The F-35A has participated in the Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat exercise Red Flag for the first time. Hosted at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, Red Flag offers Air Force pilots and personnel the chance to participate in advanced aerial combat training.

“It’s been great coming here and doing something that some of us haven’t necessarily done before,” said Senior Airman John Girtman, an F-35A avionics systems specialist assigned to the 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. “It gives us the ability to exercise our strength. Being able to work in an environment like Red Flag and seeing all of our training and hard work from back home come to fruition is extremely beneficial.”

A major part of the success so far of the F-35 aircrew can be contributed to the planning and training that went into getting prepared for Red Flag 17-1.

“Before we came out to the exercise we sat down and came up with a game plan as to what we may encounter or any issues we might face and how we can overcome those challenges,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Bailey, a 388th AMXS crew chief.

“Now that we are here, the challenges we face during Red Flag helps us see what kind of challenges we might be faced with in a deployed environment and how we can overcome those,” Bailey said. “The things we learn during this exercise will allow us to progress and get better.” – US Air Force

The purpose of the Red Flag exercise is to train US, NATO and other allied nations’ air forces. The exercise takes place on the Nellis range which is located northwest of Las Vegas and covers over 2.9 million acres. U.S. fighter jets, bombers, reconnaissance planes, air-refueling tankers and air traffic control aircraft all take place in Red Flag including simulated ‘enemy’ aircraft.

Two B-1B Lancers assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., taxi during Red Flag 15-2 at Nellis AFB, Nev., March 10, 2015. Red Flag provides a series of intense air-to-air scenarios for aircrew and ground personnel to increase their combat readiness and effectiveness for future real-world operations. Photo by U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

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