192nd Fighter Wing Fights the 'Aggressors' at Red Flag

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Carlos J. Claudio
  • 192FW Public Affairs
The 192nd Fighter Wing pilots and maintainers recently put their skill and capabilities to the test. 42 members of the 192nd traveled with the 27th Fighter Squadron to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada to participate in a three-week, large-force exercise known as Red Flag.
"Red Flag is a unique training opportunity that is intended to prepare our pilots to survive the first few days of combat in a major theater war," said Lt. Col. Thomas McAtee, pilot participant and 192nd Maintenance Squadron Commander. "Red Flag brings together a myriad of assets from the blue air side (or coalition forces) and the red air side (also known as "aggressors") to create giant, real life war games that involve many different aircraft types performing many different missions, all of which are choreographed to achieve specifics affects that emulate large-scale combat."
Red Flag missions were conducted during daylight hours and at night, and contained up to 100 aircraft, fighting to win control of the air space and accomplish their missions. The U.S. Navy, Marines and Britain's Royal Air Force also participated. Each mission was fought against approximately 40 to 50 enemy aircraft. These "Aggressors" are Nellis AFB permanent staff pilots who fly in camouflage-painted F-16s and F-15Cs to look like a threat-type aircraft. The mission of the Virginia Air National Guard team was to protect the blue forces from these aggressors and establish "air dominance" with their F-22 Raptors.
"We were responsible for protecting all of the airplanes out there so they were able to do their mission," explained McAtee. "Whether the airplanes were finding high-value targets, bombing pre-planned targets, finding mobile SCUD launchers, or conducting intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, we were responsible to make sure the aggressors didn't shoot any of them." McAtee said the F-22s successfully established dominance over the aggressors enabled the blue air to conduct their missions.
This is McAtee's fifth Red Flag exercise and although they don't use real bombs, he says a lot has evolved. Today's' modern aircraft and technology make aerial combat training extremely realistic with the use of training emitters and sensors.
"With the advent of data links and advance sensors on our airplanes, we have the ability to keep global situational awareness of what is going on around us and it's a huge advantage," McAtee said, "because the enemy aircraft don't have nearly this much awareness."
McAtee flew nighttime missions and put in some long days while he was there. The missions were complicated and usually involved an entire day of planning preceding each sortie. "Everyone gave it their all to launch and fly these missions. From the flight line and back shop maintainers, to the ammo, weapons and support personnel- it was a total team effort."
Aircraft maintainers in the low observables paint section made sure the aircraft were ready to fly.

"We tailored our swing shift around the flying schedule, so when the aircraft landed during my shift, it was my job along with two other active duty air force airmen to go out and perform OMLS (outer mold line) inspections of all the jets," said Master Sgt. David Buckley, 192nd FW maintenance squadron. "You're looking for any outward damage to the outside of the aircraft and to the coatings."
Master Sgt. David Dehart was the maintenance squadron non-commissioned officer in charge. This was his fourth time at Red Flag.
"As the maintenance squadron NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge), I coordinated with fabrication, accessories, fuels, NDI (non-destructive inspection), low observables, egress and other shops, to keep the jets flying."
The Virginia Air National Guard has flown the F-22 aircraft in Red Flag exercises since 2007.