RED FLAG-Alaska 23-1 coordinator emphasizes interoperability with international partners

  • Published
  • By Maria Galvez
  • JBER Public Affairs
Planning for the current iteration of RED FLAG-Alaska 23-1, the Pacific Air Force’s premiere exercise, began eight months ago, including international partners such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Air Force.

RF-A serves as an ideal platform for international engagement as the exercise has a long history of including Allies and partners, enabling all involved to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures while improving interoperability.

“Participating in exercises like this is the only way we can practice working together with our allies and practice how - if the real world required it - we would operate together,” said RNZAF Corporal Joe Shave, No. 40 Squadron RF-A operations officer. “This training and exposure is invaluable for our crews and helps them be better aviators.”

U.S. Air Force Maj. William Hock, assistant director of operations for Detachment 1, 354th Operations Group, emphasized the value of working with allies and coalition partners.

“We're able to highlight our capabilities and limitations,” Hock said. “Once we learn how to work together towards a common goal, then we learn how to plan and execute together seamlessly.”

The exercise kicked off in October, greeting participants with an early snowfall, impacting flying operations.

Shave highlighted the unique experience of training in an environment such as the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

“The obvious difference is the natural environment,” Shave said. “De-icing the aircraft before flying isn't an overly common practice for us in Auckland. The beautiful scenery of the state of Alaska is a unique perk for all our crews.”

RF-A offers a unique experience for exercise participants by providing a simulated combat training environment within the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex. The JPARC airspace covers more than 77,000 square miles and provides the perfect setting to allow exercise participants to train for full spectrum engagements, ranging from individual skills to complex, large-scale joint engagements.

“Being able to carry out plenty of low-level cross-country flying here has been awesome,” Shave added. “It does wonders for our crew's flying skills and hones their skills in a foreign environment.”

In addition to working with the RNZAF, strengthening alliances with partners such as NATO and RAF increases lethality and interoperability for the armed forces and sets the theater.

“It's been an absolute pleasure having the NATO E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft here, specifically to participate in this exercise,” said Hock. “They've been able to execute most of the vulnerability periods in which they're able to provide command control for the fighters and the mobility aircraft that are operating.”

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Brandon Ellis, a weapons controller, assigned to the AWACS, NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany, and participant in RF-A, explains that his experience with NATO is unique when working with a variety of perspectives and levels of experience.

“Some of them are familiar with arctic environments, whereas others are familiar with maritime patrol environments,” Ellis said. “It’s very beneficial for them to see large force exercises and get the experience they may not be able to get in their home country.”

RAF Squadron Leader Huw Reynolds praised his team, lauding some of the team member’s first ever RF-A exercise participation.

“The scenarios presented, coupled with the terrain and autumnal weather, have all presented unique challenges to my crews, who have found the exercise hugely rewarding,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds also shared similar sentiments as the other ally partners, expressing the importance of working alongside the RNZAF and NATO.

“It has been truly wonderful to have participated in the exercise, working alongside the United States Air Force,” Reynolds said. “They [Reynolds’ team] have gained invaluable experience operating within a large air mobility package in a simulated threat environment.”

The first Red Flag-Alaska exercise of the fiscal year is set to end on Oct. 21.