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 79th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, are participating in Exercise Red Flag 19-1 from Jan. 26 – Feb. 15.
Capt. Matthew Spotka, 77th FS F-16 pilot, gears up prior to taking-off from the flightline at Nellis AFB on January 28, 2019. Pilots assigned to the 77th FS assisted the participating 79th FS during Exercise Red Flag 19-1. [USAF photo by SrA Christopher Maldonado]
The goal of Red Flag is to prepare Air Force, Joint, and Coalition pilots, aircrews and operators to fight against peer-level adversaries in any combat environment.
Throughout the 3-week exercise, the Air Force's five core functions are integrated. The functions are: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, superiority, strike, and personal recovery and mobility.
The 79th FS
, otherwise known as the "Tigers," will be serving in an air superiority role, performing various missions intended to test their job proficiency in a combat environment. The members will be participating at the bombing and gunnery ranges of the Nevada Test and Training Range.
"There are five ways that I quantify flag-unique warfighter culture here at Nellis," said Col. Michael Mathes, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander. "We will give the fighters professional adversaries, integration with forces they can't integrate with anywhere else, personnel recovery integration they can't get anywhere else, a debrief that can't be replicated anywhere else and a resilient air fighter culture."
While in the air, "Tiger" pilots will be performing the suppression of enemy air defenses mission, as well as going head-to-head with aggressor forces and other aircraft to test their skills.
"The range at Nellis provides valuable and realistic simulation of enemy missile systems, which allows us to test and validate our techniques and procedures against today's modern air and ground threat," said Capt. Tyler D'Agostino, 79th FS
pilot. "We will be integrating with the U.S. Navy and our Coalition partners from the United Kingdom and Australia to conduct large-scale trainings for a multitude of potential threats."
D'Agostino went on to say that outside of Red Flag, this type of integration is uncommon, and it is incredibly valuable to be able to meet and fly alongside the other pilots.
In order for the pilots to execute their mission in the air, they will need ongoing support from their wingmen on the ground.
The pilots' support team of maintenance Airmen will load munitions onto F-16 Fighting Falcons, launch jets to accomplish the missions and recover aircraft returning from the skies.
The 79th will work alongside their coalition partners and build on their in-unit comradery as well as those with allied forces.
"It's important to give thanks to the Airmen and Joint Coalition participants," said Mathes. "Not just the operations, but the maintenance and support; the real enablers are the human elements; those that choose to sacrifice their time and energy to come together for a unity of purpose. Technology is great, but Airmen create airpower."