51st Fighter Wing enhances ‘fight tonight’ readiness at RF-A 17-1
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 25th and 36th Fighter Squadrons trained in RED FLAG-Alaska 17-1 at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska from Oct. 6-21.
RF-A 17-1 is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise that focuses on improving the combat readiness of U.S. and international forces while simultaneously providing training for units preparing for air expeditionary force taskings.
“We're here to expose our pilots, particularly the younger ones, to more stress and pressure than they've ever experienced while airborne,” said Lt. Col. Michael McCarthy, 36th Fighter Squadron commander. “Working through this stress and then carefully debriefing our planning and execution makes us more capable to handle and prioritize critical situations in the future.”
The 25th and 36th will test their skills during highly realistic replications of surface-to-air and air-to-air defenses while utilizing live weapons, something unique to RF-A 17-1.
“The live weapons target complex in Alaska is phenomenal,” said Lt. Col. Craig Morash, 25th FS director of operations. “While every weapon dropped requires planning, live weapons expenditures illustrate just how important weapons fragmentation cylinders, mutual support contracts, and formation timing really are.”
The ranges there also allow the pilots to fly down to 100 feet, a skill that is vital to build confidence on, he said.
RF-A 17-1 also gave the pilots an opportunity to showcase the interoperability between the 25th and 36th Fighter Squadrons and their Republic of Korea air force partners.
“We train with our ROKAF 11th Tactical Fighter Wing brethren often and know them very well,” McCarthy said. “We've truly enjoyed the opportunity to welcome them to the United States, but the experience is much more like friends who find themselves in a challenging situation together very far from home.”
International participation is a traditional part of RF-A which gives the 25th and 36th FS unique training, furthering the squadrons’ abilities to “fight tonight.”
“The training we get here is extremely important,” said Morash. “The Alaskan ranges contain one of the best threat replication matrices on the planet along with live weapons targets. Pilots who flew in [RF-A 17-1] will take these lessons and experiences with them through their entire Air Force careers.”
McCarthy echoed those sentiments on behalf of his squadron’s pilots.
“Overall, RED FLAG is overwhelming,” McCarthy said. “It is crushing defeats, hard-earned lessons, and occasionally a sweet victory. It is very stressful, and it is absolutely necessary training for our young aviators.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)