Aircrews practice irregular warfare at Green Flag

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shawn J. Jones and Airman 1st Class Shane Dunaway
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Nearly 100 Airmen of the 4th Fighter Wing are now participating in Green Flag at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. 

Green Flag is Air Combat Command's premier pre-deployment exercise for units who perform close-air support. 

The training exercise, which began April 19 and runs through May 4, mirrors many of the irregular warfare-conditions the F-15E Strike Eagle aircrews will see while fighting the Global War on Terror. 

"One minute you could be out bombing a convoy, the next minute you have guys on the ground who are taking fire or who may have encountered an IED and you have to provide assistance to them," said Capt. Marc Johnson, 335th Fighter Squadron, regarding his squadron's participation in Green Flag.
Though home-station training sorties provide a strong foundation in counterinsurgency tactics, complex exercises like Green Flag more thoroughly simulate an irregular warfare environment. 

"The scenario is on a much larger scale than we have here," said Lt. Col. Lance Bunch, assistant director of operations for the 335th FS. "The ability to work directly with troops that are actually maneuvering on the ground is something we don't get to do." 

Better integration with those maneuvering ground troops is an objective of the training.
After rapidly establishing air superiority in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Air Force leaders now seek to expand and maximize their aircrafts' mission capabilities to reflect the unique challenges of waging a counterinsurgency. Seamless support of servicemembers who more frequently engage the enemy face-to-face is one mission capability where the Strike Eagle can help. 

Additionaly, Green Flag provides an opportunity to hone the communication and execution between aircrews and ground forces. 

"The guys on the ground are in a hostile environment. They're trying to use the capabilities of our aircraft in the best way they can to provide on-call fire, reconnaissance assets or just to show a presence," said Captain Johnson.
Training together allows Soldiers and Airmen to better understand how they can support one another. Each service can train and operate with an increased knowledge of the strengths and limitations of air and ground power. Greater integration will help to put firepower on-target, on-time, said the Captain. 

Throughout Green Flag, 4th FW aircrews will try to learn better ways to employ airpower within an irregular warfare environment. 

"Airpower's role in counterinsurgency is wide-ranging. It covers all sorts of missions from airlift to traditional and non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to also being able to employ ordnance onto the bad guys," said Colonel Bunch. 

The Strike Eagle has the unique capabilities necessary to contribute to those missions. 

"With the threat areas we have out there, we're a very valuable asset because we stretch the gamut," said Colonel Bunch.