September 26, 2009 (by Captain Cindi King) - A team of Swamp Foxes sharpened their aerial combat skills in the skies over Alaska during Red Flag 09-03.
USAF F-16C block 52 #93-0549 from the 157th FS is seen being handled by groundcrew during Red Flag Alaska 09-03 on July 28th, 2009.
On July 23, eight F-16s, 24 pilots and 100 maintaineers began a 10-day exercise at Eielson Air Force Base. The exercise hosted some 120 Airmen from the 169th Fighter Wing, who joined more than 700 personnel from other active-duty and Air Guard units with a variety of aircraft platforms (B-1s, F-22s, C-17s, A-10s, etc.).
The Red Flag-Alaska training environment features more than 67,000 square miles of airspace within which aircrews can plan and execute full force combat missions, simulating "blue" (good guy) and "red" (badguy) teams. Together, they practice skills like suppression of enemy air defenses, destruction of enemy air defenses and other large-scale integrated air and ground engagements.
"Red Flag evolved after the Vietnam War, when studies demonstrated most pilots were shot down during their first 10 combat missions," said the SCANG's Lt. Col. David "Oscar" Meyer. "The high intensity training is designed to help junior pilots experience war-like flying operations in a peacetime environment."
1st Lt. Justin "Alf" Dumais, one of the SCANG's newest pilots, deployed to the two-week exercise, where the fighter wing flew two sorties a day for eight of the 10 days (with a new threat scenario each time). He said, "It was an awesome learning experience. It was great to see how everything falls into place with the different assets, and it was impressive to see the capabilities we bring to the fight."
Col. Mike "Puff" Hudson, 169th Operations Group commander and detachment commander for the deployed Airmen, said the reputation of the Swamp Foxes preceded them.
"They were very happy to see us," he said. "On the first day, we demonstrated our capabilities of force protection by taking out all the missile sites and set the tone for all the participants."
Mission planning was a key element, as the large-scale exercise involved coordinating with package commanders and integrating intricate details on weather, rules of engagement, aircraft takeoff times and targets.
Capt. Matt "Sherpa" Schroer, an Active Associate member, had his first opportunity as a mission commander during the exercise. "It easily takes 12 hours to prepare for a one hour flight mission," said Schroer. "You plan everything encompassing ordnance, priority targets and the integration of the platforms of each aircraft."
Schroer said this was his second Red Flag experience and he was very impressed with the operations at Eielson AFB
and the integration of all the participants.
The planes and crews returned home after a busy three weeks of preparations and flying to smiles and pats on the back for a job well done.
"We showed them how we do our business of SEAD and DEAD," said Hudson. "We left with our reputations definitely still intact."