Red Flag 17-3: The Role of the Raptor

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., have joined combat air forces from across the nation for the joint, full-spectrum readiness exercise, Red Flag 17-3.

Ten F-22 Raptors from the 95th Fighter Squadron are joining the exercise alongside Marine F-35Bs and Air Force F-35As. This is a first in Red Flag history that both variants of F-35 will take part in the exercise. Other aircraft such as B-1 Lancers, B-2 Spirits, E-3 Sentry’s, F-16 Fighting Falcons, and more will also be featured and will each play an important role in the exercise theater.

According to the F-22 fact sheet on Af.mil, the Raptor is a critical component of the Global Strike Force and is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances.

“We’re primarily an escort role,” said Capt. Brady Amack, 95th FS pilot. “We integrate with other aircraft, whether they’re 4th or 5th generation, and ensure they’re able to execute their mission. The amount of experience we get is huge. There is no other area, really, where we can train with so many different types of aircraft in such a large area.”

By gathering these diverse units together, the exercise facilitates readiness training on a higher level. Each unit involved brings their specific expertise and talents to the table. Red Flag teaches them to work together as they would in the field, possibly for the first time, before facing an actual threat.

Red Flag 17-3 is exclusively reserved for U.S. military forces, which allows for specific training when coordinating 5th generation assets. Tyndall’s Raptors will be able to learn from working with both the F-35 units taking part.

Both aircraft’s stealth capabilities, advanced avionics, communication and sensory capabilities help augment the capabilities of the other aircraft.

“Working with the F-35s brings a different skillset to the 5th generation world,” said Amack. “Having a more diverse group of low-observable assets has allowed us to do great things.”

The mission of the Red Flag exercise overall is to maximize the combat readiness and survivability of participants by providing a realistic training environment and a pre-flight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas. Tyndall’s 95th FS benefits from having a role in this exercise by learning how to completely integrate into multi-aircraft units and gaining experience from intense sorties.

“Since Red Flag 17-3 in particular is U.S. only, we get to take the opportunity to take things to the next level,” said Lt. Col. Mark Sadler, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander. “This Red Flag alone gives us our singular largest 5th generation foot print, which allows us to learn as we continue to build new ideas. As we look to be innovative and solve problems, we’ll only increase our readiness by getting smarter as a force and as joint warfighters.”