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Checkered Flag 17-1: Pilots, aircraft integrate for realistic exercise

Four U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, fly overhead during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. Air Force aviators from across the country converged at Tyndall for Checkered Flag 17-1, a large-scale aerial total-force exercise, to participate in high-end multi-airframe integration training from Dec. 5-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

Four U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, fly overhead during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. Air Force aviators from across the country converged at Tyndall for Checkered Flag 17-1, a large-scale aerial total-force exercise, to participate in high-end multi-airframe integration training from Dec. 5-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., prepares to land on Tyndall’s flightline during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 8, 2016. Aviators from across the Air Force converged at Tyndall for the large-scale, aerial total-force integration exercise from Dec. 5-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., prepares to land on Tyndall’s flightline during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 8, 2016. Aviators from across the Air Force converged at Tyndall for the large-scale, aerial total-force integration exercise from Dec. 5-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle pilot from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, signals as he taxies down the flightline during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. More than 300 Airmen from Mountain Home AFB deployed along with 16 F-15E Strike Eagles to participate in the large-force exercise, integrating with other fourth-generation aircraft as well as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle pilot from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, signals as he taxies down the flightline during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. More than 300 Airmen from Mountain Home AFB deployed along with 16 F-15E Strike Eagles to participate in the large-force exercise, integrating with other fourth-generation aircraft as well as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, flies with two Tyndall F-22 Raptors following during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. During the exercise, fourth- and fifth-generation fighter pilots worked together to complete missions involving multiple airframes including the F-35A Lightning II, F-22 Raptor, F-16CM Fighting Falcon, F-15E, HH-60G Pave Hawk and E-3 Sentry airframes to enhance future Air Force operational capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, flies with two Tyndall F-22 Raptors following during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. During the exercise, fourth- and fifth-generation fighter pilots worked together to complete missions involving multiple airframes including the F-35A Lightning II, F-22 Raptor, F-16CM Fighting Falcon, F-15E, HH-60G Pave Hawk and E-3 Sentry airframes to enhance future Air Force operational capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly in formation during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 16, 2016. The integration training pilots receive during exercises like Checkered Flag ensure teams of different capabilities can seamlessly integrate and work together in a real-world combat situation utilizing fifth- and fourth-generation air assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly in formation during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 16, 2016. The integration training pilots receive during exercises like Checkered Flag ensure teams of different capabilities can seamlessly integrate and work together in a real-world combat situation utilizing fifth- and fourth-generation air assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, sits at the ready while a Tyndall F-22 Raptor passes during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. During the exercise, fourth- and fifth-generation fighter pilots worked together to complete missions involving multiple airframes including the F-35A Lightning II, F-22, F-16CM Fighting Falcon, F-15E Strike Eagle, HH-60G Pave Hawk and  E-3 Sentry airframes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, sits at the ready while a Tyndall F-22 Raptor passes during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. During the exercise, fourth- and fifth-generation fighter pilots worked together to complete missions involving multiple airframes including the F-35A Lightning II, F-22, F-16CM Fighting Falcon, F-15E Strike Eagle, HH-60G Pave Hawk and E-3 Sentry airframes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

Four U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles from the 336th Fighter Wing, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, fly in formation during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. More than 300 Airmen from Mountain Home AFB deployed along with 16 F-15Es to participate in the large-force exercise, integrating with other fourth-generation aircraft as well as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

