Red Flag 21-3 uses Joint Training to Enhance Interoperability

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Miranda A. Loera
  • 57th Wing Public Affairs

Red Flag exercises have been around for 46 years, and the concept was created to tactically train fighter pilots. Through these exercises, multiple coalition forces and joint sister services come together three times a year to train in a simulated, safe environment with threat-replicating aircraft.

The uniqueness of Red Flag-Nellis 21-3 is that the training only involves U.S. personnel, allowing the joint participants from other services and major commands to focus on details and sharpen their skillsets at a high classification and high tactical level.

Alongside the U.S. Air Force, Red Flag-Nellis 21-3 included the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Space Force, Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

“When you can bring joint units along with the Air Force in an environment like this, it’s no longer part-task training,” said Lt. Col. Tyler Stef, Red Flag commander. “It is full integration… We will better know and understand their service culture. Red Flag is the opportunity people get to come and start to build those relationships that will ultimately last a career.”

Joint military training and exercises are designed to train commanders and staff in joint operations that consist of tasks as important as collecting, disseminating and analyzing intelligence data.

“Having multiple major commands participating makes this an even more unique exercise,” said Stef. “They bring a different focus for different problem sets and gain unique perspectives, because they are well-versed in that specific region. For this one, we are focusing on a pacific region threat, allowing our Pacific Air Forces to give us that insight.”

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Tim Miller, VMFA-115 Marine Fighter Attack Squadron commanding officer, placed emphasis on the importance of joint participation and the airpower components that have been involved, allowing integration amongst one another to achieve a successful Red Flag.

“Joint interoperability is important,” said Miller. “It allows us to practice how we are going to operate in the event that some real-world combat operation was to arise. That’s kind of where the Department of Defense is focusing now, which has put some additional emphasis on exercises such as Red Flag. It’s all about integration, and we’re still able to get that done in an extremely professional environment. For our maintainers to understand how the airfield operates and functions is a huge combat readiness enabler for us”

The great power competition continues to be a major talking point within the Department of Defense. Red Flag is another way to prepare and allow participants to experience situations similar to those possible in the real-world.

Both commanding officers prioritized the importance of bringing together the common perspectives against shared threats merges the different organizations together to understand their processes. While the aircrew tends to the aircraft, whether it be Navy, Marines or Air Force, they have the responsibility of ensuring the integrity of the aircraft does not shift. However, they are relying heavily on the space and intelligence aspect to ensure the airspace is clear and prepared.

“The relationships that are built here, will afford them challenging problem sets that may evolve,” said Stef. “The unique opportunity is when you can get together for three weeks and build strong relationships and eventually see them again in the future. We will continue to sustain a warfighting culture and provide more advanced threat training while also continuing to know and understand each other’s culture.”