Russian Air Force to take part in USAF training exercises

Friday, August 3, 2012
By Paul Martin

Ilya Kramnik

Despite a cooling off in relations between Russia and NATO countries, neither party has refused taking part in joint military programs.

One such program is the regular aerial combat training exercise of the US Air Force and its allies, called “Red Flag”. The next exercise is scheduled for October 2012.

US Military command came up with the idea of conducting Red Flag exercises during the Vietnam War, when the USAF and naval aviation primarily used heavy multi-functional bombers such as the F-4 Phantom-II and F-105 Thunderchief. These bombers demonstrated their inability to engage in close combat with Vietnam’s light MIG aircraft. The reason for such failings was the strong reliance placed on powerful radars and medium-range missiles on the new American fighters. However, in practice the engagements very often did not go the way the pre-war theoretical schemes designed them to and the ratio of losses did not benefit the American side.

The situation had to be corrected – especially since at the same time in the other part of Asia above the sands of Levant, pilots of the Israeli Air Force on French and American aircraft showed wonderful results in aerial combat missions against Arabs who had far more powerful aircraft compared to Vietnam and who had gone through the same Soviet school.

The US Air Force then ordered a study known as Project Red Baron II, which showed that a pilot’s chances of survival in combat dramatically increased after he had completed 10 combat missions. As a result, Red Flag, since starting in 1976, had the goal of offering every pilot and weapon systems officer (WSO) the opportunity to fly 10 realistically simulated combat missions in a safe training environment to give them more experience in real combat situations.

Today the Red Flag exercise is an advanced aerial combat exercise conducted in several cycles during the year. Besides Red Flag and Red Flag-Alaska, which mainly focus on fighter aerial combat, there are other cycles as well. For instance, the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX) – a large scale exercise for the headquarters of the US Air Force and its allies.

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