Nellis Air Force base is situated approximately 8 miles northeast of Las Vegas, in the heart of the Nevada desert. Under the United States Air Force Air Combat Command, it houses 9,500 personnel on base and is one of the major Air Force bases within the United States.

The base covers some 14,000 acres of land, whilst the total land area occupied by Nellis and its restricted ranges is about 5,000 square miles. A further 7,700 miles of airspace north and east of the restricted ranges are also available for military flight operations.

Nellis opened as Las Vegas Army Field in late 1941 hosting the Army Air Corp Flexible gunnery school training Boeing B17 gunnery in early 1942. Following a brief spell of closure between January 1947 and 1949,distinguished units have served at Nellis including the F86 flight training and gunnery school, and the United States Air Force Tactical Fighter Weapons School which is now the Air Warfare centre and subsequently associated units such as the 57th wing which is the operational centre,under which the based Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration team flying F16s, 414th combat training school (Red Flag), 547th Intelligence squadron, 549th combat training squadron (Green Flag),the 99th air base wing, Nevada Test and Training Range, the 53rd Test and Evaluation group,563rd Rescue Group operating location – alpha, and some tenant units such as the 926th group and 820th red horse squadron.

Red Flag air to air exercises started in 1975 with the aim to teach aerial combat.Since then it has evolved to incorporate warfighting air, space and cyberspace for the United States and coalition forces. Flying squadrons and personnel deploy to Nellis under the Air Expeditionary Forces concept and make up the ’blue force’ that apply specific missions of their aircraft such as combat search and rescue, defensive counter air and close air support on the Nevada Test and Training Range.The ’Red force’ simulate the enemy. US forces and foreign forces participate in these exercises which provide much valued training.

I representing TheHangarTV attended the media day held on base on Thursday 5th February as part of ‘Red Flag 16-1’, which began on 25th January and ended on 12th February. All the’press’ met at the main guardroom to be checked and verified and after a coffee, we all proceeded to ‘Gate 2’ to board one of the coaches to take us on base to the air terminal where the media panel were waiting as follows.

Lt Col Kevin Gordon, 414th Combat Training Squadron deputy commander at Nellis.
Major Bret Vanderpas of the 131st Fighter Squadron F15C pilot, Barnes Air National Guard base, Massachusetts.
1st Lt Emily Lebeau, 965th Airborne Air Control squadron air battle manager, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.
Master Sgt Kelly Martin, 95th Fighter Squadron F22 Raptor maintainer,Tyndall AFB, Florida.
Staff Sgt Ashley Dissen, 414th CTS weapons liason, Nellis.
Staff Sgt Christopher Jones, CTS maintenance team chief, Nellis.
Group Captain Phillip Gordon, Air Expeditionary Wing vice commander RAAF base Williamtown,Australia.
Wing Commander Nathan Christie, 41 Wing Detachment commander, RAAF base Williamtown, Australia.
In a forty minute session, all sorts of questions and answers were back and forth and found the whole session very factual and interesting as to what exactly the profiles being flown are.
We re-boarded the coaches and were taken out to a spot in between the two long runways about mid point. Again after a thorough brief, we were allowed within a certain area to photograph the various Red Flag participants departing for the afternoon mission.Being close to the action also was exciting but loud!!
As far as I can remember, the following aircraft took part in Red Flag 16-1:
F16C – 64 Aggressor Squadron Nellis,
F15C – 131st FS Barnes ANGB,
F15C – 194th FS, Fresno AFB
F16C – 422 TES, Nellis,
F22 – 95th FS,Tyndall
FA/18A – 75 SQN, Tindal, RAAF Williamtown
Typhoon FGR4 – 3 SQN RAF Coningsby
B1-B – 9th BS, Dyess AFB
B2 – 13th BS, Whiteman AFB
F16CM – 510th FS, Aviano AFB
FA/18F – 1 SQN, RAAF Ambereley
F15E – 335th FS, Seymour Johnson AFB
EA/18G – 138 NAS, Whitbey Island
F16CJ – 157th FS, McEntire ANGB
C130J – 47 SQN, RAF Brize Norton
E3 – 965th AACS, Tinker AFB
E3D – 8 SQN, RAF Waddington
E8 – ACCS, Robins AFB
RC-135 – 343rd Recon, Offutt AFB
EC-130H – 41st ECS, Davis Monthan AFB
U2 – 99th Recon SQN, Beale AFB
Sentinel R1 – 5 SQN, RAF Waddington
E-7A – 2SQN, RAAF Williamtown
AP-3C – 10 SQN, RAAF Edinburgh
RQ-4B – 348th Recon, Grand Forks AFB
RQ-4 – 12th Recon SQN,Beale
EP-3 / P3 – 10th NAS, Whidbey Island
P3 LSRS – PS40, NAS Whidbey Island
P8 – 45th NAS, Jackonsville
EP-3 – 10th NAS,Whidbey Island
KC-135 – 22nd ARW, McConnell AFB
HC-130J – 79th Rescue SQN, Davis Monthan AFB
HH-60G – 210th Rescue SQN, Elmendorf

I would like to thank the 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs personnel for making us feel very welcome during our visit and to experience first hand both an insight into Exercise Red Flag and the excitement of the mass launch of various types of aircraft in this particular afternoons sortie.

Neil Porter.