Australian F-35As to participate in Exercise Red Flag Nellis for the first time


Exercise Red Flag Nellis 24-1 has officially begun and, for the first time, the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) F-35As are participating in the combat training in Nevada, United States.

Exercise Red Flag Nellis is a two-week advanced aerial combat training exercise held several times a year by the US Air Force. The RAAF considers the exercise the world’s toughest air combat training environment.

Around 150 RAAF personnel have joined their counterparts from the US and the United Kingdom in the exercise, which began January 15, 2024 and runs until February 2, 2024. 

The RAAF team consists of approximately 150 aviators supporting six F-35A Lightning II aircraft and a tactical command and control team.

Exercise Red Flag was established by the US Air Force in 1975 after the Vietnam War showed that the first 10 combat missions are the most dangerous for aircrews. 

The first 10 missions of a modern air campaign are recreated during the Red Flag Nellis exercise. The exercise is renowned for its use of aggressor forces, including enemy fighter aircraft, ground-based radars and simulated surface-to-air missiles, as well as cyber and space-based elements that simulate threats for each mission.

“Generations of RAAF aviators have come to this exercise since 1980, and it continues to evolve and reflect the threats and challenges faced on modern operations,” RAAF Wing Commander Adrian Kiely, Commanding Officer of No. 3 Squadron said in a press statement.

“Exercise Red Flag Nellis will test every facet of our F-35A capability, allow us to integrate with our American and British allies, and practice how we project force on combat operations,” Kiely said, adding that this is the RAAF’s F-35’s first time participating in the exercise.

In total, Exercise Red Flag Nellis 24-1 will involve approximately 3000 personnel and 100 aircraft conducting large force employment missions.

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