Red Flag 09-2
By Lt.Col. Michel McMillin, 132 FW/DETCO
/ Published May 29, 2009
Eielson AFB, Alaska --
One Red Air MiG had already been splashed and another group of adversaries avoided altogether in an effort to keep the Blue Air strike aircraft untargeted and deliver bombs into the command bunker directing the surface-to-air missile system currently engaging them.
As the threat warning system audio blared in their ears, the pilots of the 132d Fighter Wing "Hawkeyes" dispensed chaff in an attempt to break the lock of the surface-to-air missile system's radar. Finally, after a minute - that seemed more like ten - the surface-to-air missile system's radar dropped lock long enough for the pilots to deliver their weapons squarely into the heart of the command bunker and begin the 80 mile dash for home through the mountains of Alaska at 500 feet and 540 knots.
Scenarios much like the one just described played out 114 times for the pilots of the 132d Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard as they tested the limits of their tactical flying abilities in Red Flag North at Eielson AFB, Alaska, from 15 April to 2 May 2009.
Near the conclusion of the Vietnam War, it was determined that if a pilot could survive the first ten missions flown, the chances of being shot down during the rest of their year-long tour dropped dramatically. Red Flag was created to give Air Force pilots a chance to get those first ten critical missions under their belt before encountering the real thing. To achieve the level of realism needed to simulate flying in an actual major conflict, Red Flag North deploys up to 14 Red Air (Bad Guy) aircraft and 19 surface-to-air threat systems, with most of the surface-to-air systems being actual adversary systems manned by live operators.
To adequately counter the threat, Blue Air (the good guys) launch 30-plus aircraft packages covering the full spectrum of combat capabilities; E-3 AWACS, KC-135 tankers, EA-6B jamming aircraft, F-15 air-to-air fighters and F-16 multi-role fighters all work together to degrade the enemy's air-to-air and air-to-surface defenses to successfully put bombs on target. The 132d Fighter Wing supplied six multi-role fighters in each of these 30-plus aircraft packages.
Faced with the most realistic and difficult major conflict training profiles flown anywhere in the world, the "Hawkeyes" of the 132d Fighter Wing excelled without equal. And thanks to the hard-working, top notch, 132d Fighter Wing Maintainers, the unit was the only fighter squadron at Red Flag North to launch all scheduled sorties, most lines configured with live or heavy-weight inert ordnance. Once airborne, the "Hawkeyes" took the fight to the enemy with one of the highest sortie effectiveness rates of the exercise, putting up excellent numbers across the board.
Thanks to the dedicated members of the 132d Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard who consistently make critical training exercises - like Red Flag North - and operational AEF combat deployments unqualified successes, the "Hawkeyes" remain the Tip of the Spear!