Reservists take on ‘enemy’ at F-35A Red Flag debut

February 3, 2017 (by Kari Tilton) – Nine Air Force Reserve F-35A pilots and 16 maintainers from the 419th Fighter Wing are taking on the world’s greatest aggressor fleet during Red Flag 17-1 held at Nellis Air Force Base.

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F-35A pilot, Lt. Col. Brad Klemesrud, prepares for takeoff during a Red Flag mission at Nellis AFB on February 2, 2017. Klemesrud and eight other Reserve pilots from the 419th FW are participating in the Air Force’s premier air-to-air exercise to hone their skills and test the F-35A Lightning II’s capabilities in a variety of simulated combat scenarios. This marks the first year the F-35A has participated in the exercise. [USAF photo by Bryan Magaña]

The reservists joined about 200 personnel and 13 F-35A Lightning IIs from the active duty 388th FW to debut the Air Force’s newest fighter jet at the premier air-to-air combat training exercise from Jan. 23 to Feb. 10.

The Hill AFB pilots and maintainers are working with other Air Force F-16s and F-22s and allies from Great Britain and Australia to participate as the friendly, or “blue air,” flying combat scenarios against the enemy “red air” from the 64th Aggressor Squadron here.

“Red Flag offers intensive training and is a tremendous learning experience,” said Lt. Col. Dave DeAngelis, commander of the 419th Operations Group, Detachment 1. “The aggressor pilots are among the best of the best and spend their days learning the tactics of enemy air forces, so it definitely puts us to the test.” DeAngelis is an F-16 software engineer who is on continuous orders for the next three years in support of the F-35A program at Hill.

“We focus on adversary tactics all the time, so we are subject matter experts on how those [enemy] aircraft operate and perform. Then we replicate that here,” said Maj. Mark Klein, an Air Force Reserve pilot who flies with the 64th AS. Aggressor pilots say it’s a good day when they’re losing because it means the blue forces are winning the “war.”

The F-35 is providing offensive and defensive counter air, suppression of enemy air defense, and close air support against the enemy…

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