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Ellsworth partakes in Red Flag 17-3

A B-1 Bomber takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 6, 2017. The aircraft is one of five B-1s that will take part in Red Fag – a joint exercise taking place at the Nevada Test and Training Range, near Nellis AFB, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Nicolas Z. Erwin)

A B-1 Bomber takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 6, 2017. The aircraft is one of five B-1s that will take part in Red Fag – a joint exercise taking place at the Nevada Test and Training Range, near Nellis AFB, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Pilots and weapon systems officers attend a step brief in preparation for Red Flag at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 6, 2017. The exercise will take place from July 10 to 28 and will provide participants with realistic training in a combined air, ground, space and electronic threat environment to maximize the combat readiness, capability and survivability of participating units. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

Pilots and weapon systems officers attend a step brief in preparation for Red Flag at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., July 6, 2017. The exercise will take place from July 10 to 28 and will provide participants with realistic training in a combined air, ground, space and electronic threat environment to maximize the combat readiness, capability and survivability of participating units. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

Five B-1 Bombers departed Ellsworth, July 6, to participate in Red Flag 17-3 at the Nevada Test and Training Range near Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The exercise will run from July 10 to 28 and provides participants with realistic training in a combined air, ground, space and electronic threat environment to maximize the combat readiness, capability and survivability of participating units.

“We do this training annually with other U.S. forces around the country,” said 1st Lt. Dustin Fontenot, a weapon systems officer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron. “Working with these other players down in Nevada provides us with a more realistic environment, allowing us to be much more proficient at what we do.”

The aircraft practicing in Red Flag, the world’s largest combat exercise, will conduct their training in the NTTR, a stretch of land owned by the Department of Defense that spans a 2.9 million acre region with more than 15,000 square miles of airspace.

According to 1st Lt. Justin Nichols, a pilot assigned to the 34th BS, because the NTTR is so massive, there is enough airspace to allow high and low altitude battlespaces for the aircraft to train in.

“This is basically the Air Force’s biggest ‘War Games’ exercise,” Nichols said. “We integrate with aircraft from across the country such as F-16s, B-52s and F-22s. The exercise will not only allow us to test our capabilities and combat strength, but enable us to integrate with the other players while dealing with situations in the field.”

With the vast amount of airspace to train in, the units will be able to practice in multiple scenarios.

“The airspace allows us to practice weapons training and many other capabilities that we can’t do anywhere else in the U.S.,” Fontenot explained. “It helps us keep our tactical skills sharp so once we deploy we will be as proficient as possible and be able to do our jobs well.”

Over the years, Red Flag has conveyed training for more than 440,000 military personnel and 145,000 aircrew members, conducted 385,000 sorties, and logged over 660,000 hours of flying time.

“It’s important that we prove not only to the Air Force, but to ourselves that we have the strength, capabilities and preparedness to go out there and accomplish the mission,” Nichols said.