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Joint force trains against stronger Red Flag threat

Red Flag 21-3

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Patrick Ferraris, 926th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief, left, and Tech. Sgt. Steven Harvey, 926th AMXS crew chief, right, performs pre-flight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon before a Red Flag mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 28, 2021. Red Flag takes place over the Nevada Test and Training Range and provides the warfighter a flexible, realistic and multidimensional battle space to conduct advanced training of U.S. military services and coalition forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Hicks)

Red Flag 21-3

U.S. Air Force Capt. Scott Cromer, 64th Aggressor Squadron pilot, prepares to dawn his gear before a Red Flag mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 28, 2021. The 64th AGRS Airmen go through a lengthy certification process where they gain a comprehensive understanding of U.S. adversaries and their tactics. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Hicks)

Red Flag 21-3

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, takes off during Red Flag 21-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 23, 2021. Red Flag provides real-time war scenarios to test the readiness and capabilities of U.S. military services and coalition forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Hicks)

Red Flag 21-3

Several U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron, are prepared for the daily missions during Red Flag 21-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 21, 2021. During RF 21-3, the 414th Combat Training Squadron works hand-in-hand with the 64th AGRS to create agile problem-solvers, who are capable of correct decision-making under incredible pressure from joint partners from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marines, Space Force, Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force Reserves. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Red Flag 21-3

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, takes off during Red Flag 21-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 23, 2021. This iteration of Red Flag will incorporate almost twice as much airspace optimizing blue and red forces training opportunities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Hicks)

Red Flag 21-3

An F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, prepares to take off during Red Flag 21-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 23, 2021. Red Flag takes place over the Nevada Test and Training Range and provides the warfighter a flexible, realistic and multidimensional battle space to conduct advanced training of U.S. military services and coalition forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Hicks)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

Deep in the Nevada desert, exercise Red Flag-Nellis 21-3 provides world-class joint force training through a stronger, more dangerous threat.

Red Flag unleashes the aggressor nation as they refine threat replication, apply advanced jamming and increase threat capabilities to maximize training in non-permissive environments.

“This exercise provides realistic combat scenarios designed to challenge and test the capabilities of our pilots, maintainers and logistics teams,” said Lt. Col. Evan Parr, 27th Fighter Squadron director of operations. “Our warfighters are always ready for combat, but Red Flag tests us to see where we can improve.”

This Red Flag’s training environment includes an expanded airspace, an advanced surface-to-air threat and cutting-edge air-to-air threats. With both F-22 Raptors and F-35 Lightning IIs flying as adversaries, this exercise strives to create a greater challenge for the Joint Force.

“Training in this environment is very beneficial for our team,” Parr said. “When we train at home, we fight a mix of F-22s and T-38 Talons as our adversaries. Here, we get to train against multiple high-end threats teamed with the F-16s from the 64th Aggressor Squadron whose primary mission is to study our adversaries’ maneuvers and techniques and use them against us.”

The 64th AGRS Airmen go through a lengthy certification process where they gain a comprehensive understanding of U.S. adversaries and their tactics. This preparation ensures each aggressor can provide a challenging, yet realistic, threat to maximize joint force training.

“We’re subject matter experts when it comes to our enemy air forces,” said Lt. Col. Chris Finkenstadt, commander, 64th AGRS. “Based on our focus toward great power competition, we need to make sure that blue air is ready, and we do that by presenting the best possible atmosphere we can.”

Alongside the 64th AGRS, the 414th Combat Training Squadron makes air-to-ground employment more challenging with complex target areas and camouflage and concealment techniques across multiple spectrums.

“Red Flag’s goal is to challenge, disrupt and if able, deny our communication and interoperability,” Parr said. “They force errors and punish mistakes. We get better by working through these problems in the air and as we debrief each fight.”

Leadership agrees that having our sister services here is beneficial for building a more dominant force.

“When we arrive to Nellis, we set up shop with our sister services and figure out how all of our strengths mesh together and integrate those for a more advanced capability,” said Col. Brandon Tellez, Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “Red Flag represents the highest level of training that we offer.”