How the USAF’s Red Flag is Evolving

The Red Flag building at Nellis Air Force Base (Marcus Weisgerber/Staff)

Nothing screams U.S. Air Force tradition more than Red Flag, the service’s largest battle exercise intended to mimic World War III.

When Red Flag began it had one prime focus:  air-to-air combat, or dogfighting.

But Red Flag is changing.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan demanded the Air Force provide more airborne intelligence and target small enemy compounds on the ground. So, Red Flag adapted to include more counterinsurgency (COIN) and close air support scenarios.

They’ll be less of that now, particularly with the Pentagon’s new focus on the Pacific and gaining access to denied spaces.

Gone are the fighter-only days of Red Flag. The jets are still there, but they’re heavily supported by cyber and space assets and even unmanned aircraft.

Commanders at Nellis Air Force Base, just north of the Las Vegas strip, gave me the low down during a visit last week.

Want to know more about what’s being done at Red Flag? Check out next week’s Defense News.


Marcus Weisgerber
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Marcus Weisgerber

Senior Pentagon Correspondent at Defense News
I write about broad-ranging policy, acquisition and budget issues affecting the US military.
Marcus Weisgerber
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