NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada --
The 20th Fighter Wing (FW) recently deployed to participate in Red Flag-Nellis (RF-N) 23-2 from March 13 to March 24, marking the wing's first deployment there since 2021. Though RF-N continues a steady drumbeat of training exercises year-round at the Nevada Test and Training Range, the 20th Fighter Wing had the unique and challenging opportunity to serve as the core wing during this iteration of the exercise.
This iteration of RF-N 23-2 enabled the 20th FW’s more inexperienced combat aviators to have outstanding training opportunities, all while allied partners and close to 100 aircraft from around the world participated in the complex mission scenarios against aggressor forces.
“With Red Flag-Nellis 23-2, anytime a force of this size shows up on a base they need to have a wing structure that can assist with taking care of all the administration and feeding of everyone involved,” said Col. Kevin Lord, 20th Operations Group and exercise Air Expeditionary Wing commander.
This iteration welcomed 21 units and approximately 1,800 participants from the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and the Israeli Air Force, collaborating on a total force and interoperability exercise.
“America’s Total Force capability is a critical augmentation to the active duty component,” said Col. Jared Hutchinson, 414th Combat Training Squadron (CTS) commander. “In this exercise, the Air National Guard units were mission commanders on three missions, deputy mission commanders on two missions, team leads on fifteen missions, and tactical mentors on two missions. Without our total force partners, Red Flag 23-2 would be a much smaller and less effective demonstration of airpower.”
While the ‘white forces,’ led by the 414th CTS, ensured safety and balanced individual training, the ‘red forces,’ led by the 57th Operations Group at Nellis, supported the exercise by driving static, dynamic and adaptive threats to challenge the 20th FW and other participants in ways they have not been challenged before.
“Our maintainers don’t get many opportunities to work side by side with our joint partners and allies,” said Col. Angela Edmondson, 20th Maintenance Group commander. “During this Red Flag, we had the chance to do both. These opportunities gave us the chance to watch how other organizations accomplish similar tasks and help us recognize ways that we can improve.”
The pure output that the 20th FW maintainers produced exceeded training expectations and ensured pilots and aircrew were continually set up for success in the air.
“Since the 20th Fighter Wing had the opportunity to work as the core team during this Red Flag we worked directly with all the participants on a daily basis,” said Edmondson. “We helped coordinate maintenance support, access equipment and materials, facility access and a variety of other tasks to get the units what they needed. This was a great way to learn about each unit and get to know them better.”
The U.S. Air Force allies and partners are a force multiplier and one of the greatest strategic assets in protecting the nation.
“Most importantly, we know that the future fight is operating with our partners, not just next to them, which means we need to understand each other much more deeply than we do now,” said Edmondson.
The exercise provided more complex target areas, camouflage and concealment techniques in multiple spectrums, and introduced realistic scenarios forcing reattacks in accordance with acceptable levels of risk as it concentrates on the European Command and U.S. Central Command regions.
The 20th FW generated and flew sorties over the course of a two-week period, gaining invaluable simulated combat experience and lessons learned to take into their next real-world deployment tasking.
The 55th Fighter Generation Squadron (FGS) 'Shooters' sent 130 personnel and 14 aircraft for the 17-day exercise, flying 190 sorties and more than 450 hours; additionally, the Shooters hosted the ACC/A4 Test Systems Division team, where they highlighted the operational strengths and shortfalls of the Stores System Tester. Diagnostic data from the tests fueled the development of courses of action focused on cost-reduction and cross-service interoperability of future Armament system test sets.
The 79th FGS deployed 128 personnel and 14 aircraft in support of RF-N 23-2, completing the training exercise with 186 sorties and more than 451 hours flown.
“Not only do the Nellis AFB ranges provide world class training with air-to-ground threats and air-to-air threats with professional red air, but coming here gives us the ability to integrate with our allies and come together as a force,” said Lord. “Not only for the aircrew but for all the personnel involved, everyone learned how to operate in a new place with people they’re not used to operating with— and so it's world class training from the air and the ground.”