Red Flag-Nellis 23-1 is well underway at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Officials representing the base have alerted the public that they might notice some increased military air traffic during the joint US, UK, and Australian exercise, scheduled to run from January 23 through February 10.
Nellis AFB has hosted the event since 1975. There are three Red Flag events each year, including one for the US only, one for the Five Eyes (FVEY) nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States), and one that is open to a broader international audience of allies and partners. The 414th Combat Training Squadron conducts the training, and the drills give aircrews a chance to participate in simulated, high-intensity air combat missions in a secure setting. These exercises take place at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, utilizing the Nevada Test and Training Range. The Nevada setting offers the premiere military training ground for the US Air Force, serving up 12,000 square miles of airspace and over 2.9 million acres of land.
Almost 100 aircraft and 3,000 allied service members are participating in the air combat exercise focused on maintaining the readiness and facilitating smooth operations between friendly forces. Colonel Jared Hutchinson, commander of the 414th Combat Training Squadron states, “In our 48th year Red Flag, participants will build confidence under fire, integrated leadership, and a warfighter culture that will win our nation’s fights.” He continued, “Each flag pushes state of the art to a new level by building on the efforts of previous Red Flags. In this iteration, the allied force will be presented with many new and emerging real-world tactical problems.”
This year those “new and emerging real-world tactical problems” are designed to align with the 2022 National Defense Strategy of focusing on planning for possible operations in the Indo-Pacific Theater. Colonel Hutchinson also notes the importance of the training for younger airmen stating, “This year is expected to be challenging as it prioritizes young operators; it enables them to learn in the world’s best combat training environment while writing the next chapter of our resilient heritage.”
In 2023, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) sent five EA-18G Growler aircraft from the Number 6 Squadron to the US-based event, along with about 100 aviators. RAAF’s Director, Air Commodore John Haly, said recently, “Exercises like Red Flag Nellis are an opportunity to advance relationships and interoperability with the United States and the United Kingdom. However, he continued, “Although Australia conducts similar training activities domestically, the scope and scale of Red Flag Nellis cannot be replicated within Australia.”
RAAF’s Exercise Detachment Commander, Wing Commander Steven Thornton, commented on how realistic training scenarios benefit their force. “This training helps ensure RAAF remains ready to deploy aircraft and personnel away from their home base and sustain high-tempo operations. It also provides the necessary environment for testing and development of new work practices, systems, or role expansion.”
Other Upcoming NATO Exercises and Activities*
If you enjoy learning about and following our ongoing activities with our NATO partners, here is a quick list of a few planned events.
- DYNAMIC GUARD 23 – Location: North Atlantic, Dates: 20-24 Feb, Purpose: To maintain the level of proficiency in EW (electronic warfare) and ASMD (anti-ship missile defense) in Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 assigned units when not committed in NATO current operations and NATO Response Force operations.
- DYNAMIC MANTA 23 – Location: Mediterranean Sea, Dates: 27 Feb-10 Mar, Purpose: To exercise submarine warfare and Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) warfighting capabilities for submarines, ASW surface units, and maritime aircraft to conduct sea control and sea denial-related naval tasks in preparation for future collective defense and crisis response operations.
- HEMEX-ORION AMPHIBIOUS 2023 – Location: Mediterranean Sea, Dates: 22 Feb-10 Mar, Description: Hemex-Orion is a high-intensity major engagement exercise. This multi-domain exercise continues at the joint level of the POLARIS exercise organized in 2021 by the French Navy. During the LIVEX (live exercise), an ATG (afloat training group) made of 2 LHD (landing helicopter docks), their escorts, a CSG (carrier strike group), a mine warfare component, and advanced landing forces.
- JOINT PROJECT OPTIC WINDMILL – Location: Netherlands and Germany Dates: 6-31 Mar Purpose: JPOW23 addresses the need for close operation among the participating nations and entities during both NATO IAMD (integrated air and missile defense) and BMD (ballistic missile defense) missions with an emphasis on mission planning, mission execution, and interoperability within a simulated battle space.
- DYNAMIC MONGOOSE – Location: Norwegian Sea Dates: 24 Apr-5 May Purpose: To exercise submarine operations and anti-submarine warfare for NATO maritime units preparatory to sea control or sea denial-related naval tasks in future collective defense and crisis response operations.
*Information provided by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE)
My Favorite New Time Killer
It may be a little late to track the activities of all the cool aircraft participating in Red Flag this year. Still, through my favorite new time killing (I’m kidding, it is quite informative and helpful) website, you can track any military aircraft (and any civilian aircraft for that matter) over the US in real time. You can check out the ADS-B exchange here. When you first click on the tracking map, it will look like a Keith Haring painting or a map of the United States covered with skittles. Yep, there are many aircraft over the US at any one time.
For the military aviation enthusiast, getting rid of all that civilian clutter is easy. First, click on the letter “U” in the upper right-hand corner of your screen to show only military aircraft.
Click on any aircraft, and the site automatically gives you its information. For example, I clicked on the blue aircraft next to the information box you see, and it told me all I needed to know about FORT41, a US military C17 flying at an altitude of 25,575 feet and cruising at 424 knots. You’ll quickly notice that there are a fair number of foreign military aircraft in US airspace at any given time. An astute SOFREP reader told me recently how he saw what he considered to be an unusually high number of C3I (command, control, and intelligence) aircraft over US airspace the other evening.
Check out the site, and be sure to let me know of any exciting patterns you find. Leave us your comments below!