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THROUGH THE LENS: Exercise Red Flag 16-3

THROUGH THE LENS: Exercise Red Flag 16-3

Report by Steven Valinski

Photos and Video by Mike Killian

The third iteration of Exercise Red Flag 2016 took place this July and featured a lineup of all U.S. assets.

Exercise Red Flag is the USAF’s premier aerial combat training exercise. Hosted by the 57th Wing’s 414th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis AFB in Nevada, Exercise Red Flag utilizes more than 15,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land of the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR).

“We fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. This is the exercise where we’ll put this to the test,” said Col. DeAnna Burt, the Red Flag 16-3 Air Expeditionary Wing commander in a USAF interview.

“We want to force people out of their comfort zone. We’ll be pushing them to talk about kinetic and non-kinetic effects and how when they are synchronized achieve tactical success,” Col. Burt stated.

Red Flag 16-3 featured the participation of over 115 aircraft and 3500 personnel from various U.S. DoD units.

Red Flag 16-3 featured the first Red Flag appearance of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The USMC “B” model F-35’s from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) “Green Knights,” reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in July of 2015 and were the first of the F-35’s three types to be declared operational. The F-35B is the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35. The USMC considers the F-35B a replacement for its aging AV-8B Harrier fleet.

While not an air superiority fighter like the F-22 Raptor, the multi-role F-35, with its advanced sensor package, provides unprecedented situational awareness to the pilot. Combined with its stealth capability, the F-35 has the ability to strike enemy targets long before anyone knows they are present.

According to the USMC, VMFA-121 conducted defensive and offensive counter air exercises, strategic attacks, targeting, and combat search and rescue training (CSAR).

“We’re really working on showcasing our surface-to-air capabilities,” said Maj. Brendan Walsh, an F-35 pilot with VMFA-121 in a USMC interview. “The F-35 is integrating by doing various roles in air-to-air and air-to-ground training.”

“With the stealth capability, the biggest thing that this aircraft brings that the others do not is situational awareness,” added Walsh. “The sensor sweep capability that the F-35 brings to the fight, not only builds those pictures for me, but for the other platforms as well. We’re able to share our knowledge of the battle space with the rest of the participants in order to make everyone more effective.”

Other participating aircraft/units included Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron out of Langley AFB, Virginia, Boeing B-52H Stratofortresses from the 96th Bomb Squadron out of Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, Lockheed U-2s from the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron out of Beale AFB, California, Boeing E-3 Sentrys from the 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron out of Tinker AFB, Oklahoma and more. A complete list of Red Flag 16-3 participants can be found HERE.

Red Flag 16-3 took place July 11 to 29, 2016.

Here we take a look at Red Flag 16-3…”THROUGH THE LENS”, featuring photos and videos from Mike Killian

On The Flight Line for Red Flag 16-3
Inside Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis AFB










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Steven Valinski
Steven is from Long Island, New York and now resides in sunny Mesa, Arizona. Steven’s love for aviation began when he was a child with a fascination for WWII aircraft. This love of aviation was further fostered by his uncle, a long-time Trans World Airlines (TWA) employee who had a passion for all forms of aviation.

Steven’s interest in photography began when he was 16 years old when he received his first SLR camera, a Minolta XGA. It makes sense that eventually his passion for aviation and photography would merge into a love for aviation photography.

In addition to being the web designer, webmaster and chief editor of Aviation Photography Digest, Steven has been published in numerous magazines worldwide.

Steven has an M.S. from Boston University and uses Nikon photographic equipment.

Steven is a Nikon NPS Titanium member.

Steven can be reached at: [email protected]
Mike Killian on EmailMike Killian on FacebookMike Killian on Twitter
Mike Killian
Photojournalist at Aviation Photography Digest
Mike Killian is a spaceflight & aerospace / aviation photojournalist who currently calls Florida's "Space Coast" home, where America's launch pads are his office as Managing Editor for the online daily space-news magazine AmericaSpace. Over the years his assignments have brought him onboard NASA's space shuttles, front row for launches of spacecraft to other worlds, in clean rooms with Mars rovers, in the skies producing air-to-air photography and videography with civilian and military aircraft, pulling G's with air show performers like World Champion Aerobatics pilot Rob Holland, the GEICO Skytypers and U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and on space-launch range clearing Pave Hawk missions with the Air Force (to date the only photojournalist to do so).

In the time since, Killian's work has been featured on ABC World News Tonight, National Geographic, NBC News, CNN, BBC, Weather Channel, and has been used by organizations such as the Air Force, NASA, Airbus, SpaceX, Boeing, National Park Service, Go Pro, hotel chains and various magazines and websites.

Mike also volunteers as a team photographer / videographer with Thom Richard and his Florida-based Precious Metal / Hot Stuff air racing teams, and keeps busy elsewhere producing articles and imagery for several publications and various marketing and advertising campaigns for several companies.

Mike can be reached at: [email protected]
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