Colombian Air Force supports US Navy Growlers for premier air-to-air combat

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Angela Ruiz
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs

The Colombian Air Force is supporting the U.S. Navy during the U.S. Air Force-led air-to-air combat exercise Red Flag 19-2 March 11-22, 2019.

The Colombian Air Force brought their Multi-Mission Transport Tanker Jupiter 767 to refuel the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growlers for the duration of the exercise. The Colombian MMTT Jupiter 767 is the only aircraft capable to conduct air-to-air refueling missions for the Growler during Red Flag 19-2 due to different air-to-air refueling systems available for the exercise.

The U.S Air Force’s refueling aircraft participating in Red Flag 19-2 are boom-operated air-to-air refueling systems and the Growlers utilize a drogue air-to-air refueling system, which the Colombian MMTT Jupiter 767 provides.

“We’re an expeditionary Growler squadron so that means we’re land-based, so most of my pilots’ experience is based off tanking off of other F-18s or Air Force assets. In certain theaters of operation that may not always be the case,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Chris Nesset, Electronic Attack Squadron 134, commander. “So the ability to operate with a partner country in a training environment and go slow using a different tanking platform to get that experience prior to any real world operations is fantastic.”

Red Flag is America’s premier integration air-to-air combat training exercise that focuses on readiness, partnership and integration for expeditionary operations.

“After last year’s [Red Flag 18-3] exercise our leadership decided to stay close by inviting the Colombians back as soon as we could,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Mathes, 414 Combat Training Squadron commander. “The most feasible way to do that was with the tanker visit based on the other forces being engaged in ongoing operations.”

Red Flag 19-2 has a diversity of participants from around the globe to include Colombia, Belgium, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and U.S. joint forces. The Colombian MMTT Jupiter 767 is conducting day and night refueling missions exclusively with the U.S. Navy Growlers.

Colombian Air Force Col. Kerly Sanchez, Colombian Air Force Red Flag delegation commander expressed excitement in participating in Red Flag by saying that it’s important for the Colombian Air Force to maintain consistent training with NATO partners to increase interoperability and continue to be a good partner to their allies. Colombia is the first and only Latin American country that is a NATO Global Partner.

“NATO is one of many partnerships that we support,” Mathes said. “While not directly involved, the fact that we’ve already built training expectations and interoperability here allows us to stand up coalitions when called because we can’t really predict when and where we will fight next.”

This is the Colombian Air Force’s third time participating in a Red Flag exercise. They previously participated in 2012 and 2018 with their Kfir fighter jets and MMTT Jupiter 767. This is the first Red Flag exercise the MMTT Jupiter 767 is participating to solely refuel U.S. aircraft.

“We’re ready to support these type of exercises, and any other time we can support our partner nations in this capacity,” Sanchez said.