Military Aviation

Red Flag training area expanded by almost three times the size as prior iterations during exercise Red Flag 22-3 because of dedicated fifth-generation aggressors

“The airspace expansion agreement is a critical bridge that allows Red Flag to more accurately replicate an advanced threat,” Lt. Col. Jonah R. Brown, 65th Aggressor Squadron director of operations.

The 414th Combat Training Squadron and the Federal Aviation Administration have collaborated to expand the available training area during exercise Red Flag-Nellis 22-3 by almost three times the size as prior iterations.

As explained by Airman 1st Class Makenna Gott, 57th Wing Public Affairs, in the article FAA, Nellis AFB partner to expand Red Flag airspace arena, this is the first Red Flag exercise featuring dedicated fifth-generation aggressors, who are using longer-range offensive and defensive measures to provide exercise participants more realistic threat replication. The expansion of the airspace has allowed for training to more closely align with the National Defense Strategy’s focus on the pacing challenge.

“The airspace expansion agreement is a critical bridge that allows Red Flag to more accurately replicate an advanced threat,” said Lt. Col. Jonah R. Brown, 65th Aggressor Squadron director of operations.

The partnership with the FAA consists of connecting the airspaces of the Nevada and Utah Test and Training Ranges and the R-2508 Complex through airspace corridors. Connecting the ranges almost triples the area being used for combat training to a total of nearly 36,000 square miles of airspace.

The 414th CTS conducts three Red Flag exercises annually to provide aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment. Red Flag is designed to simulate the first 10 combat sorties for a pilot to increase their survivability in battle.

Prior Red Flag exercises have been held within the Nevada Test and Training Range airspace alone, a 12,000-square-nautical mile range that provides a realistic arena for operational testing and training aircrews to improve combat readiness.

“As our adversary capabilities have advanced with respect to both aircraft and longer-range weapons, the size of the Nevada Test and Training Range has become one of the biggest limiting factors to accurate training,” Brown said. “The air bridges between the NTTR, the UTTR, and R-2508 in California enable Red Flag to present Blue forces the necessary range and time to accurately train against our adversary’s most advanced capabilities.”

“In the past, Red Flag has only flown in the NTTR with their assets,” said Richard Johnston, 57th Operations Support Squadron chief of airspace management.

Although this is the first time Red Flag is using the airspace expansion, the partnership with the FAA to expand the training area is not new. Johnston said the FAA understands the military’s needs. When it comes to the testing and fielding of fifth-generation and soon-to-be sixth-generation aircraft, more airspace will be needed to operate and optimize their systems in an environment as close to what warfighters would see in conflict.

According to Johnston, this current expansion is just one step in a plan to expand exercise airspace even further.

“We came up with a proposal that we’re going to send to the FAA, asking to connect all of the ranges on the west coast,” Johnston said.

“To train like we would fight in wartime, it is necessary to have a larger airspace,” Brown said.

As reported by By 1st Lt Richard Caesar, 57th Wing Public Affairs, in the article The ‘Future Fight’ is here: Red Flag-Nellis 22-3, more than 20 units and approximately 2,300 participants arrived at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) to take part in the final Red Flag of 2022 that started on Jul. 9 and that will end on Jul. 29. Greeting them were the pilots of the newly re-activated 65th Aggressor Squadron, and the 57th Operations Group’s dedicated multi-domain aggressor force.

As already reported the 65th Aggressor Squadron reactivated on Jun. 9, 2022 with a directed mission to know, teach and replicate fifth-generation air adversaries at Nellis AFB. The unit flies F-35 aircraft featuring a paint scheme recalling that worn by the Chinese J-20 stealth jet.

The 4th Fighter Wing from Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, is the lead wing for a diverse joint force such as the F-35A/C Lightning II, F-22 Raptor, B-1B Lancer, E-3 Sentry, E-8C Joint Stars, EA-18G Growler, F-15E Strike Eagle, HC-130J Combat King II, KC-135 Stratotanker, RC-135V/W Rivet Joint , HH-60G Pave Hawk, and MQ-9 Reaper aircraft from the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Air National Guard.

They had the difficult task of solving the complex tactical problem sets posed by the aggressor force, while gaining realistic combat experience in an advanced training environment that can only be found at Nellis AFB.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35A Lightning II 56th OG, 61st FS, LF/12-5050 / 2014

Photo credit: Tech. Serg. Alexandre Montes / U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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