Four U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles from the 336th Fighter Wing, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, fly in formation during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. More than 300 Airmen from Mountain Home AFB deployed along with 16 F-15Es to participate in the large-force exercise, integrating with other fourth-generation aircraft as well as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly over the base during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 16, 2016. The integration training pilots receive during exercises like Checkered Flag ensure teams of different capabilities can seamlessly integrate and work together in a real-world combat situation utilizing fifth- and fourth-generation air assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly over the base during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 16, 2016. The integration training pilots receive during exercises like Checkered Flag ensure teams of different capabilities can seamlessly integrate and work together in a real-world combat situation utilizing fifth- and fourth-generation air assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor prepares to land on the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 8, 2016. Tyndall’s F-22s were joined by F-35 Lightning IIs, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, HH-60G Pave Hawks and an E-3 Sentry, to integrate seamless training combat operations in a simulated deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor prepares to land on the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 8, 2016. Tyndall’s F-22s were joined by F-35 Lightning IIs, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, HH-60G Pave Hawks and an E-3 Sentry, to integrate seamless training combat operations in a simulated deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon from the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., flies above the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. Shaw AFB sent 16 F-16s and approximately 140 Airmen to participate in the Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3, a large-scale, aerial total force integration exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)
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A U.S. Air Force F-16CM Fighting Falcon from the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., flies above the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. Shaw AFB sent 16 F-16s and approximately 140 Airmen to participate in the Checkered Flag 17-1 and Combat Archer 17-3, a large-scale, aerial total force integration exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor prepares to land on the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 8, 2016. During Checkered Flag 17-1, Tyndall’s F-22s were joined by F-35 Lightning IIs, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, HH-60G Pave Hawks and an E-3 Sentry to integrate seamless training combat operations in a simulated deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)
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A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor prepares to land on the flightline at Tyndall Air Force Base during Checkered Flag 17-1, Dec. 8, 2016. During Checkered Flag 17-1, Tyndall’s F-22s were joined by F-35 Lightning IIs, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, HH-60G Pave Hawks and an E-3 Sentry to integrate seamless training combat operations in a simulated deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, taxies down the flightline during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. More than 300 Airmen from Mountain Home AFB deployed along with 16 F-15E Strike Eagles to participate in the large-force exercise, integrating with other fourth-generation aircraft as well as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)
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A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, taxies down the flightline during Checkered Flag 17-1 at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16, 2016. More than 300 Airmen from Mountain Home AFB deployed along with 16 F-15E Strike Eagles to participate in the large-force exercise, integrating with other fourth-generation aircraft as well as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Alex Fox Echols III/Released)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Air Force aviators from across the country converged for Checkered Flag 17-1, a large-scale, aerial total-force exercise. The high-end, multi-airframe integration exercise ran from Dec. 5-16.

Fourth- and fifth-generation fighter pilots worked together to complete missions involving multiple airframes including F-35A Lightning II, F-22 Raptors, F-16CM Fighting Falcons, F-15E Strike Eagles, HH-60G Pave Hawks and an E-3 Sentry in preparation for the future of the Air Force’s combat capabilities.

“The ability to rapidly bring a force together from various locations is representative of what we would do in combat,” said Col. Randy Cason, Checkered Flag 17-1 Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “We would quickly bring units to one location, have introductions, form a team, and in a matter of hours, begin flying missions. This is highly representative of an extreme strategic capability that we bring to the combatant commanders and to the United States of America.”

Participating units alternated acting as “Red Air,” or opponent aircraft, replicating known adversarial tactics and capabilities to train the AEW pilots in the most realistic combat situations possible during the two-week exercise.

The 20th Fighter Wing from Shaw AFB, South Carolina, and the 336th Fighter Wing from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, brought 16 F-16CMs and 16 F-15Es, respectively, to the fight enabling full fourth- and fifth-generation integration training.

“One of the most beneficial aspects of Checkered Flag is that we have the ability to integrate on a daily basis with fifth- and four-generation assets,” said Capt. Brian Leber, 55th Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot. “Back at Shaw, we have F-16s, so we don’t have that opportunity. Here every mission that we fly is a mix of assets. We brief, fly and debrief with [each other] and figure out how we can all work together to achieve the overall objective.”

With the F-35 recently reaching initial operating capability and the relative newness of the F-22, integration between legacy aircraft and these newer fighters creates a host of challenges and opportunities. Pilots work together to overcome these issues and fully capitalize on fifth-generation capabilities during exercises like  Checkered Flag.

“For us, it’s very important that we come here and integrate with all of the assets that are playing here so that they understand the capabilities and limitations of our platform so we can better interweave those [different capabilities] to create the most lethal and survivable force,” said Lt. Col. Brad Bashore,  58th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35 pilot from Eglin AFB, Florida. “I think it’s important to understand that fifth-generation [aircraft] takes [the Air Force’s] lethal fighting force to the next level. With fourth- and fifth-generation executing together creates a complimentary relationship. We make them better, and they make us better.”