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20th FW kicks off Red Flag 17-2 at Nellis AFB

U.S. Air Force Maj. James Nicholas, 55th Fighter Squadron pilot, left, shakes hands with Airman Bryce Gavitt, 55th FS crew chief, right, before taking off in support of Red Flag 17-2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 27, 2017. Red Flag provides a series of intense air-to-air scenarios for aircrew and ground personnel, aiming to increase their combat readiness and effectiveness for future real-world missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zade Vadnais)

U.S. Air Force Maj. James Nicholas, 55th Fighter Squadron pilot, left, shakes hands with Airman Bryce Gavitt, 55th FS crew chief, right, before taking off in support of Red Flag 17-2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 27, 2017. Red Flag provides a series of intense air-to-air scenarios for aircrew and ground personnel, aiming to increase their combat readiness and effectiveness for future real-world missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zade Vadnais)

F-16CM Fighting Falcons assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing sit on the flightline after arriving at Red Flag 17-2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 24, 2017. Red Flag is a realistic combat exercise involving U.S. and Allied air forces conducting training operations on the 15,000 square mile Nevada Test and Training Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zade Vadnais)

F-16CM Fighting Falcons assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing sit on the flightline after arriving at Red Flag 17-2 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 24, 2017. Red Flag is a realistic combat exercise involving U.S. and Allied air forces conducting training operations on the 15,000 square mile Nevada Test and Training Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zade Vadnais)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The U.S. Air Force’s two-week premier air-to-air combat training exercise Red Flag 17-2 began Feb. 27 and will conclude March 10.

Held multiple times each year on the vast bombing and gunnery ranges of the 2.9 million acre Nevada Test and Training Range, Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States, its allies and coalition partners, and is one of the Air Force’s largest exercises.

The exercise incorporates all spectrums of warfare including command and control, real-time intelligence, analysis and exploitation, and electronic warfare, and gives participants an opportunity to experience realistic combat scenarios in order to prepare and train for future conflicts.

“Red Flag allows us to operate in a combat training environment and simulate not only how we, as the U.S. Air Force, would fight, but how we’d fight with coalition forces,” said Maj. Casey Crabill, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron commander and Red Flag 17-2 Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander. “Wherever we deploy, we rely on our coalition partners to be successful. Here at Red Flag, everyone leans on each other on an almost daily basis for equipment or expertise to ensure we collectively accomplish the mission.”

The 20th Fighter Wing from Shaw AFB, South Carolina, is participating in Red Flag 17-2 as the exercise’s core unit, meaning 20th FW senior leadership will be working closely with Red Flag staff to ensure exercise participants are aware of and able to properly leverage the capabilities of Nellis AFB, the host installation. In total, this amounts to 16 units from four different nations operating 92 aircraft.

“The number one objective is integration with partner nations,” said Col. John Bosone, 20th FW vice commander and Red Flag 17-2 Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “I want everyone who participates to realize that even though we’re fortunate enough to have outstanding equipment and weapons systems, it’s the people executing the mission that will ultimately ensure mission success.”

The two-week exercise will pit the friendly “Blue Forces” against hostile “Red Forces” in live, real-time training scenarios simulating warfare in contested air, space and cyberspace.

The exercise typically involves a variety of attack, fighter and bomber aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft, air superiority aircraft, search and rescue aircraft, aerial refueling aircraft, and command and control aircraft as well as ground-based command and control, space and cyberspace forces.