F-35A, F-35B Integrate at Red Flag
The 33rd Fighter Wing and Marine Attack Squadron 221 are participating in the first combat exercise with Air Force F-35As and Marine Corps F-35Bs operating simultaneously during Red Flag 17-3, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States, its allies, and coalition partners. More than 100 aircraft and 3,000 personnel participate in the exercise an average four times each year.
The exercise was originally developed to provide pilots with critical experience in combat situations in a manner that can’t be replicated at most home stations. This training in turn improves pilot’s percentage of survivability during real-world combat operations.
“We are trying to create combat realism for these pilots,” said U.S Air Force Col. Ryan Suttlemyre, Red Flag Air Expeditionary Wing vice commander and 33rd Operations Group commander. “Normal missions at home are between six to eight aircraft on both the blue and red sides. Here, we have somewhere between 60 to 80 aircraft on the blue side and 30 to 40 on the red side. They also have 10 to 15 times the number of surface-to-air threat emitters that we have at Eglin Air Force Base.”
During this U.S. only installment of Red Flag, the Air Force and Marine Corps validated F-35 joint Tactics, Training and Procedures, through mission integration with one another.
“It's been an awesome experience integrating with everyone but especially the F-35A in particular,” said Maj. Brett Abbamonte, Marine Attack Squadron 211 F-35B pilot. “The ability to see the overall situational awareness and capabilities that the F-35 brings to this joint fight with all these assets is eye opening to us as F-35 pilots and pilots of other aircraft platforms.”
From the first combat sortie on, the commonality between each branch’s pilots was clear as they were able to predict one another's actions and movements.