TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
U.S. Airmen, Sailors and Department of Defense contractors and civilians participated in Checkered Flag 22-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 8-19, 2021.
Checkered Flag, hosted by the 325th Fighter Wing, is one of the DoD’s largest air-to-air exercises and serves to integrate fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft to train and test enhanced mobility, pre-deployment qualifications, and rapid response employment capabilities of pilots and aircrew.
“This iteration of Checkered Flag is different because the 325th Fighter Wing actually owns the exercise,” said Lt. Col. Sean Fazande, Checkered Flag 22-1 exercise director. “We actually have every agency on base involved to execute this mission; that’s upwards of fifteen agencies coming together, coordinating and making the exercise happen.”
The wing was responsible for maintaining and executing predetermined mission goals and learning objectives identified by the Air Combat Command commander’s intent to train a dedicated, highly effective force ready for worldwide for rapid response. This is known as under am Immediate Response Force defense posture.
“We hone down exactly what we are going to execute,” said Fazande. “We also have players from Jacksonville [Florida] and Eglin [Air Force Base] and other locations that [participated] giving us a very robust exercise.”
Integration operations focused on building relationships and strengthening partnerships with the U.S. Navy, as well as North American Aerospace Defense Command partners stationed at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Additional units that participated included the 90th Fighter Squadron assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska and the 79th Fighter Squadron stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.
More than 93 aircraft and 12 squadrons from across the country brought their respective fighters, tankers, electronic and communication warfare skills, and command and control aircraft teams to the playing field.
“[We] allow our pilots to get out there and work together and build unit cohesion,” said Fazande. “That unit cohesion is very key to what Checkered Flag is all about; bringing them down here, working together, mission planning together, getting out into the airspace and knowing how and when [to] execute certain tactics.”
During the course of Checkered Flag 22-1, the 53rd Wing’s Weapons System Evaluation Program East 22.02, also known as Combat Archer, took place as well. The Air Force’s WSEP program is also a joint service program that tests air-to-air and air-to-ground live fire weapons and munitions systems. Conducting the exercise and the WSEP simultaneously saves the DoD resources and provides additional training opportunities made available by proximity and collaboration.
“We get to do this in concert with them because we utilize the same jets,” said Fazande. “You get the entire gambit of getting into the airspace in the morning, executing certain fighter tactics; how to employ the jet and then take [that back] to debrief and decide how we could improve on those skills.
“In the afternoon [pilots] get to go from the fighter intercept point to the target, releasing weapons and [learning] what it feels like to shoot a missile off the wing and employ the tactics appropriately,” he continued.
Exercises like Checkered Flag help to paint a more detailed picture for higher levels of command of real world capabilities. Interoperability is key in developing and maintaining a more lethal air dominant force in the global theater.
Along with Team Tyndall Airmen, approximately 950 transient personnel made the exercise successful with eight flying missions and 449 sorties flown. The success of the combined training exemplifies Tyndall’s main mission: to train and project unrivaled combat airpower.