The sky roared with engines as military aircraft from all over the world formed a mass convoy to accomplish one mission: international security.
Amongst the aircraft buzzed a stagnant controller plane, monitoring flight patterns and operations, to ultimately ensure every coalition aircraft abided by the pre-determined rules of engagement. The slightest navigational error in execution could result in mission failure.
Suddenly, the controller spotted a stray aircraft violating the approved flight path. Immediately the controller contacted theaircraft and dismissed them from the on-going operation for that day. There was no room for carelessness.
This is one of many real-world accounts Maj. Mark Lennon, 384th Air Refueling Squadron assistant director of operations, has encountered during his flying career that has affirmed the importance of enhancing interoperability between joint services and allied nations, and exactly what exercise Red Flag-Alaska 18-3, at Eielson AFB, Alaska, offered participants.
“Red Flag-Alaksa 18-3 provided our crews with an opportunity to have more exposure to flying while working with foreign allies in a simulated combat environment,” Lennon said. “Ultimately, the training and experience allows us to be better prepared to execute the mission downrange.”
The exercise took place Aug. 9 - Aug. 24 and welcomed service members from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and aircrews from partner nations including Australia, Great Britain, and Canada.
“In exercise scenarios, we’re completing tasks we would be doing during a real-world deployment: refueling fighter jets, navigating with foreign allies, and effectively and efficiently meeting safety requirements in a high-ops tempo environment,” Lennon said.
Throughout the week of training, 14 Fairchild aircrew members flew the KC-135 Stratotanker for over 60 hours, completed 16 sorties and offloaded millions of pounds of fuel to several receivers, including fighter jets.
“This training gives the aircrews the opportunity to work with different forces and allied countries so that in real-world operations they know how to work together more efficiently as a combined operating team,” Lennon said.
Participants from each U.S. military branch and country play a key role in preparing members to complete their real-world contingencies.
“The training our aircrews are receiving, in addition to providing integrating air refueling into the joint fight, is critical to enabling full spectrum readiness for ourselves and our allies,” said Lt. Col. Sean McClune, 384th ARS commander. “Exercises like RED FLAG are where we sharpen our abilities to fight anywhere, anytime we are needed."