F-22 Raptor fighter jets from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, have joined combat air forces from across the nation for the joint, full-spectrum readiness exercise Red Flag 17-3.
Ten F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron are joining the exercise alongside Marine Corps F-35B and Air Force F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters.
This is a first in Red Flag history that both variants of F-35 will take part in the exercise, officials said. The F-35B is the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version of the jet, and the F-35A has conventional takeoff and landing capabilities.
Other aircraft such as B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, and more will also be featured and will each play an important role in the exercise theater, officials said.
The F-22 is designed to project air dominance rapidly and at great distances.
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Burt Traynor
"We're primarily an escort role," said Air Force Capt. Brady Amack, 95th Fighter Squadron pilot. "We integrate with other aircraft, whether they're fourth or fifth 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."
Higher Level of Training
By gathering these diverse units together, the exercise facilitates readiness training on a higher level, as each unit rings specific expertise and talents to the table, officials said. Red Flag teaches them to work together as they would in the field, possibly for the first time, before facing an actual threat, they added.
Red Flag 17-3 is exclusively reserved for U.S. military forces, which allows for specific training when coordinating fifth-generation assets, exercise officials noted, adding that Tyndall's Raptors will be able to learn from working with both F-35 units taking part.
Photo courtesy of US Navy
"Working with the F-35s brings a different skill set to the fifth-generation world," he added. "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 preflight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas.
The 95th Fighter Squadron benefits by learning how to completely integrate into multi-aircraft units and gaining experience from intense sorties, officials said.
"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 Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Sadler, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander.
"This Red Flag alone gives us our singular largest fifth-generation footprint, 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."