Royal Air Force personnel have participated in Red Flag (Alaska), a large multi-national air and ground exercise conducted across one of the largest aerial training areas in the World.
Over 100 aircraft, including F-35 Lightning stealth fighters, gathered from across the United States, Pacific and Canada for the two-week exercise.
But the exercise was not limited to flying operations, a squadron of RAF Regiment personnel also participated, deploying into a remote area of Alaska.
In the exercise scenario 15 Squadron RAF Regiment were tasked with securing a remote gravel landing strip defended by enemy forces in order to enable transport aircraft to land and deliver supplies.
With a sniper team providing advance reconnaissance, RAF Regiment Gunners were flown by US Army Chinook helicopters, supported by Apache gunships, to seize and secure the airstrip. Once complete specialist RAF Tactical Air Traffic Controllers established a functioning airfield enabling both C-130 and C-17 aircraft to land on what had hitherto been an airstrip unsuitable for such operations.
The RAF Regiment also secured helicopter landing sites for US Special Forces, embedded a sniper section with US Army Green Beret teams, and simulated the extraction of pilots shot down behind enemy lines. This involved a Ground Extraction Force Team fast-roping from a hovering Pave Hawk helicopter into otherwise inaccessible locations.
Squadron Leader James Woodcock, Officer Commanding 15 Squadron RAF Regiment said:
“For 15 Squadron this level of training has been absolutely invaluable for me as a squadron commander to test the troops and the flight commanders, and the environment has placed everyone outside of their comfort zones.
“Surrounded by mountain ranges, the environmental conditions here have at times been arduous, and I’ve been really impressed by how the Gunners have demonstrated both mental and physical resilience over the past two weeks. Many are fresh out of training and have attacked the challenges head on. We return to RAF Marham at the top of our game and ready for our deployment this year.”
A C-130J aircraft and four crews from 47 Squadron also participated, operating from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson near Anchorage. Flying up to 11 hours each day the Hercules initially air dropped supplies of food, water, and ammunition to the RAF Regiment.
Officer Commanding 47 Squadron, Wing Commander James Sjoberg said:
“47 Squadron are very privileged to participate in Exercise Red Flag Alaska and we are grateful to the USAF for the world class-training they have provided. The exercise has hammered home the lesson that fighting a modern air war is about team-work and cooperation within a large package of aircraft, and with partners on the ground and domains like cyber.”
The Exercise demonstrated the RAFs commitment to train to operate in the most complex environments alongside coalition partners to best meet any future contingency, in particular the role of UK RAF Force Protection alongside deployed RAF and Coalition forces.