The world’s most intensive air combat training exercise has concluded at Nellis Air Force Base just outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
Over the course of the three-week Red Flag exercise, RAF Typhoons flown predominantly by Lossiemouth-based No.1 (Fighter) Squadron alongside other RAF assets flew twice daily sorties against complex air defences designed to mirror what they would expect to encounter in a real theatre of war.
Group Captain Mark Chappell, Station Commander of RAF Lossiemouth and head of the RAF deployment, said: “This exercise continues to be the most challenging and rewarding training for all domains and so while it has been hard work for everyone involved it’s been well worth the effort.
“Everyone has received unparalleled levels of training and we are thus far better equipped for any future contingency which we may be asked to support.”
During Ref Flag Typhoon FGR.4 multi-role fighters flew 150 sorties with each pilot deployed taking the opportunity to gain experience of dropping Paveway IV precision guided bombs, 25 of which were used by the RAF on the exercise.
One of the 1(F) Squadron Typhoon pilots was Flight Lieutenant Alec Palfreyman, who said: “Red Flag was everything I expected it to be and more. The way they pull all the elements together into one mission is something we can’t do at home. It’s of great value both to the Typhoon Force and personally.
“With 70 plus aircraft in the air to be able to fight your way into a target, drop a bomb and then fight your way out and survive is a challenge. I definitely feel the sharpest I’ve been at the end of the flying having been exposed to the closest thing to doing it for real. It certainly gives you confidence for the future.”
The training is only possible through the work of the engineers who keep the Typhoons serviceable. Flt Lt Darren Tremble is a Junior Engineering Officer on 1(F) Squadron. He said: “It’s been very hard work across all trades but it’s provided the opportunity to work in a different environment which they may encounter on operations. I’ve been particularly pleased with the serviceability of the Typhoons.”
All is not quite over in the USA for Lossiemouth personnel.
The Typhoons will remain in the USA to participate in Exercise Western Zephyr, with Lossiemouth’s other fully operational Typhoon unit, No.6 Squadron, taking over from their counterparts and allowing 1(F) Sqn to return to take up the UK Northern Quick Reaction Alert tasking as well as standard training.
Western Zephyr will see the RAF work closely with the state-of-the-art F-22 Raptors of the US Air Force’s 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. The exercise continues the interoperability and integration of RAF operations with the fifth-generation F-22, ahead of the introduction into RAF and Royal Navy service of the F-35 Lightning II to its combat air inventory.
Lossie’s third Typhoon unit, No.II(AC) Sqn, continue to build up to frontline status with a handful of jets now on strength; the unit should be fully operational by April.