RED FLAG 19-2 at Nellis AFB

RED FLAG 19-2 at Nellis AFB


Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV March 8th – 22nd, 2019

RED FLAG is the Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise which brings units from allied nations to Las Vegas to safely train in air combat sorties. A typical RED FLAG consists of every type of US aircraft, from fighters & Bombers such as (F-15’s, F-22, F-35, F16, A-10, B1B, B-2’s, B-52H), electric warfare planes like (EC-130H, EA-18G & F-16CM), airlift support (C-130 & C-17), search and Rescue (HH-60G, HC-130J) refueling aircraft (KC-130, KC-135, KC-10) and Command & Control platforms (E-3, E-6, E-8, & E-2). The ANG and Reserves play a big part in RED FLAG exercises. RED FLAG exercises are held 3 times a year. Usually, Feb, Mar and July where temps will be above 100 degrees. I only had temps in the 60’s, but because of the wind blowing it felt cooler and always had to have a light jacket on.

    For 19-2, the participants were:

    1GP F-16E/F-16F UAE
    6th FS F-15SA Saudi Arabia
    10 Wing F-16AM/F-16BM Belgium
    16th ACCS E-8C Robins AFB
    29sq F-15SA Saudi Arabia
    62d FS F-35A Luke AFB
    34th BS B-1B Ellsworth AFB (Canceled)
    55th RQS HH-60G Davis Monthan AFB
    71st RQS HC-130J Moody AFB
    322sq F-16AM/F-16BM Netherlands
    334sq KDC-10A Netherlands
    336th FS F-15E Seymour Johnson
    428th FS F-15SG Singapore
    964th AACS E-3G Tinker AFB
    VAQ-134 EA-18G NAS Whidbey Island
    Escta 811 KC-767 Colombia Air Force
    122nd FS F-15C LA ANG
    194th FS F-15C CA ANG

I was outside Nellis for 3 days, 3/11, 3/12 & 3/15. Their runways are 21 L&R which takes off over the city, and 3 L&R which takes off towards the racetrack. Typically, aircraft would launch around 12pm – 2pm, when standing along the edge of Las Vegas BLVD N, which is along the Raceway the aircraft will break over you which they call “flexing” due to the wings of the jets flexing due to the G’s of the pull.

Recoveries can be on either runway as well, depending on wind direction. We had jets landing switching runways which makes everyone scatter to get down to the other end to catch the arrivals. E. Cheyanne Ave is the road to be at for aircraft landing RW3, just don’t stand along the side of the fence as the Air Force will ask you to cross back over.The Belgian Air Force deployed F-16s from 10 Wing at Kleine Brogel. The participants from the Netherlands, UAE, and Singapore used aircraft from their Training Units based in the U.S. while the Saudis participated with the recently handed over F-15SA jets that were still to be flown to Saudi Arabia

I love going to air shows, but after attending three days at RED FLAG, you get far more action and it’s all military. I rented a Nikon D500 and a Sigma 150-600 Sport which I loved so much I ended up buying new copies of each. You would need a lens of 400mm or more for most of the landings for RW21, especially if they land 21L which is further away. Some of the flexes over you 150mm was too far… I would highly recommend purchasing a radio scanner so you can listen to the planes getting ready to take off so you have a heads up. You can find the frequencies online, just make sure you purchase a unit that handles VHF & UHF which are the higher frequencies the military tends to use more.

Some of the aircraft photographed were actually participating in the GREEN FLAG close air support exercise and WSINT (Advanced Training in Weapons and Tactics Employment). I can’t wait to get back out there for my next RED FLAG exercise.