It may be loud, but it’s vital for survival: Nellis’ Red Flag exercises commence this weekend

ST. GEORGE — Combat training exercises designed to increase the survivability of airmen in the U.S. armed forces will begin in southern Nevada this weekend, with flyovers possible in Southern Utah.

Senior airmen Nancy Bartel and Diana Medina, both back-shop armament technicians, post flight an F-16 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., date not specified | Photo by M. Sgt. Ben Bloker/U.S. Air Force, St. George News

The Red Flag training exercises are coordinated at Nellis Air Force Base north of Las Vegas on the Nevada Test and Training Range. The exercises are scheduled to begin Saturday and continue through Feb. 15, with another training regimen scheduled for March 3-16.

Aircraft will be launched daily at various times, including some night training operations.

Aircraft have been known to fly over Southern Utah during the training exercises, often creating loud booms during flyovers and munitions testing. One SunRiver resident even complained of a broken window after an aircraft flew over his house during a 2016 Red Flag exercise.

While they may have a penchant for rattling homes on occasion, these exercises serve as a vital training opportunity for service members.

The Red Flag concept was established in 1975 to better prepare forces for combat.

During the Vietnam War, the military recognized a pattern among pilots – those who survived their first 10 combat missions had a substantial increase in their odds for survival on subsequent missions.

Red Flag was thus designed to expose pilots-in-training to simulations equivalent to their first 10 combat missions to instill confidence before ever being sent into actual combat.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon Aggressor flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev., Oct. 19, 2009 | Photo by Airman 1st Class Jamie Nicley/U.S. Air Force, St. George News

“Red Flag gives aircrews an opportunity to experience advanced, relevant, and realistic combat-like situations in a controlled environment to increase their ability to complete missions,” Nellis Air Force Base said in a news release.

Mission training exercises can include air interdiction, combat search and rescue, close air support, dynamic targeting and defensive counter air. Trainees also attack simulated targets in the test range, such as mock airfields, vehicle convoys, tanks, parked aircraft, bunkered defensive positions and missile sites. These targets are defended by a variety of simulated ground and air threats.

A wide variety of aircraft are typically employed during the exercises, including bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, air superiority aircraft, airlift support, search and rescue aircraft and aerial refueling aircraft.

Some ground-based exercises are conducted as well, such as cyber missions.

The training is not exclusive to the Air Force; all four U.S. military services and the air forces of other countries participate in the Red Flag exercises. Since 1975, 29 countries have joined the U.S. in these exercises, and several other countries have participated as observers.

Since its inception, Red Flag has provided training for more than half a million military personnel.


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