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Red Flag to take flight Saturday

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- Nellis is gearing up to host the second Red Flag exercise of the year begining Saturday.

Approximately 150 aircraft supported by more than 3,000 military members from the United States, Canada, France, Germany and the Republic of Singapore are scheduled to take part in the training. The exercise is split into two periods, with each period lasting two weeks.

"Red Flag exposes the 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.

Most types of Air Force airframes are participating in the flag, including the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Warthog and MQ-1A Predator. 

Other aircraft making an appearance at this Red Flag are the French Mirage 2000-5, a single-engine, delta-winged, all-weather, night and day interceptor; and the German Tornado, a low-level aircraft with a large weapons load that only needs a short runway for departing and landing.

Each country has a particular role in Red Flag. France is being used for air-to-air combat; Canada is air-to-ground, tactical airlift, and air refueling; Germany is air-to-ground and suppression of enemy air defenses; and Singapore is air-to-ground and combat search and rescue.

Training for pilots and crews is constant, and according to Major Lowman, what makes Red Flag most valuable is the imitation of surface-to-air threats and combat situations.

"Blue Force (the good guys) flies combat missions against Red Air (pilots simulating enemy aircraft) and evades surface-to-air fire at the same time," said Major Lowman. "It prepares the younger (pilots) to work quickly, efficiently and as a team while they're under extreme stress and helps the more experienced Airmen keep their skills sharp."

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 location.

"Unlike the backyard 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 said.

The range is one of the largest in the Air Force at 3 million acres of restricted land and more than 15,000 square miles of airspace.

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