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Exercise Red Flag

For the second time since entering RAF service Voyager took part in the world’s largest combat air training exercise, Red Flag. Once again, Voyager excelled in terms of performance and capability, ensuring the maximum amount of training could be achieved not only by the aircrew of 10 & 101 Squadrons but also the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force.

What’s it all about

Exercise Red Flag is an advanced aerial combat training exercise hosted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Since 1975, air crews from the United States Air Force (USAF), United States Navy (USN), United States Marine Corps (USMC), United States Army (USA) and numerous NATO or other allied nations’ air forces take part in one of several Red Flag exercises held during the year, each of which is two weeks in duration.

The objective of Red Flag is to maximize the combat readiness and survivability of participants by providing a realistic training environment and a pre-flight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas. To accomplish this, combat units from the United States and its allied countries engage in realistic combat training scenarios carefully conducted within the Nellis Range Complex. The Nellis Range complex is located northwest of Las Vegas and covers an area of 60 nautical miles (111 km) by 100 nautical miles (190 km), approximately half the area of Switzerland. This space allows the exercises to be on a very large scale.

In a typical Red Flag exercise, Blue Forces (friendly) engage Red Forces (hostile) in realistic combat situations. We are part of the Blue force along with US and Australian assets. Our adversaries in the Red force include a number of Aggressor Squadrons and a number of ground units simulating a realistic enemy integrated air defence system (IADS).


  • Out of 15 training objectives 14 were successfully achieved with the last not completed due to the receiver aircraft not able to attend the exercise
  • First time that a temporary Part 145 approved Line Station has been packed, shipped and established by Voyager
  • Temporary clearance obtained for US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force EA18G Growlers.
  • Potential opportunity in future to reduce the amount of Ground Support Equipment that is needed from Brize
  • Potential opportunity in future to reduce the amount of Ground Support Equipment that is needed from Brize


  • Exercise sorties: 23
  • Fuel offload: 372.1 tonnes
  • Aircraft receivers: EA18G Growlers (US & AUS) & FGR4 Typhoons (UK)

Detachment Commander

Wing Commander Blackwell, Detachment Commander Ex Red Flag, said:

"Exercise Red Flag 2018 is Voyager’s second large scale multi-nation COMAO (Combined Air Operations) Exercise. Alongside AirTanker, the Force has built on the lessons from Exercise Red Flag 2017 and created a template for any future Op or ex deployment.

Crews have benefited enormously from being exposed to other nations’ tactics, SOPs, capabilities, mission planning process and culture. We achieved, at least in part, all but one of our 15 training objectives and, whilst the Exercise has its limitations largely related to airspace restrictions, we must not underestimate the benefit of immersing our personnel in this environment.

I have seen positive development in Engineering, Ops and Aircrew, re-affirming my belief that if Voyager is to tactically develop, inspire and invigorate its personnel, we must participate in more exercises of this nature."


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