In what’s become an annual event for selected RAF units in recent years, Lossiemouth-based No.1(Fighter) Squadron will swap the Moray winter for the warmer climes and bright lights of Las Vegas next month.
Exercise Red Flag takes place on a handful of occasions throughout the year at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, just a short drive from the casinos of America’s craziest city.
Ahead of the new year deployment the Officer Commanding No.1(F) Squadron, Wing Commander Mike Sutton said: “In order to get ourselves into good shape for Red Flag we’re running a work-up period of training here at RAF Lossiemouth called Tartan Flag.
“The exercise involves up to 20 fast jets conducting the most challenging, high-end training sorties that we can generate in the UK.
“We’re also fighting against a number of simulated threat aircraft, again up to about 20 in number, also using the Sentinel and E-3D from RAF Waddington and we’re doing air-air refuelling on a daily basis.”
The RAF is also sending at least one Sentinel and an E-3D Sentry to Red Flag.Mike Sutton
The exercise is not limited to air-to-air sorties, the Typhoon Force is exercising its swing role capability as Wg Cdr Sutton explained: “Red Flag is predominately a swing role training opportunity for us.
“By swing role we’re taking the Typhoon and employing it in the air-air and then the air-ground role in the same sortie; we can flick between the two at a second’s notice.
“Tartan Flag was representative of the challenges that maintaining a swing role squadron have. So in the past the RAF has had fast jets that have conducted single role missions with the Harriers, Jaguars and Tornado GR.4s doing the air-ground task and Tornado F.3 doing the air-air task.
“With the Typhoon we can do all of that and more and it’s a complex and dynamic challenge to remain good at all of that. One day you’ll be sitting QRA and thinking about whether you might have to launch to intercept an unidentified aircraft, the very next day you could be doing a night close air support mission and the day after that you could be leading a strike package or doing air combat against an F-15 Eagle.
“So that’s an awful lot of skills set to maintain and knowledge to retain and we have to work very hard to do that.”(c) Mike Crutch
He added: “What we’re trying to do here is get our air-air skills as high as we possibly can as well as ensuring everyone is as familiar and tactically astute with the P1Eb upgrade that we’ve recently taken on with the employment of Paveway IV and so this is really a swing role work up period for us as well.”
The squadron recently became the first frontline Typhoon squadron to drop the Paveway IV, an operationally proven 500lb Global Positioning System and laser guided bomb.
Wg Cdr Sutton said: “While the Typhoon has being doing multi-role sorties for a number of years with the Paveway IV integration that we now have we’ve got a true swing role fighter and we can be extremely effective at fighting through threats, dropping targets and self-protecting against extremely potent surface to air threats as well.”
The Lossiemouth fighters, together with their ground crews, will leave their families shortly into the New Year and will return home by early February.