August 11, 2010 (by A1C Daniel Phelps) - In a symbolic and historical event, the Pakistan air force flew six F-16Bs and 100 aircrew, maintenance and support personnel over 7,700 miles from Pakistan to participate in their first Red Flag and Green Flag exercises at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. in mid-July.
PAF F-16B block 15 #90615 from 9 sqn is seen landing at Nellis AFB during Red Flag 10-4 on July 21st, 2010. [Photo by HaveVoid]
There, the Pakistani airmen met up with the 77th Fighter Squadron, a past U.S. training partner from the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
"The deployment from home base to Nellis was an unequivocal experience considering the distance and the consequential use of aerial refuelling," said Group Captain Javad Saeed, the Pakistan
Back in 2006, the U.S. Air Force and the PAF
came together for an exercise in Southwest Asia, said Capt. Lisa Spilinek, 9th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Central media operations officer. Since then, they have participated in normally scheduled exercises in that area, to improve U.S. and Pakistani interoperability and security relationships, and to demonstrate the U.S. resolve to support the security and humanitarian interests of friends and allies in the region.
"Since that exercise, the continued engagement we have had with the PAF shows our commitment to them and how important and strategic our relationship is," said Col. Don Godier, 20th FW vice-commander and Red Flag 10-4 Air Expeditionary Wing commander.
"The spin-off of enhanced mutual respect and appreciation for one another is what has lead to continued engagements and up to Red Flag," added Captain Saeed.
"The 20th FW sent the 77th FS
to participate in that 2006 exercise in support of the 9th AF engagement strategy focus and helped serve as a foundation for improving the interoperability between the two air forces," said the colonel, who was also the 77th FS commander at that time. "During Red Flag 10-4, the 77th FS received the opportunity to fly again with the 9th FS from Pakistan, the same squadron they flew with in 2006, continuing the relationship."
Red Flag 10-4 gave both air forces the opportunity to learn and grow from each other through the opportunity to understand each other better culturally and professionally, said Captain Saeed. Both aspects are crucial for working on common objectives.
"The PAF's participation in this world-class exercise helps to build international air force cooperation, interoperability and mutual support," said Vice Adm. Michael LeFever, U.S. Defense representative to Pakistan. "It is also significant as both a tangible and symbolic demonstration of the deepening U.S.-Pakistan strategic relationship."
"There is definitely a history between us and the PAF," said Capt. Max Johnson, 77th FS F-16 pilot, referring to the 77th's and the PAF's previous exercise experience in 2006. "A couple of the Pakistani pilots recognized our patch and were asking us about a lot of the pilots from that time."
Captain Johnson said that the PAF put in a lot preparation into their transatlantic flight to Nellis.
"They were familiar with the spins and understood the tactics," he explained.
He was also surprised at the lack of the cultural barrier between them.
"Originally, some of us were expecting a language barrier working with the Pakistanis," the pilot commented. "But, they all knew English very well. We were able to joke around with them and understand each other's jokes."
On top of all this, Red Flag gave the PAF the unique opportunity to deploy its assets and personnel half way around the world, added Captain Saeed. It also helped provide them with a contemporary air combat training environment for their less experienced aircrew.
Training together with coalition forces helps with understanding and communication, said Colonel Godier.
"Our participation together in this exercise has been not only valuable, but essential in that coalition forces are the key to success," concluded the colonel. "It has been a long process of working together."