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Red Flag…where pilots prove what they’re made of

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Justin Brant, 389th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, competes pre-flight checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle Feb 1, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag provides valuable training and experience to prepare Airmen for future deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Justin Brant, 389th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, competes pre-flight checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle Feb 1, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag provides valuable training and experience to prepare Airmen for future deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 389th Fighter Squadron takes off, Feb 1, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for Red Flag 13-2. More than 100 aircraft depart the base twice a day to participate in a wide-variety of missions designed to provide Airmen realistic combat training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 389th Fighter Squadron takes off, Feb 1, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for Red Flag 13-2. More than 100 aircraft depart the base twice a day to participate in a wide-variety of missions designed to provide Airmen realistic combat training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Heather Hayward)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- More than 100 aircraft from 17 different units with more than 2700 people have come here to participate in Red Flag 13-2.

Aircraft depart the base twice a day to participate in a wide-variety of realistic combat missions.

"It is by far the closest we can get to combat without actually going," said Col. Bruce Smith, Red Flag 13-2 Air Expeditionary Wing commander. "It gives us the best threat replication and it gives us the best training with our United States and coalition partners--better than anywhere else in the world."

Red Flag provides valuable training and experience to prepare Airmen for future deployments.

"I think that we're all prepared to go to war," Smith said. "I think this Red Flag prepares us to do that against a number of different threats around the world that we could encounter."

Along with several different U.S. Air Force units, U.S. Navy, the Netherlands, Singapore and Sweden also participated.

"Integration is huge with all the different countries," said Capt. Ryan Sells, 389th Fighter Squadron chief of safety. "We also have the professional aggressors here so we're seeing a threat that we can't see back home."

The Nevada Test and Training Range, where the exercise is hosted, is a premier training site that consists of 2.9 million acres of land and more than 12,000 square-nautical miles of airspace. There are also1900 targets, realistic threat systems and an opposing enemy force.

"The expectation of everything we are doing is to get the experience of working in a joint combined environment with a bunch of different assets and different countries," Sells said. "We get to practice different tactics with different countries here."

There are typically more than 90 aircraft taking off twice a day and may remain in the air for up to eight hours.

"In these times of fiscal constraints, opportunities to get this kind of training in the future are, or could be in question," Smith said. "When you go to a Red Flag you go with people that you may encounter downrange, and you have established that relationship with them that you'll have for years."


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