Checkered Flag: Tyndall’s coalition exercise showcases combat airpower

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Nordheim
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Maintaining combat readiness for current and potential future conflicts is a top priority across the Department of Defense. One aspect of ensuring total air dominance is fostering international partnerships. Through a U.S. Air Force special duty assignment, Airmen are encouraged to embed themselves with coalition and global partners to further expand international relationships.

Checkered Flag, one of the DoD’s largest air-to-air exercises, provides premiere access to the Gulf Range Complex off the coast of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and enables the opportunity for multiple airframes, units and countries to train and prepare to meet National Defense Strategy objectives by building resilient coalition forces capable of projecting combat airpower around the globe.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jackie Pike is assigned to the Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 2 Squadron, based out of RAAF Base Williamtown, Australia, as a Surveillance and Control Officer. She has been embedded with her unit for two years and has come to Tyndall to participate in Checkered Flag.

“My role here at Checkered Flag 24-1 is to be a Surveillance and Control Officer which is the controlling operator that speaks to aircraft, directs them where to go, and overall air battle management through the RAAF E-7A wedgetail,” said Pike. “An opportunity we don’t normally have is being able to have U.S. Air Force E-3 and RAAF E-7 aircraft working together, which has been such an incredible learning experience.”

The RAAF No. 2 Squadron demonstrated the magnitude of strategic importance and shared responsibility to maintain air superiority during the 24-1 iteration of Checkered Flag.

“Our primary objectives in Checkered Flag are to ensure that the training we do back home integrates well into a coalition package,” said RAAF Squadron Leader Steve Scott, No. 2 Squadron Air Battle Manager. “We’re trained to the same standard and when we come over here we want to ensure that works cleanly and efficiently.”

Utilizing Checkered Flag enables the U.S. and participating allied and partner nation armed forces to learn best practices from each other.

“You don’t realize what type of bubble you are in when you just operate in your own unit, in your country’s military,” said Pike. “Going outside of [your own military] and expanding your knowledge and expanding your experiences has been incredibly valuable. You really get to see the different approaches, mindsets and operations. That is something I look forward to bringing back to the U.S. Air Force.”

By fostering and maintaining relationships with coalition allies and partners, the U.S. can strengthen interoperability in an effort to create a more seamless operational environment when projecting combat airpower.

“I really enjoy operating on the E-7 because it brings a unique capability to the fight,” said Scott. “We’re looking to expand the fleets, and our RAF [United Kingdom] brethren and USAF are now onboard for the E-7 project. It’s going to be really great to work with those guys and teach them the lessons we’ve learned over the past few years.”