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18th AGRS makes first deployment to ROK

October 19, 2010 (by Capt. Matthew Stines) - Kwangju Air Base, Republic of Korea, is hosting the fourth annual MAX THUNDER exercise, a bi-lateral training exercise with ROK military forces.

USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0320 from the 18th AS prepares to fly over the western airspace of the Korean Peninsula on October 18th, 2010. The 18th AS, deployed from Eielson AFB, will participate in the fourth annual Max Thunder exercise hosted by Kwanju AB. [USAF photo by SrA. Evelyn Chavez]

The exercise will occur in western airspace over the Korean Peninsula between ROK and U.S. allied air forces.

Republic of Korea Air Force aircrew members will train alongside U.S. Air Force aircrew during this exercise which employs scenarios comparable to RED FLAG at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

According to base officials, although MAX THUNDER will not have the same airspace, ranges and threat replication capabilities like those at RED FLAG, USAF and RoKAF Airmen will receive a rigorous training experience.

This year's exercise will feature the 18th Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in their first deployment to the ROK, as the primary "enemy threat."

"Inter-operability with U.S. and Allied forces versus a highly trained threat flying dissimilar aircraft enables our aircrew members to be battle-ready for a myriad of potential threats," said Capt. Ryan P. Noonan, 18th Aggressor Squadron chief of standards and evaluations.

Captain Noonan also explained how the exercise will allow side-by-side mission planning and integrated air operations practice in large-force employment scenarios to continue the evolution into a seamlessly united fighting force. Upon termination of the exercise, the U.S. and ROK aircrews will participate in detailed debriefs where the tactical lessons are pulled from the overall engagement.

The 18th Aggressor Squadron, has experience playing a role as Red Aggressor during various USAF exercises. They usually practice the tactics and maneuvers of MIG and Sukhoi and adapt these to actual exercises.

U.S. Air Force F-16s from Osan and Kunsan Air Bases with ROKAF KF-16s, F-15Ks, and F-4Es will "engage" the aggressors, painted to resemble MIG and Sukhoi fighter planes., during the week-long exercise.

"Exercises like MAX THUNDER and RED FLAG are important to the readiness of the USAF and our allies to ensure we are battle-ready and trained for combined air operations," said Lt. Col. Andy Hansen, 18th Aggressor Squadron commander. "The ROK and U.S. alliance is more than military; it is a comprehensive partnership that promotes freedom and democracy in this region and the world."

Courtesy 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs