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Indian Air Force Participates in Exercise Red Flag 2024 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska

New Delhi: An Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent recently took part in the prestigious Exercise Red Flag 2024 at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, from 4 June to 14 June. This marked the second edition of the advanced aerial combat training exercise this year, held quarterly by the United States Air Force (USAF). Alongside the IAF, the exercise saw participation from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), the Royal Air Force (RAF) of the United Kingdom, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), the German Luftwaffe, and the USAF.

The IAF contingent, equipped with Rafale aircraft and a team of aircrew, technicians, engineers, controllers, and subject matter experts, made the transatlantic journey with the support of IL-78 Air to Air Refuellers (AAR) and C-17 Globemaster aircraft, which transported personnel and equipment. The contingent arrived at Eielson Air Force Base on 29 May 2024.

Exercise Red Flag is renowned for its rigorous air combat scenarios, designed to simulate realistic combat settings. The exercise involves a demarcation of forces, with the Red Force simulating Air Defence elements and the Blue Force representing Offensive Composite elements. During this edition, the Red Force comprised mainly of the USAF Aggressor Squadron, flying F-16 and F-15 aircraft.

For the first time, the IAF’s Rafale aircraft participated in Exercise Red Flag, operating alongside RSAF and USAF F-16s and F-15s, as well as USAF A-10 aircraft. The missions conducted included Beyond Visual Range (BVR) combat exercises as part of Large Force Engagements (LFE) in both Offensive Counter Air and Air Defence roles. The IAF crew played a pivotal role in mission planning and also took on leadership roles for designated missions.

Despite facing challenging weather conditions and sub-zero temperatures, the IAF maintenance crew ensured the serviceability of all aircraft throughout the exercise. Over 100 sorties were flown, demonstrating the crew’s dedication and technical prowess.

Key takeaways from the exercise included enhanced interoperability with international partners and a deeper understanding of multinational employment philosophies. The experience of ferrying long distances while performing Air to Air refuelling was particularly enriching for the younger crew members.

As the contingent begins its return journey, plans are in place for stops en route to participate in exercises with Air Force elements from Greece and Egypt, before arriving back in India on 24 June 2024. Buoyed by the experience gained from Red Flag, the IAF eagerly anticipates hosting international contingents for Ex-Tarang Shakti-2024, India’s first-ever multinational air exercise, scheduled for later this year.

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