If the United States Army and the United States Air Force were to describe their relationship status on Facebook, they’d likely select “it’s complicated.” Seventy years ago, they went through a divorce. The Air Force became its own branch of United States Armed Forces and, with it, took (most of) the fixed-wing aircraft, leaving the Army with some helicopters and a lot of hard feelings.
The thing is, despite growing pains, the Air Force and Army still needed to work together. The Korean War helped things along a bit — the Air Force maintained control of the skies and backed up the Army. Since then, the two services have had a relationship filled with ups and downs. All the while, the two branches have done what they can to work together in harmony — one of the ways they enhance cooperation is through a spin-off of Exercise Red Flag, known as Green Flag.
The F-15E Strike Eagle is the heavy multi-role fighter in the Air Force inventory.
The purpose of Green Flag exercises is to help the Army and Air Force work together to learn how to best fight together and win a war while the stakes are relatively low. “Relatively” is a key word here, as there is still a measure of risk involved.
While the fate of nations does not rest on Green Flag, lives are certainly on the line. As author Tom Clancy once recounted, an OH-58 Kiowa crashed during the Green Flag he observed with the 366th Wing as he was writing Fighter Wing — killing the two-man crew on board. While flying to Nellis, an Army AH-64A Apache also went down. Thankfully, its crew survived to be rescued by a HH-60G Pave Hawk.
In the Green Flag held in June 2018, F-15Es practiced close-air support – a mission usually carried out by A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes.
According to an Air Force release, the June 2018 Green Flag featured F-15E Strike Eagles of the 391st Fighter Squadron practicing close-air support. While this mission is usually handled by A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, there are only 13 squadrons operating this plane. The 219 F-15E Strike Eagles — each with a crew of two, a pilot and weapon systems operator — are the go-to assets for backing up troops on the ground when the A-10 is not available.
Seventy years since the Air Force-Army divorce, the two services now manage to get along for the sake of the country.
When the Air Force and Army work together in concert to dominate both air and ground, wars are won. During Green Flag exercises, the two services put a messy divorce aside and practice working in concert for the sake of our country.