Air warfare aces compete at Red Flag

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Aircraft technician atop a ‘Growler’

EA-18G ‘Growler’ air warfare jets may be new on the scene at RAAF Base Amberley but they have deployed already to the United States to compete in one of the most demanding air power exercises worldwide.

Established in 1980 by the US Air Force, Red Flag is the world’s most complex reconstruction of a modern air battlespace, recognised as the closest thing to air combat possible. The exercise also involves participants from the United States Navy as well as the United Kingdom.

This is a major Defence exercise, with a contingent of 340 personnel deployed to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for the exercise, taking place until 16 February 2018.

Accompanying the four ‘Growlers’ are an AP-3C Orion, a E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft, and a deployed Control and Reporting Centre on this complex, multi-nation exercise.

Training alongside allied nations is critical to the success of Air Force units on real world operations; helping develop further familiarity with foreign terminology, methods and platforms.

RAAF Task Group Headquarters Commander, GPCAPT Tim Alsop said that every year the RAAF is invited to participate in Red Flag, and the training benefits are excellent.

“We gain so much as an orgnisation in terms of how we train and also how we operate as a deployed force in a multi-national environment,” he said. “The Growlers’ deployment to a multi-national exercise of this scale, a mere year after having been transferred to No 6 Squadron, is an important milestone for Air Combat Group and RAAF.”

For the ‘Growler’ squadron, the opportunity to ‘fight’it out at Red Flag is perfect timing in its pathway to full operational capability.

This is also the first time the ‘Growlers’ will operate with the E-7A ‘Wedgetail’ in a simulated high air and ground threat environment. It will enable close interaction at the electronic warfare level, which is a vital part of the objective to develop Air Force combat assets into a truly networked force in the battlespace.

“Participants will practise planning and executing day and night-time missions, using large numbers of aircraft and ground systems, coordinated to overcome a considerable simulated adversary,” GPCAPT Alsop said.

“This includes a range of air power roles for RAAF personnel, from air superiority and strike; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to electronic warfare.

“It provides a comprehensive training environment for aircrew, maintenance and support personnel alike.”