First Red Flag of 2006 begins Published June 6, 2006 By Jennifer Volmer 99ABW/PA NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The U.S. Air Force began its first Red Flag exercise of 2006 here Monday. This is the first of two scheduled Red Flags for this year. More than 200 aircraft and 5,000 military personnel from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia are taking part in the training. Each exercise is split into two periods, with each period lasting two weeks. “Red Flag exposes servicemembers to a simulated combat environment where they gain experience working with other airframes and crews,” said Maj. Keith Lowman, 414th Combat Training Squadron assistant director of operations. Various types of Air Force airframes are participating in the exercise, including low-observable assets, like the F-117 Stealth fighter as well as aircraft from the recently reactivated 65th Aggressor Squadron. Training for both pilots and crews is constant, but according to Major Lowman, what makes Red Flag most valuable is the combined replication of real surface-to-air threats and combat situations. “Blue Force (the good guys), flies combat missions against Red Air (pilots simulating enemy aircraft) and evade surface-to-air fire from threat simulators at the same time,” said Major Lowman. “It prepares the younger guys to work quickly, efficiently and as a team while they’re under extreme stress and helps the more experienced Airmen keep their skills sharp.” Along with the Air Force, units from the Army, Navy, NATO and several other allied countries will participate in this Red Flag. Major Lowman said the Nevada Test and Training Range is the best location for an exercise of this caliber due to the range’s size and remote position. “Unlike the back-yard ranges most Red Flag participants are used to, the NTTR has the size to accommodate many aircraft at one time, therefore allowing for a more realistic training experience,” he explained. Red Flag has been a major player in training U.S. forces and our allies for 31 years. It was established in 1975 after the Tactical Air Command commander Gen. Robert Dixon was presented evidence that suggested a pilot who successfully made it through his first 10 missions had a much higher chance of survival in all subsequent sorties. The general proposed the idea of new pilots attending Red Flag to complete 10 rookie missions in a controlled environment, therefore giving young flyers a greater chance for success and survival. The Air Force later invited allies to join in the Red Flag exercises. The upcoming exercise has been nicknamed “Colonial Flag” because both the U.S. and Australia were once colonies of the U.K.