As reported by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson, 33rd Fighter Wing/Public Affairs, in the article 33 FW departs for Red Flag 17-3, for this U.S.-only iteration seven F-35A Lightning II and more than 120 personnel from the 33rd Fighter Wing (FW) departed from Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Fla., on Jul. 6, 2017.
As an Air Education and Training Command unit responsible for training F-35 pilots, the 33rd FW is approaching the exercise as an opportunity to improve upon their tactics, techniques and procedures, while sharing information with sister service units.
In fact according to Col. Ryan Suttlemyre, 33rd Operations Group commander and Red Flag Air Expeditionary Wing vice commander, this “interaction ensures the services are flying with standardized F-35 tactics across the fleet and share best-practices.”
“The Air Force, Navy and Marines are all flying the same aircraft,” Suttlemyre said. “Because of our interaction at Red Flag, when we start presenting forces and deploying F-35s, planners will understand how to employ these aircraft, regardless of which command they are a part of.”
Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 “Wake Island Avengers,” 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, will conduct a variety of mission sets such as defensive counter air (DCA); offensive counter air (OCA); suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD); destruction of enemy air defense; dynamic taskings, which involve finding a time-sensitive target or series of targets and eliminating them; electronic warfare (EW); preplanned strikes; and combat search and rescue (CSAR).
“This is the first time we’ve deployed on this scale … we brought 10 F-35s here with all of our maintenance equipment, all of our support equipment and personnel,” said Maj. Paul Holst, VMFA-211’s executive officer to Sgt. Lillian Stephens, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar / 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, for the article Avengers assemble: Marine Corps, Air Force F-35s come together for ground-breaking exercise. “For the pilots, the opportunity to participate in these exercises prepares us for combat … and the opportunity to integrate and plan with the rest of the force is something you just don’t get anywhere else.”
Likewise, aircrews from other platforms will have the opportunity to refine their operations alongside the F-35. This provides combatant commanders with combat-ready pilots who are better prepared to operate in a joint environment.
A claim confirmed by Holst, who says that Red Flag allows each service and subordinate unit to demonstrate their capabilities as well as understand the capabilities of other services, units and their equipment.
“For example, the E-18G exists in the Navy and the Air Force doesn’t really have a comparable asset to that. There may be situations where the only F-35s in theater are Marine Corps F-35s … and you have to integrate the F-35s into the entire package,” explained Holst. “It’s always going to be necessary to bring everyone’s assets together and practicing that is really important.”
“We are going to make the rest of the combat air forces better,” Suttlemyre concluded. “[Y]oung aircrews from other platforms that have never operated beside F-35s will have the chance to learn the aircraft’s capabilities, which will help them to understand how they will integrate with the jet in the future.”
Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier international air-to-air combat training exercise that provides a realistic environment to train participants in a variety of domains: air, ground, space and cyberspace.
Photo credit: By Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK, via Wikimedia Commons, Sgt. Lillian Stephens / U.S. Marine Corps and Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson / U.S. Air Force
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