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Red Flag-Alaska begins

RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown primarily out of Eielson Air Force Base and JBER.

U.S., Japanese Self-Defense Force, and Royal Thai Air Force aircraft wait for their next mission during Operation Red Flag-Alaska (RF-A) on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska flightline, June 8, 2017. RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown primarily out of Eielson Air Force Base and JBER. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kyle Johnson)

United States, Japanese Self-Defense Force, and Royal Thai Air Force aircraft wait on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska flightline for their next Operation Red Flag-Alaska mission, June 8. RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown primarily out of Eielson Air Force Base and JBER.

U.S., Japanese Self-Defense Force, and Royal Thai Air Force aircraft wait on the flightline for their next mission during Operation Red Flag-Alaska 17-2 (RF-A) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska, June 8, 2017. RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown primarily out of Eielson Air Force Base and JBER. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kyle Johnson)

Two Royal Thai Air Force Airmen stand in front of their C-130 Hercules on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Flightline June 8 during Operation Red Flag-Alaska 17-_. RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown primarily out of Eielson Air Force Base and JBER.

Royal Thai Air Force Airmen pose for a photo in front of their C-130 Hercules on the flightline during Operation Red Flag-Alaska (RF-A) 17-2 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska . RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown primarily out of Eielson Air Force Base and JBER. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kyle Johnson)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --

The second Red Flag-Alaska exercise of the year kicked off here June 8.

RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces flown under simulated air combat conditions. It is conducted on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex with air operations flown primarily out of Eielson Air Force Base and JBER.

This exercise provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large-force employment training in a simulated combat environment.

“Our conferences are unique because we invite participants to send us their most tactical minds, and they come over to us and build a scenario around the learning objectives they want to accomplish,” said Capt. Thomas Desbiens, White Force operations officer with the 354th Operations Group, Detachment 1. “This way if they feel there is an area they want to pay more attention to, we can build a customizable story for that.  

“With the amount of space we have available here in Alaska, we have the ability to pull off some really amazing and large-scale events.”

Approximately 2,000 total service members participate in the exercise each year, with about 1,300 coming from outside Alaska-including more than 200 international visitors. RF-A 17-2 is a joint exercise that includes participation from the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps as well as international participation from Thailand and Japan.

The large contingent of aircraft participating in RF-A 17-2 include U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, KC-135 Stratotankers, E-3 Sentries, C-17 Globemasters III, C-130 Hercules, an HH-60 Pave Hawk, and U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornets. International aircraft joining the fight are Royal Thai Air Force and Japanese Self Defense Force C-130 Hercules.

The focus during RF-A is on maximizing regular, bilateral training with long-standing allies.

“We have some really different cultural dynamics that go into our exercises here,” Desbiens said. “Not just the language barrier, but different assets they have in their inventories and different ways they train. Having them help build the scenario we can get deeper than a yes-or-no approach. It allows us to integrate better with their tactics and training so we can play off each other’s strengths.”

“We have awesome social events where we get together and share different culture’s foods, drinks, stories and games,” Desbiens said. “We really solidify those relationships and it really builds a camaraderie you only get in this type of theater.”

Alaska’s strategic value, in terms of combat training, is its vast airspace, varied terrain and advanced range complexes. The Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex provides more than 67,000 square miles of airspace, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing 510 different types of targets and 45 threat simulators, both manned and unmanned. This makes the JPARC the largest instrumented air, ground and electronic combat training range in the world.

The exercise is set to end on June 23.