Fulcrums Dog-Fight in Red Flag Exercise
Editor's Note: Participants on the AWN Message Board recently requested more information on the Red Flag exercise that took place earlier this month at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Here is a first-hand view from local observers.
The simulated enemy threat has never been so realistic at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, during Red Flag.
The added realism of this Red Flag exercise, which ran Oct. 24 to Nov. 6, was the result of the first-time participation of six German air force MiG-29 Fulcrum jets. Flying units from around the world were able to train against a formidable threat they are likely to see in future conflicts.
More than 2,000 people and more than 100 aircraft participated in Red Flag, which provides aircrews from the United States, allied nations and coalition forces with superior combat training, challenging even the most experienced pilots. In the war games, the allied aircraft or "Blue forces" go head to head with the aggressors or "Red forces."
As excited as the Germans were to be taking part in Red Flag, the U.S. pilots were even more excited.
"The mission today went great," said Lt. Col. Paul Gruver, an F-16 pilot from the 194th Fighter Squadron from Fresno, Calif. "The MiGs today were a very formidable threat. We learned some good lessons by having faced them.
"We are preparing to go to Southwest Asia in the spring," he continued. "This training is a perfect spin-up for SWA. MiG-29s are exactly what we are going to be facing over there."
Capt. Keith "Mario" Bryza, officer in charge of Ground Controlled Intercepts is part of the 414th Combat Training Squadron. His unit replicates the former Soviet Union by targeting threats for the Red air pilots from the ground.
"One of our big worries (in the airspace) was once the blue side would identify a German MiG, everybody would want to come closer to see it as well as engage it." Bryza said.
"No one did that today, though. Everyone was very patient, and the German pilots are excellent pilots. They did an outstanding job and I would expect it to go this way for the whole exercise," added Bryza.
The German pilots didn't seem to mind all the attention surrounding their participation.
"We are getting a lot of attention and are excited about being here," said Capt. Matthias Lumpp, a MiG-29 pilot from the 73rd Steinhoff Fighter Wing from Laage, Germany. "The whole trip is historic."
"We are not here to win and be the heroes," he continued. "We are supposed to die in some of the scenarios. The goal for the MiGs was to maximize the training of the blue forces.
"We are getting used to the fact that everyone wants to engage us," said Lumpp. "The Americans are excited anytime they get to fight MiG-29s.
"Most of the MiG pilots have been trained in the United States and are accustomed to the way the U.S. trains," Lumpp said, adding he hopes to take away from Red Flag the understanding of how big scenario exercises are arranged and organized.
"When we fly at Laage we usually fly with between eight and 10 airplanes," he said. "It is a different experience flying eight airplanes in the air versus 60 or 70."
For U.S. pilots, facing the German MiGs was a unique opportunity that they took full advantage of during the exercise.
"One of the goals of Red Flag is to get maximum MiG-29 exposure to the Blue forces", said Capt. Malcolm Kemeny, an aggressor pilot who has been flying with the MiG-29s this week.
"We want to get the MiGs into the engagement as quickly as possible because everybody wants to mix it up with the MiG-29s. "Having the MiGs here gives us an opportunity to look at a weapon system that we talk about every day," continued Kemeny. "The MiGs are excellent dog fighters."
Gruver agreed. Gruver, who pulled alert and trained to face the MiG-29s at Hahn Air Base, Germany, in the 1980's, never thought he would be dog fighting MiGs today.
"This was a great experience to see these guys visually and go head-to-head with them," he said. "You can't beat this training. It's worth any price to bring the MiGs over here."