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RED FLAG-Alaska 19-2 takes off

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A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot prepares to take off in preparation for RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 19-2 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, June 6, 2019. The aerial portion of RF-A takes place in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which has an airspace of more than 67,000 square miles.

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska — RED FLAG-Alaska 19-2, a large-scale field training exercise headquartered at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, began June 6 and is scheduled to continue through June 21.

The world-class exercise is held several times each year and is designed to provide participants with realistic combat experience in a controlled environment. Members of the Republic of Korea Air Force, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and the Royal Thai Air Force will train alongside their U.S. counterparts temporarily stationed at Eielson and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, enabling all involved to share tactics, techniques, and procedures and improve bilateral integration.

“What they found in previous wars is that pilots were dying within their first 10 flights in-theater,” said Capt. James Carson, 354th Operations Group, Detachment 4 range flight commander and RF-A 19-2 team chief. “That’s the idea behind RF-A; we try to provide similar flights to what pilots can expect to see when they actually go to war, but in a safe environment.”

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Although a similar exercise is held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Lt. Col. Scott Black, 353rd Combat Training Squadron chief of operations, said Alaska’s Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex provides a unique training space that sets RF-A apart. The 67,000 square mile range complex is isolated from civilian populations and has relatively few restrictions, giving RF-A participants and planners the freedom to train as realistically as possible.

The inclusion of foreign partners adds to the training’s realism, as success in modern combat often relies on teamwork between different nations.

“We get to really work on our communication with the international members that come out here and show them what RF-A is all about,” explained Carson. “We have a fair amount of international partners running through which gives us a chance to coordinate with them and increase our interoperability.”

All participants, regardless of which country they call home, will leave RF-A better prepared to respond to real-world threats in the ever-changing landscape of modern warfare.

“We’re providing combat-level experience in a safe environment to prepare every single pilot and person on the ground to be ready to fight safely and survive,” said Carson.

RF-A 19-2 is the first of two exercises scheduled for this calendar year.

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